By Dani Moritz-Long
He tried; he failed. He tried; he failed. For a time, Photographer and Videographer Steven Sobel was lost. After several unsuccessful attempts, he had finally earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Florida with dreams of transitioning to law school, but his ambitious plans to become a lawyer faded with a crippled economy and a reluctance to assume more debt. So, once again, Steven was left wondering what’s next. In the interim, as he grappled with questions about his future, he took on any work he could get — washing dishes, delivering pizza, cleaning pools, working retail and even supporting the 2010 census, none of which were the kinds of roles he dreamed of while completing his undergraduate degree.
Before he knew it, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years. Still, Steven was left unsure about what the future would hold. Then, as parents often do, his dad came to the rescue, knowing just the antidote Steven needed — fresh air and wide-open spaces.
Steven’s dad was right. A trip to the West Coast’s national parks was exactly what Steven needed, not only because it was a chance to breathe fresh air, but because it would help Steven uncover a hobby that would become a passion and, ultimately, a career. Throughout their western adventure, Steven took hundreds of photos, often uploading them as video slideshows to share with his friends. His friends, in turn, praised his work (though Steven now realizes their eye for photography was either woefully amiss or they were just that supportive) and encouraged him to pursue a new career as a photographer.
The idea peaked his interest. Enticed by the idea, he became a hobbyist photographer and joined the Flagler County Photography Club and Flagler Art League, which was an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals, and began submitting nature photography to art shows. To his surprise, he started winning.
One show in-particular led to an encounter with a Daytona State College professor, who was working as a judge and gave Steven a stellar review. This led Steven to research Daytona State College, one of the Southeast’s premier photography schools, and, eventually, enroll.
He earned his Associate in Science in 2014 and embarked on a new adventure that would include interning for the Palm Coast Observer and the Orlando Sentinel (where his assignments would include photographing President Barack Obama at Valencia College), as well as starting his own business, Steven Sobel Studios.
Today, of course, Steven lends his talents to Valencia College, where he partners with people across campuses and departments to share stories through visual storytelling. And fortunately, Steven says, there’s no shortage of stories to tell.
“At Valencia, I like the kinds of stories where there’s some conflict and action — whether that’s a profile piece on someone who has led an interesting life or information on a program that’s helping people,” Steven explained. “Commencement and Spirit Day are also a ton of fun,” he added. “They’re both very tiring, but you tend to get the happiest moments of the year.”
As a nontraditional student who turned to Daytona State College to restart his career, Steven also finds inspiration in Valencia’s commitment to serve students who are looking to re-imagine their lives.
“One of the fantastic benefits that Valencia provides is the ability for people who feel like they have not found their niche in the world to try something new to grow and to find out what their passion is without having to blow up their life and take on a ton of debt.”
Working alongside his colleagues at Valencia — who are committed to the idea of building better tomorrows for everyone — is topping on the cake.
“The people who have chosen to work here are just uniformly wonderful human beings,” he said. “We have managed to put together a group of really smart people who really believe in the mission of the College and enjoy each other’s company.”
Finally, Steven says, he enjoys his ability to be a jack of all trades. Day to day, Steven might be out on the scene on all of our campuses capturing photos or video, working at his desk editing or connecting with people around the College to identify visual storytelling needs.
In his personal life, you’ll find Steven channeling his passion for photography outside of the College. In particular, he enjoys photographing birds and landscapes. More recently, you’ll also find him partaking in underwater scuba photography, capturing everything from majestic sea turtles to rather menacing sharks.
To view a collection of Steven’s work, follow him on Instagram at @StevenSobelStudios.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.