Putting Colby on the map: Interview with Stefan Kohli ’18

Colby Echo (Charlotte Marratta)

Stefan Kohli ’18 with Pharrell (courtesy of Stefan Kohli)

Stefan Kohli ’18 is a Colby senior double majoring in Biology and Science, Technology, and Society (STS). Kohli also has 25.7k followers on Instagram.

A Scottsdale, Arizona native, Kohli went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he started taking pictures for his school newspaper. “I started taking pictures in tenth grade,” Kohli said. “When I was in high school my uncle asked me to take pictures of my cousin’s wedding so my dad got a camera just for that, and he was going to return it but I loved it and kept it.”

Now chair of the Concert and Live Music Committee for the Student Programming Board (SPB) at Colby, Kohli has also always been interested in music. At Exeter, Kohli played in his school’s orchestra, and at the New England Conservatory. When Kohli started traveling down to Boston every weekend for rehearsal, he reached out to a shoe store he liked called Bodega and asked if he could take pictures for them. It was the first brand he shot, but most definitely not the last. All throughout high school Kohli shot Bodega’s collaborations with the likes of Reebok and Vans. “After that, I was hooked,” he said. “I started cold emailing a bunch of brands and started shooting anything I could get my hands on.”

During the summer of 2014, Kohli reached out to the manager of Yung Lean, a Swedish rapper, and landed himself a press pass to shoot his first concert in New York City. XXL, a hip-hop and rap news magazine, published a photo he took at the concert in a web article titled, “Yung Lean Surprises With an Energetic Show in NYC.” “That was cool,” Kohli recalls. “After that, I just kept reaching out to people via Instagram or email and I met a lot of random artists and brands and started to develop a sort of network.”

Over the summer of 2016, Kohli met artist Quinn XCII through Instagram and shot photographs for him at the Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival. At the music festival, Kohli met Alex Ferzan, Josh Ostrovsky’s manager, known for his Instagram handle, “thefatjewish”. Fevzan put Kohli in contact with a company providing content for MTV. The company needed photos to give to Ariana Grande for her social media. “Ariana really liked the photos I took and emailed me that night,” said Kohli. “Thanks to Alex Ferzan, I owe him a lot.”

In the spring of 2017, Kohli accompanied Grande on her tour. While Kohli was taking captivating photographs, the two became fast friends. “That was when this all picked up the most,” Kohli said. “I became friends with so many people through photography. It’s more about actually being friends with people and enjoying the time we spend working together.” Kohli’s Instagram features photographs of well-known celebrities including Pharrell Williams, Post Malone, Tommy Wiseau, Cousin Stizz, Adrian Grenier, D.R.A.M., The Fat Jewish and Adam Sandler, just to name a few.

After graduation, Kohli plans on moving to Los Angeles to continue work on an ingenuis project he created himself called 100 HOURS. “It’s an interactive multi-media project centered around creating humanizing content of pioneering figures in my generation. The idea is that I’m spending 100 hours with anyone from Pharrell to Elon Musk, and then having photo, video, and text surrounding what 100 hours with that person looks like,” Kohli said. “For me, photography isn’t necessarily about taking the best or most artistic photo in the world, it’s about taking a photo that has value, conveys a story, and in a way that other people are unable to do.”

Since January break in 2017 where the project started, Kohli has shot in four major cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and now New York. In February, the premier of his 100 HOURS project was featured in Milk, a up and coming media company based out of NY and LA. You can find the article linked here, and in on his instagram profile.

Keep up with Kohli’s upcoming 100 HOURS project and check out his other photographs on his popular instgram account: @photokohli