Photo Credit: Arthur.R - @Ach3nar

Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren shares how she built her self-taught career in esports photography by focusing on the players and their stories.

This week, we shift our Community Spotlight to someone who has attended events across the globe, not as a player, but as a record keeper of history.  If you’ve been in the FGC within the past few years, you’ve likely seen her work at Evo, COMBO BREAKER, TEKKEN World Tour, and more. We spoke to award-winning esports photographer Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren about her career and the responsibility she holds as she captures players and the stories they create competing in the games they love.

Vexanie began her journey into esports photography by working on the DreamHack social media team ten years ago in 2014. She started in DreamHack Stockholm and continued volunteering for DreamHack Winter afterward. By working with Adela Sznajder and the other staff photographers, she understood what made the difference between good and great content on social media: high-quality photos and videos. Vexanie brought her own camera to the events, and after watching the photographers’ work, they inspired her to do her best to take it to the next level.

“I wanted to be able to do what they were doing and capture exciting footage,” said Vexanie. “Of course, my photos were nothing like theirs. They had entirely different equipment and had been doing this longer than I did, but it sparked my desire to start shooting more and seeing what I was capable of capturing.”

Steven "Tasty Steve" Scott makes some noise for Bryan Fury's TEKKEN 8 reveal at COMBO BREAKER 2023.

During DreamHack Winter, there was an area for players to compete in Street Fighter IV. At the time, the title wasn’t receiving as much attention as the other games at the event. Luckily for Vexanie, she saw this as her opportunity to stand out and make her mark while telling the stories of the players who dedicated themselves to these games.

“Even though everyone else had their esports to cover, no one was doing fighting games,” said Vexanie. "I always loved fighting games and it was by far the easiest game for me to follow, so then I got into that a bit more because it was something I could take ownership of.”

DC "Infexious" Coleman and Gustavo "801 Strider" Romero prepare to compete in the Red Bull Kumite 2019.

Vexanie’s decision to dive into esports photography forged a new career path beyond her work in marketing. While she had no formal training in photography, the experience she gained from doing the work and learning from others propelled her career. Perhaps the most essential key to her success was combining composition with storytelling.

“I remember when I started, it was essentially the end of the lifespan of Street Fighter IV, and to know that I was capturing these rivalries and friendships and the history of this game that meant so much to people, it got me going," said Vexanie. "Even today, during the TEKKEN World Tour, for example, I took a photo of Ghirlanda when he qualified for the Last Chance Qualifier, and he told me, ‘This was a photo I’m gonna be showing my grandkids.’ The fact that I can create a tangible piece of a memory for someone means everything to me.”

Joshua "Ghirlanda" Bianchi celebrates his win at the TEKKEN World Tour 2018 Last Chance Qualifier.

Vexanie strives to make her work dynamic and engaging. Every shot is more than a photograph. It is a time capsule capturing the essence of the moment.

"I want you to look at a photo and hear the audience, the pop-ups, the hollering, and the hyena laughing. I want all that,” said Vexanie. “I want to see the frustration in a player for something they've lost or the sense of pride or honor when they win. I want my photos to evoke those feelings, and if they don't, then it's probably not my style.”

Saul Leonardo "MenaRD" Mena II and Evo Champion Amjad "AngryBird" Al-Shalabi wish each other luck during the Evo 2023 Street Fighter 6 Grand Finals.

The impact of Vexanie’s work is undeniable. In 2019, Vexanie became the Esports Awards Esports Photographer of the Year. It was a tremendous year for Vexanie, one that included a historic photograph of Evo Champion Arslan Ash as he won in TEKKEN 7 in 2019. Vexanie looks back at her work with pride, knowing she has done the work and helped make those moments resonate beyond the community they originated from.

“The Arslan Ash photo encapsulated why what I do and what we're doing in esports is important,” said Vexanie. “I captured the history of it, what it meant for him, what it meant for the game. You can tell it's a spiritual moment, at the very least. I think that's wonderful.”

Evo Champion Arslan "Arslan Ash" Siddique after his Evo 2019 TEKKEN 7 victory.

Depending on the size of the event, Vexanie will work on a team of photographers. Much like the events Vexanie and her fellow photographers are capturing, they too have their competition with each other. Working on a team allows Vexanie and her colleagues to learn from each other’s work.

“There's always this constant friendly rivalry going on to want to be better,” said Vexanie. “You look at each other's shots, you feel like, 'Why didn't I do that? How can I get better?' I think that is a safe, healthy, and competitive environment. It also just makes it always exciting.”

Tachikawa Toru after seizing victory at the DRAGON BALL FighterZ World Tour 2019/2020 Last Chance Qualifier.

Traveling the world and photographing esports events creates a lifestyle that requires a dedication to maintaining a proper balance between work, relationships, and personal time. Vexanie mostly travels between North America and Europe and rarely stays in one place for long. What does a typical month look like for an esports photographer? For Vexanie, this was just November:

“I started in November in Japan, then I went to Sweden, then I went to Sao Paulo, and then I went to Copenhagen for work,” said Vexanie. “So over the span of three weeks, or even a week or two, I went through three different time zones. Imagine trying to keep up with eating healthy, working out, and relationships while going through three different time zones.”

Evo Champion Daigo Umehara poses during a photoshoot.

Vexanie is always on the go. While this presents a unique set of challenges, she finds familiar faces through her fellow photographers who also travel for work. Growing these friendships is one of her favorite parts of the job.

“We live in so many different parts of the world, but then we meet each other in the wackiest parts of the world as well, like the TEKKEN World Finals in Bangkok, like there are my friends,” said Vexanie. “A few months earlier I saw them in Las Vegas, and before that, I saw them in France. Then I saw them in Chicago. We are all over the place. I've always loved traveling. So this job essentially allows me to travel with my friends too, which is awesome."

Steven "Tasty Steve" Scott and Reepal "Rip" Parbhoo bring the hype at COMBO BREAKER 2019.

Vexanie has some words of advice for those interested in exploring photography professionally. First, determine your reasons for jumping into photography. Passion is key. Vexanie stresses that while this is a profession that you can indeed make a living in, it isn’t “as glamorous as you might think.” If you are comfortable with that, then all you need to do is show up, get to work, and network with others who can help you grow. Oh, and have fun, of course!

“I think it's refreshing to see new faces and to see new photography and new albums,” said Vexanie. “Some people just show up to take the photos. That's exactly how I started, and I think that's a beautiful thing.”