by Stacy Dunn
A recent Atlantic Provinces Economic Council report noted about 84 percent of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses on PEI employ fewer than 10 people. Included in that figure are self-employed creative sector workers who describe their work as a side hustle, such as Stephen DesRoches of Charlottetown.
He has done promotional campaigns with Parks Canada and Tourism PEI. He also published two books with Acorn Press: Images of the Night Sky and A Photographer’s Guide to PEI which he co-created with Island photographer John Sylvester.
Stephen studied computer programming at Holland College, and then was hired by silverorange, a Charlottetown IT company which designs web and mobile applications. About 20 years ago, he was hired to be a designer working with its programmers and clients – businesses that wanted help with building e-commerce platforms for their websites.
“I talk to our business clients about what they want, create visual mockups and prototypes, and bring these ideas to the programmers to develop,” he says. “As a User Interface Designer, I test our clients’ websites for any potential problems and ease of use for customers.”
Stephen says blogs and podcasts related to information technology and computers led to an outstanding achievement at silverorange.
“A team member at silverorange wrote a blog post in the early 2000s about a new open source Internet browser that wanted to be better than the more popular browsers Netscape and Internet Explorer. After that company (Mozilla) found and read the blog post, they reached out to silverorange and asked for our help in developing it.
“It all happened relatively fast. The browser was renamed from Firebird to Firefox. I contributed by sketching a possible logo of a fox and a globe, and within days, an artist in London, England brought the idea to life in a final rendering.
“Our CEO was on a podcast about 10 years ago talking about our industry and a doctor in California heard him speak and contracted us. The majority of our work is now with a group of Los Angeles-based companies dealing in medical education and training videos distributed around the world.”
Stephen’s technical work eventually led to his creative side hustle. “I was editing product images for those early e-commerce websites using Adobe Photoshop, and my interest in working with photographs led to me picking up the camera as a hobby.”
He does his photography on early mornings, evenings and weekends. Stephen is grateful to silverorange for giving him the flexibility to pursue his photography.
“I used to help publish photography e-books with other photographers and met valuable contacts in the process. Those contacts have opened further travel opportunities, including four trips to Greenland to assist on photography tour workshops.”
In the first few years before Facebook and Instagram, Stephen designed his own website to showcase his portfolio. Soon, word of mouth led the emerging photographer to give talks to photo clubs and conferences.
Since the COVID-19 restrictions last March, Stephen has not been able to travel outside the Island to do his photography. “It wasn’t until August or September that I resumed my work with Parks Canada and Tourism PEI, and that work has continued through the fall and winter seasons.
“I have been lucky with regards to the new health measures. The majority of my photography is created in isolation, alone on a beach somewhere. Even though travel has been temporarily cancelled, but we must look forward to the day travel becomes possible again.
“Silverorange has also cancelled a busy travel schedule, but with few Island clients and 50 percent of our team members spread across the country, we have always been well set up for working remotely and working from home.
“I think perseverance and persistence are helpful in pursuing a career in photography or any other art focused journey,” he says. “Keep networking with others and set goals for what you want to do in your career. People prefer to work with those they know, like, and trust.”