Since February 2017, photographer Mason Stevens has captured the Rapid City community through portraits on his green couch through what he calls the Black Hills Green Couch Project.
“Everyone loved it, and I just played along, basically,” said Stevens.
Now, for $10 per person, anyone can book a time to sit down with Stevens for a photo session on the green couch in his living room. His Black Hills Green Couch Instagram account currently has nearly 1,000 followers, with 126 posted photos.
Stevens uses a booking link for people to schedule portrait sessions for his project, but he also likes to invite people to the couch who he thinks have a unique story or a unique look.
Some of his favorite moments have come from spontaneously inviting people over. Those are the most exciting for him, he says, because they have no expectations.
For example, one day Mormon evangelists were going door to door and stopped at Stevens’ house. They chatted for a bit, and it wasn’t until they started talking jobs that he had an idea.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the couch until they asked what I did.”
Stevens realized he should invite them to sit and have a portrait taken.
“My favorite portraits happen a little more organically and naturally,” he said.
Most of the sessions are a bit more planned out, though.
“I always let the people
who are participating
kind of control what
they get out of it.”
BLACK HILLS GREEN COUCH PORTRAIT ESSENTIALS
A wide-angle lens // Canon DSLR // Natural Light
The popular green couch stands in the middle of Stevens’ living room, surrounded by books, both on the floor and on an adjacent bookshelf, green plants to match the green seating, and a few lava lamps. When the subjects of the portraits arrive, Stevens leads them to the couch right away.
When he starts taking pictures, the subjects often ask Stevens how they should pose, but he says he refuses for this project.
“I try to get them to be as much of themselves as I can. In this case, it’s as candid as possible,” explained Stevens.
When it comes to helping people feel comfortable in front of the camera, Stevens says that it’s usually best to sit back and let them figure it out. Instead of helping them decide how to pose, he waits for them to be their natural selves.
Meet the Tiny Couch
The tiny green couch that sits on Stevens’ bookshelf was a lucky find at a local antique furniture store. Stevens says it was too perfect a coincidence to not buy it, and when a lizard visited, the tiny green couch offered a good opportunity for it to sit on something a little closer to its size. That lizard has been the only tiny green couch guest so far.
“I think there’s people who understand and just want to participate in the project,” said Stevens. “And then there’s some people who just want nice pictures with their friend or their dog. I kind of just try to feel that out beforehand of what they are actually trying to get out of it and just go with that. I always let the people who are participating kind of control what they get out of it.”
As far as goals for the Black Hills Green Couch Project, Stevens says that he is content for it to stay on Instagram for now.
“A long-term goal would be to do a gallery and/or book with the entire collection of portraits, but that’s not the focus yet,” he said. “Right now, I am happy just growing with the project and seeing how far it can go.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE
GREEN COUCH PROJECT’S INSTAGRAM.