When Kelsey Stevens came to Andover High School, she imagined becoming an athlete like her brother. Instead, she became the go-to shutterbug of the class of 2013, building a solid portfolio and reputation even before she picked up her diploma Monday night.
“I wanted to be a soccer player and go to some school where I could go into architecture or engineering,” she said.
But now, the Chicago-bound Stevens has her goals fixed on a job as a photographer for National Geographic.
“Dream big,” said the 18-year-old graduate.
Stevens launched her photography career as a sophomore, when she found herself enrolled in a Photography I course. She initially tried to drop the class, but offerings were sparse and nothing else fit her schedule, she said.
She soon realized she enjoyed working with a camera — so much so that it developed into a full-fledged hobby. That Christmas, she got a pricey digital single-lens reflex camera and her fate was sealed.
Leading up to graduation, Stevens filled her days with academics and her nights with photo shoots. She had so many clients wanting everything from senior photos to event coverage that she had to turn gigs down, she said.
She has also been known to capture town events and do photo work for Andover Youth Services. In recent weeks, her time was spent putting together the senior slide show, her final photo foray for the class of 2013.
Even as she is preparing to leave town for Chicago and the campus of North Park University, current high school juniors are lining up to schedule appointments to have their senior photos taken for next year.
Andover High photography teacher Brittany Martin said she started entering Stevens in competitions even before she had her in a class.
“She has really lit a fire in the fine arts, and particularly photography,” Martin said.
Martin said that many members of the high school photography club, which Stevens helped form, “pay attention to what she’s doing and try to make her achievements their own goals.”
“People really depend on her here,” Martin said. “We’re really going to miss her.”
Stevens is undecided on her college major, though she is leaning toward either business — where she said she can learn how to promote her photography skills — or communications.
But “if I’m not liking what I’m doing, I’ll absolutely turn back to photography,” she said.