Beyond the Frame: Steve Toepp's Artistic Odyssey

While advertising and event photography keep Steve’s lights on, his artistic soul yearns for deeper exploration. He dives headfirst into documentary and fine art projects, meticulously crafting series that can unfold over a year or even a lifetime.


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One such series is “Urban Decay,” a captivating chapter within his larger “Urban Landscapes” saga. This project began in 1984, a visual diary of Steve’s journey as a young artist in Chicago.

“Urban Decay” sheds the polished veneer of his previous work, venturing into a more abstract, color-infused world. He focuses his lens on the gritty underbelly of downtown Gary, Indiana. These images transcend mere documentation of crumbling buildings; they become poignant narratives of struggle and resilience, mirroring the lives of inner-city residents grappling with economic hardship and addiction.

The image “Decay #845” (the piano) is a powerful symbol of this lost beauty. It embodies the once-vibrant joy of community life, now silenced by economic and social upheaval. This piece resonated deeply, earning Steve the prestigious Mary Fedderson Memorial Purchase Award from the Midwest Museum of American Art.

Steve Toepp’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of visual storytelling. His “Urban Decay” series is not just a collection of photographs; it’s a thought-provoking commentary on the human condition, urging us to see beyond the surface and confront the complex realities that lie beneath.

Selected Art Exhibitions by Steve Toepp

Lerner Performing Arts Center Permanent Collection, Elkhart, Indian

Midwest Museum of American Art, 32nd Juried Regional, Winner of the Mary Feddersen Memorial Purchase Award for Photography

Spencer Gallery, Mishawaka, IN “70 print exhibition” One person show.

The School of Fine Arts & Design Gallery, South Bend, IN “Photographic Process Prints”

Studio Arts Center, South Bend, IN “Rehash” three person show.

Gallery East, Mishawaka, IN “A Sense of Place” two person show.

Hockin Gallery, Chicago, IL “Columbia College Alumni Show”

Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN “Regional Juried Biannual Exhibition”

Colfax Cultural Center, South Bend, IN “Art and Social Justice”

Riley School of Fine Art, University of Notre Dame

South Bend Museum of Art, “Regional Biannual Exhibition”

South Bend Museum of Art, “Somewhere There”