Steph's Story

Steph is a Wedding & Portrait photographer based in St. Louis, Missouri

You can find her story here and more information about what she does and why she does it. Interested in booking her for your moments? Inquire using the menu above or the link at the bottom of this page. 

"HOW I SURVIVED AND GREW THROUGH A REALLY TOUGH TIME IN LIFE AND DISCOVERED WHAT MAKES ME COME ALIVE AND DECIDED TO FULLY EMBRACE WHO I AM."

It was a sunny afternoon, I sat on the rooftop of our garage with my journal, feeling the kiss of the sun on my freckled cheeks, the breeze in my hair, hearing the chirp of the birds and the laughter of my siblings playing in our old sandbox tree and I wondered if anyone would care if I died. I was 11 years old.

I grew up in Columbia, MO on a couple acres, just outside of town. My childhood was filled with the outdoors, exploring, make believe, bike rides, & climbing trees. I am the 5th, of 11 children in my family. You read that right, 11. And for as long as I can remember that single fact has caused awe and fear in people, all at once. No, there aren't any twins. Yes, we all have the same parents. No, none of us are adopted.

My struggle with depression started at a really early age. When I had my first ever counseling session as an adult at age of 27 , I was asked to think of when I first felt sad and had suicidal thoughts. I told the counselor I remembered sitting on the rooftop of our family homestead garage and contemplating if anyone would come to my funeral or even know if I was gone. I was 11. 

I had no context, as a kid, for that type of sadness, and it would be a long time before I received help and tools to start my mental health journey. But we'll get to that... 

Fast forward 13 years. I made it through high-school and college with little issues, besides my underlying, untreated depression that I had learned was just a part of life at that point. I met Brian in college in Omaha, NE and we became close friends. He is this funny, quirky, cute, devil-may-care guy, and I was literally smitten from the moment we walked into the wrong classroom at the same time on the first day of class. 

We were pretty directionless in college, just job hopping from one lousy job to another. I was working in business and finance (an extremely left brain job for my right brain self) and Brian was working a couple part time jobs.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my old self a few things I've come to believe.

1. Feelings are not facts
2. Be kind to yourself, change is hard
3. It's ok to be scared, you don't have to do life alone

And so I emerged, slowly and painfully from my cocoon of depression, with the help of counselors, doctors, and my husband. I began the hard work of changing my thought patterns and the way I spoke to myself, unlearning a lot of poor coping skills and life lessons I grew up with.

I wasn't healed overnight. I still struggle with anxiety, and have to choose good habits daily. I still go to counseling because there's so many things to work on in all of us and it's a form a self care. I began to find creative avenues of self-care. Things that made me happy, and made me see the world in a brighter light. That's when I got my first camera. 


Brian proposed and we started planning our wedding. For most brides, that would have been a happy joy-filled season of anticipation and love. For me, I had begun battling daily full-blown panic attacks and felt like my emotional world was caving in everyday. My anxiety was at an all time high. I assumed it was stress induced and would stop after the wedding so I was just waiting for it to be over. But the attacks didn't stop, they continued. 

6 months after we got married, we found out I was pregnant - And my world officially collapsed. This was unexpected, unplanned, and definitely not what I had wanted for my first year of marriage. We wanted a family, just not right then. I was devastated, and ashamed that I was devastated. 

I continued an intensely dark and silent battle with depression and anxiety, miraculously and safely delivered Zoey, and 5 months later found out I was pregnant again. Naively, I just didn't know that was physically possible. That next year was a blur, I don't remember my second pregnancy. I was in survival mode, grieving the loss of my dreams and my sense of self. I felt like a caged bird. I was severely depressed. 

College & Marriage

Background

THE MENTAL HEALTH BATTLE

We moved to St. Louis to start Brian's grad school in January of 2015. Gemma was 4 weeks old, Zoey was 13 months old. I'm pretty sure people thought we were crazy. Maybe we were, but we were also searching for direction, and purpose, and we both felt like we needed a change. During that first lonely year, I hopped from one enterprise to another - selling paintings, making girls hair bows for an Etsy shop, flipping and restoring furniture. I was desperately trying to find myself. Something was missing, some purpose outside the home that could fill me up so I could cope with the storm inside me. 

I loved my girls, but being stuck at home felt like a death sentence to my severely depressed brain. 

I started going to counseling in February of 2016, and for the first time, I found the words to describe and name my depression and anxiety. I remember sitting in my counselors office silently sobbing, feeling known and seen for the first time in my life. I wasn't crazy. These feelings weren't normal. I made sense, and what I was experiencing was valid. Feeling like this wasn't just a part of life. There was hope. 


I’m not saying photography saved me, in all reality counseling probably saved my life along with a whole lot of grace, but when I picked up a camera and started taking pictures of my kids in our everyday life, I began to experience freedom to create something beautiful in the everyday, ritualistic, often overlooked and mundane existence of being a mom.

The effect snowballed as I threw myself into creating with my camera and friends and family started asking me to take photos of their loved ones and special moments. A deep, deep love and conviction grew inside me to not only create beautiful pictures, but to give my clients something that meant so much to me during my hard season: eyes to see the beauty and meaning in small things.

 That’s why I photograph touch, feelings, and movement - because when I was sad, those things gave me hope that even when you feel at your worst, your life and your people are beautifully precious: you just need someone to show you what you can’t see through the dark. 



Mine is a story still in the making. But I am honestly so, so thankful for where I've come from, and where I am. My struggle with depression and anxiety has cultivated my love and conviction for finding beautiful things in everyday people and their stories. I'll leave you with this: 











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Ok, it's a messy story right? Are you surprised I'm putting all this out there? I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous about that too, but the core of what I do is about transparency, humanity and telling stories, even my own, honestly. And that means that we share the good with the bad. We don't do perfection here, we do real honest human connection. 



A road of healing through creating

In Closing...

My desire for you on your wedding day and every day before and after, is to experience freedom to be yourself, to grow from hard things and to flourish where you are called. 

Steph

xoxo,

My Daughter, Zoey

My Daughter, Gemma

I would love to hear from you! Please fill out the form below or send a note directly to hello@stepheniemasat.com

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