Steven Laschever of Laschphoto is one of the premier photographers in the Greater Hartford region. In addition to photographing countless nonprofits, universities, and people, his work has been featured in publications including The Hartford Courant, Connecticut Magazine, Hartford Magazine, and The Hartford Business Journal.
Website Curator Nan Price remembers meeting Laschever 15 years ago—when his busy schedule made him regrettably unavailable to photograph her wedding. They’ve remained friends. The two chatted in Laschever’s West Hartford, CT studio about unintentional entrepreneurship, photographic innovation, and their shared love of Hartford.
PRICE: You’re a business owner and entrepreneur. Did you always know you’re going to have your own photo studio?
LASCHEVER: No. I kind of fumbled into photography right out of college. I had a few opportunities where I could’ve worked for someone else full-time, but I made a choice go on my own. When I was starting out there weren’t a lot of photographers out there, so there was a lot more opportunity.
PRICE: When exactly was this?
LASCHEVER: 1981. That’s crazy.
PRICE: You’ve been at it a long time. How did you get started?
LASCHEVER: I started off bartering at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) to use their gym. From that experience, I started meeting people from the community. People at the JCC were affiliated with the University of Hartford, and all the sudden it just branched off.
The University of Hartford took me under their wing. They hired me and helped spread the word about my work. I think there is sort of a “lucky youth” thing when you’re younger and don’t know what you’re doing and things just kind of fall into place. And it definitely helps when people like you.
PRICE: I want to touch on that, because you’ve said it was a lot easier when you started out. What’s more challenging now? Is it because there is more digital?
LASCHEVER: Yes, now it’s a whole different game. With digital, everything is so instant, but it’s devalued. There is more access to more photography, and it’s quicker, but there is no emphasis on quality.
PRICE: What other challenges do you face?
LASCHEVER: In today’s market you have to remain innovative—you need social networking skills and you need flexibility, which can lead to niche markets. For example, I was always known as a people photographer, but found opportunity photographing hotel interiors, an area at the time I knew nothing about.
You also need to make sure you understand branding and visualization and all the things that go into it.
All that said, the key thing is, your clients just have to like you. Like Chion Wolf said in her interview, you need be able to get along with a lot of other people.
PRICE: Right, she noted that Hartford is such a small city, you have to “play well with others.”
LASCHEVER: That’s really it, ultimately. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten gigs and I asked: What was it? Was at my work? My lighting technique? And the response is: Well, they liked you.
PRICE: Can you talk a little about your creative process? How do you remain innovative?
It helps being tied into places like Real Art Ways and being around other artists and creative types. That side of the brain I don’t have any trouble with. The other side is the business.
PRICE: So how did you figure out the business end of things?
LASCHEVER: I’ve always said this: the business side is as critical—if not more critical—than your talent and your photography skills. I’ve invested all my money back into my cameras. I’ve stumbled through business and I’m thankful for QuickBooks, good accountants, and the support of my wife, Christine.
PRICE: Let’s go back to talking about the Greater Hartford community. You’re connected throughout and involved with the community in so many ways. Why is that important to you?
LASCHEVER: I do a lot of community work. I like to choose things that I feel strongly about. I also have friends who are intertwined with different organizations including Real Art Ways, AIDS Connecticut, and CRIS Radio, which is the Connecticut Radio Information System—it’s a radio reading service for the blind that also does outreach programs.
The community work I do has always been good for me. I love to shoot. I need to shoot. So it helps for that, but it’s also given me a reputation for being philanthropic. It never hurts to do those things. It’s like marketing in a nice way. You get back what you put into your community.
PRICE: With the work you do, you could be anywhere. Why Connecticut? Why Greater Hartford?
LASCHEVER: I love the Hartford scene. We have this core of amazing friends that keeps growing. There are so many eclectic people we enjoy connecting with through Real Art Ways, ArtSpace, and Monday Night Jazz in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. The Hartford community is really small in that respect. In a good way. I really love that. Sometimes I wonder what my business would be like in a bigger city, but we love our life here.
Watch a video Laschever took at Art for the Open Heart Exhibition & Benefit
PRICE: Do you have advice for others who are starting out?
LASCHEVER: I would say that if you’re passionate about being a photographer, do that as part of something that involves additional skills such as writing, marketing, public relations, video, and communication—not just photography. By adding other skills, I see opportunity. I think with some of those additional skills you have more options and you can go in many directions.
PRICE: Any other tips for success?
LASCHEVER: I think to be successful you need to be flexible in many different markets. Things are going to change, you have to innovate.
PRICE: It’s definitely worked for you.
LASCHEVER: The main thing for me is, I have a really fun time. This studio is my playground.