If you’ve been out and about at LGBT events throughout South Florida in the last 10-plus years, chances are you’ve encountered Stephen R. Lang. Known as the “Mad Paparazzi,” “that bald guy,” and “Mark’s List,” Lang has photographed our vibrant nightlife since 2005.
Born and raised in Saugerties, N.Y., Lang moved to South Florida in winter 2001. He “fell into” photography when his roommate at the time, local icon Misty Eyez, asked him to take pictures of her on nights out. That led to a gig with online nightlife publication Mark’s List (now a part of Hotspots Media), where he earned the name “Mad Paparazzi” while photographing LGBT events all over South Florida.
Lang, a self-taught photographer of immense talent, started out using disposable cameras and eventually worked himself up to a Nikon D5200. The more he honed his skills, his lens was drawn to other colorful aspects of South Florida he encountered while out. He began shooting more and more “scenes” around town and started taking photos — be it a set of crumbling steps or a lady in an eye-catching hat — just for art’s sake.
It’s been an exciting year for Lang – he started his own company, SRL Media, and has won an award for his work and dedication to The Smart Ride.
And now his work will be featured in his (long overdue) first art show, The Colors of This Life, which will be on exhibit from Aug. 11 through Sept. 7 at Claudia Castillo Art Studio in Wilton Manors. The opening reception is on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Lang, a very good friend and former co-worker, to talk about his photography.
Tell me about when you first picked up a camera and started shooting pics?
I mean, who hasn’t had a camera, but slightly professionally was when I was living with Misty Eyez. She said, ‘Let’s go out’ and asked me to take her picture and then she asked me to be her personal photographer.
Wow. So, you fell into it?
Literally fell into it.
Then how did you get involved in Mark’s List?
I met Mark in 2005. He asked, ‘Hey, do you want to go work with me?’ I knew of him because of Misty – she was working with him and Mizz Cori doing this movie thing –“Misty Eyez & Mizz Cori At The Movies.” I met him at Java Boys when he was interviewing Misty and Mizz Cori.
What was that like? You just immediately fell into nightlife pictures?
Yes – I was going places and being seen. I ended up making a lot of connections that help me to this day, and I am very grateful. I used to cry when people would turn me down for photos at China White because people didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. The first time I did a [photo] gallery and saw my name I was verklempt. It was awesome. I’ve been given so many opportunities to capture things.
What inspired you to start doing art photography?
Insanity. I was going crazy, and I had to find something wonderful to do. It was a pressure release — when you start finding things that make you happy…just for your own enjoyment. Then you start seeing patterns, then you start looking more and you go on adventures to look for things.
I was going to write a book called “Mad Paparazzi Live” or something along those lines, so I started taking pictures of weird, wacky things going on and was going to write a diary sort of thing. It never happened, so I just started taking pictures.
An example of weird or wacky?
In 2013, I went into the men’s room at an event– it was a girl party at Score in their new location and this girl had literally turned around and used the men’s urinal and I took a picture.
What photographers do you look up to/inspire you? What inspires you in general?
Herb Ritts’ ‘90s black and white stuff. Vivian Meir — she was an amazing street photographer who no one really knew about ‘til after she died. There was a movie about her that was up for an Academy award. I like architecture. I like inanimate objects. People can be difficult. I like light, shapes, patterns, and colors right now.
What kind of pieces will be at your show?
The theme of this show is called “Colors of this Life” and it’s based on my past life hypnosis. I found out that my last life was very bleak, and everything was in black and white and everything I wanted to do was in color. So, there’s a pop of color in all of the pieces.
What is this show focusing on? What should people expect?
Colors. Just colors. Just fun, whimsical colors.
Are you excited for your first show? I am!
I am flabbergasted! I still can’t believe this is happening! Do you understand? It’s a little scary in a thrilling, white knuckling way.
How did it happen?
I’m known Claudia (Castillo) for 4 or 5 years. She always did Art Walk and then got a gallery and we’ve been friendly ever since. She asked for me to show. I want to say thank you to her for this opportunity.
And you’ll be showing your work at another show soon. At the Pride Center. Tell me about that.
It’s a show called “Finding Happiness” on Thursday, Sept. 27. I’ll be showing all different pieces. I’m using Pink’s “Perfect” song as a theme and doing new pieces connecting Pink and the song.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming photographers?
As much as it will kill you, volunteer for as many gigs as you can. Go to as many things as you can. You have to practice. Get out there and if you want to be a part of something, you have to be a part of it.
Stephen Lang’s Colors of This Life art exhibit will be on display through Sept. 7 at Claudia Castillo Gallery, 2215 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors. His opening reception will be on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m.