Stephen A. Bivens
1967 – 2020
Stephen Bivens, known to his friends as Biv, was a photographer, teacher, and community advocate. His work in the photographic arts traversed the terrain between place, personhood, and politics.
A prolific photographer, whose work served as the historical memory for inner-city families, arts organizations, and neighborhoods, Stephen’s invaluable contributions to Cleveland’s artistic landscape had just begun to gain citywide attention and recognition.
Uniting his diverse output was a desire to challenge people to think about their perceptions of others. Stephen sought to capture a range of people - from local artists and political figures to international pop culture heroes to everyday people - in their most natural states and environments. In this way, Stephen sought to show that “people are people” and that human commonality is to be uplifted, and difference, celebrated.
In 2016, Stephen was one of seven recipients of the North Collinwood neighborhood’s Ballot Box Project, where community residents voted for Bivens to photograph local families, business owners, artists, and activists in the locations that most visibly revealed their connections to the North Collinwood neighborhood.
In 2018, Stephen became an inaugural recipient of the prestigious Cleveland Arts Prize Verge Fellowship. The following year, Stephen was appointed as Twelve Literary Arts’ photographer-in-residence and became a photographer for Cleveland 20/20: A Photo Exploration of Cleveland - a partnership between the Cleveland Public Library and The Cleveland Print Room designed to capture images of everyday Clevelanders in celebration of the Library’s 150 year anniversary.
In addition to the above accomplishments, Bivens regularly exhibited work throughout Northeast Ohio. He also taught photography to inner-city youth through The Cleveland Print Room. This was his greatest joy.
Excerpts from Stephen's obituary written by Cleveland-based poet, writer, community leader, and friend Daniel Gray-Kontar. Portrait by fellow Cleveland Print Room Teaching Artist, NASA Photographer, and friend, Jef Janis.
Stephen was constantly sharing and posting work on social media. While these have been memorialized, they still provide a window into his love for his wife (#bivmuse), his children, his community, his artwork, music, and a good cigar.