Cool Jobs: Photographer Makes Living Capturing Beauty of City Life

Cool Jobs: Photographer Makes Living Capturing Beauty of City Life

Noah Stephens captures the beauty of Detroit as a photographer and essayist. (Image: Stephens)

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

WHO: Noah Stephens

WHAT: Photographer, Founder, Essayist for

ANNUAL SALARY: $45,000-$65,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

THE GIG: Stephens, who calls himself a “one-man media content provider,” spends a lot of his days finding and shooting subjects for The People of Detroit photo project. Typically, his subjects are people he runs into throughout his day in the city. Each photo is accompanied by a biographic essay. “When I select a subject for the project, I make sure that person tells you something about Detroit you would not otherwise know. How do they fit into Detroit and the lager social context of urban living?” Stephens says. “Media coverage I saw of Detroit didn’t reflect at all the city that I know. The whole purpose of TPOD is to provide an alternative narrative. Contrary to what you see in the media, there are actual people here and occupied buildings. People live here.” Stephens also does corporate and retail photography.

THE PERKS: Like a lot of entrepreneurs, what Stephens appreciates most about his career path is freedom. “I like being the author of my own destiny. I can communicate my ideas to the world without editing, completely unrestrained,” Stephens says. His subjects sometimes provide opportunities as well.  A couple months after he photographed David DiChiera, director of the Detroit Opera House and founder of the Michigan Opera Theatre, Stephens ended up with box seats to the opera, a first for him.

THE WORKDAY: Stephens usually works at least eight hours, during a day that could include anything from shooting, editing, or mingling with guests at an exhibition of his work. Last year, a creative director in China stumbled across Stephens’ work online and hired him to shoot a McDonald’s commercial in Shanghai. TPOD was recently awarded with a grant from the Knight Foundation so, Stephens expects to use the funds to further expand the reach of his creation.

THE ADVICE: Follow your dreams. “Do something you are actually passionate about and do it with authenticity,” Stephens says.