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Noah Stephens

editorial and commercial Portraiture | detroit, mi

[my story]

I purchased my first dSLR in January 2009. In April 2010, I started a photo project called The People of Detroit. Two years after I bought my first real camera a creative director in China saw the project on and hired me to shoot an eight-portrait ad campaign for McDonald's China. I've been working full-time on my photo project and as an editorial and commercial photographer ever since. So, what led me to photography? I grew up in a household that strickly adhered to a religion that forbade photography. According to this religion, as the author of all life, god was the sole copyright owner of images of living things. Since god was apparently not interested in granting licenses, photography of living things was strickly prohibited. As a result of this stricture, I only have three pictures of myself as a child (all taken before my family converted to this religion). This makes me value a portrait in a way that many people probably do not. I innately revere the process of making someone's photograph; the process of creating proof of their existence. On some level I think creating images of other people helps me make peace with not having any of my childhood self. *

The People of Detroit

[personal project]

In April 2010, I saw a Dateline NBC special that profiled a man in Detroit who hunted and sold raccoons in the city. The implication was that circumstances in Detroit were so dire, that raccoon meat had become a de facto staple food. I grew up on welfare in the city. Neither I nor anyone I knew had ever eaten raccoon. I'm the kind of person who is compelled to correct inaccurate statements of fact. Media coverage of Detroit more often than not amounted to an inaccurate statement of fact or at least a less than comprehensive portrayal of life in the city. After complacently observing that media coverage for years, the Dateline special spurred me to do something. I wanted to show the rest of the world the artistic, entreprenurial, and sometimes just simply aestetically interesting people who I encountered in my everyday life as a Detroiter. Thus TPOD was born.



Skate Music Enthusiast

"Stylist | Make-Up Artist"

"Living in Detroit with Detroit Lives!"


"Vine Owner"


My the Other, Other Half

[Commercial | McDonald's China]

"My the Other, Other Half" alludes to the relationships we choose in life. We most commonly think of an "other half" when it comes to choosing a life partner. But considering the time and energy we dedicate to work over the course of our existence, in many ways, our work also becomes a life partner of sorts your other, other half. This eight-portrait campaign for McDonald's China went live summer 2011. It demonstrates how a work relationship with McDonald's has played a transformative role in the lives of eight of their employees from across the country. The employees were flown to Shanghai in February 2011 where I, along with creative director and illustrator Hwee Beng Poh worked to make images that conveyed the interplay between the employees' work and personal lives. Included here are select images from the campaign with ad copy translated from the original Mandarin. To view the entire project, click here.

Lui Yan | Manager | Bejing "I love to laugh. I love people. I love to fill my life to the brim. I am Liu Yan. I am 25-years-old and I run McDonald's Shuangjing restaurant in Bejing. I manage a staff of 100 people. My restaurant's yearly revenue is nearly 20 million [$3 million]

"I am not a genius. I just came to the right place."

At Mcdonald's, all I need to do is learn as much as I can, work as hard as I can, and the opportunities will come. It brings out the fight in me. I get so excited about the unknown challenges that await me. McDonald's - My the Other, Other Half. I'm Lovin' It."

Yu Bin | Swing Manager | Shanghai "I used to hang out everywhere: internet cafes, playing pool... as long as I'm not alone. My parents had no faith left in me. And I didn't think much of myself either. Then I came to McDonald's. I worked, I played, I learned a lot. I won an Outstanding Employee award. I represented Shanghai in national competitions. I found out that I can actually do well, and now, I'm going to college. My next step? Restaurant Manager.

"My parents think I've finally grown up."

I am Yu Bin. I am 22. I am the Swing Manager at Xinzha Road Restaurant in Shanghai. I am loving who I am now. McDonald's - My the Other, Other Half. I'm Lovin' It."

Chen Dongye | Senior McCafe Barista | Guangzhou "I draw. I dance. I try anything once. I am Chen Dongye. I am 22-years-old. I am a Sagittarius and always curious.

"Not many people can take on four different roles in three and half years."
I was a Crew member, a Customer Service Ambassador, and a Store Activities Representative. Now, I am a Senior McCafe Barista at the Haizhu Plaza Restaurant in Guangzhou. And my work is part of my life. I explore other cafes around town in my free time to see what other people are doing and to see how I can do even better. McDonald's - My the Other, Other Half. I'm Lovin' It."

Xie Rusong | Development Director | South Region

"I am Xie Rusong. I am 32. I've been at McDonald's for seven years. I am in real estate development. To date, I've opened 97 restaurants together with my team. It's important to foresee the potential business opportunities in urban planning. I love the freedom McDonald's gives me. I started out as a freshman in real estate. Now I am the South Region Development Director and look after one-third of McDonald's new restaurants in China. I am confident about the future. Running restaurants is just like life itself: you need to set your sights far.

"Seeing one or two years ahead is fine, but can you see twenty years into the future?"
McDonald's - My the Other, Other Half. I'm Lovin' It."


The TechTown technology park and business incubator acceleration program was established in 2000 by Wayne State University, General Motors and Henry Ford Health Systems. The 100,000 square foot facility is home to 250 emerging companies. Fourteen of those companies received more than $1.35 million in entrepreneurial capital infusion during 2010. I was hired to create images for the incubator's annual impact report. The guiding principle with this collection of images was to give the viewer an intimate look at the program administators and program participants who drive the incubator's success. A selection of those images follows. The full collection can be viewed here.

TechTown's entrance at night

Executive director Randal Charlton [previous two pages] and general manager Leslie Smith.

Dr. Catherine Jen and Dr. Joseph Artiss in Wayne State University's Science Hall [previous two pages]. The researchers are the codevelopers of Mirafit - a fiber-based dietary supplement that facilitates weight loss by blocking fat absorption.

Glass Half Full

[Conceptual Still Life]

Being the kind of person to move first and think about the move second, I knocked over a glass in the kitchen one evening. It broke about somewhere close to its midpoint. This, for some reason, made me think about the old adage about a glass either being half full or half empty. This spurred me to create a conceptual still life that examined the unstated implications of that saying. What if the question was not if the glass was half full or if it was half empty; what if the real question was what obstacles are a person willing to brave in pursuit of the opportunity housed by the glass? What is the glass even half full of? This process led me to buy a different, unbroken cylindrical glass (the one that accidentally broke was conical), a glass cutter, and labor to create the photograph you see on the next page...

Client List
Mcdonald's China TechTown Bloomberg BusinessWeek Crain's Detroit Business

Thanks for looking in - Noah