Part 2 of our interview with Seattle based wedding photographer Sean Flanigan. Sean is the founder of a wedding photography collective called A Fist Full Of Bolts and runs his own clothing line Tsunami & Avalanche. Named in 2013 as one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo magazine, Sean continues to break boundaries with his unique style and creativity, capturing weddings all over the planet.
Interview by Sachin Khona // February 2016
PART 1 can be found HERE.
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
My time. My family. My friends.
Do you work in any other fields of business?
I do. I am the CCO of Tsunami and Avalanche and I am working on a book project that’s been 9 years in the making – a very long form project.
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule?
Schedule? I don’t have anything that resembles a schedule. But I love that about my life.
I’m constantly being thrown curve balls in my day to day – and I just adjust.
Just this year I’ve shot and traveled to Amman, all over the north and west of India, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Ostuni, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, Iceland, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico, and numerous other states in the US.
What within your work do you not like to do and why?
But on the flip side, I feel like I do my best work when I’m in another time zone and I don’t know where I’m at. I feel a sense of urgency to do better, to try harder almost, because I’m in a situation that is uncomfortable and feeling uncomfortable really helps me push myself even harder and further.
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
I’m not a planner, and maybe this is a giant fault of mine. I do my very best to live in the moment. Not let the highs get too high and the lows too low.
I just want to be happy with my work and have enough time to enjoy the important things in life.
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
The image above was shot way past dusk. Brandon had just proposed to Amanda. 20 minutes before this photo I had zero light, but I knew I had to capture the heart explosions pouring out of these too.
I opened up to full aperture and cranked the iso as high as possible. I held my breath and pressed the shutter. It isn’t often that you can feel the love, real love radiating from two souls.
This image isn’t technically sound. But the moment and gesture – grand.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
Are there any mantras that you live by?
One day at a time.
If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
I’d tell my family and friends exactly what they have meant to me.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
Honestly I feel like what I do as a photographer is a little bit self-serving. I do the work that I do because it makes me feel something. And in terms of my clients I guess they are being rewarded by the passion that I have, but I don’t think being a professional wedding photographer can have an impact like changing society .. I’m not sure.
I started off being a photojournalist and found out what I wanted to do from there, but this question feels so big and so heavy that I don’t even know where to begin with it.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Keep trying. Keep pushing.
Anytime I’ve pushed through a creative fear I’ve been rewarded by the risk.
A question that I haven’t asked but should have?
I think it would be interesting to ask others “What do they think of the current state of the industry?”
And is there anything else you’d like to share with others?
Something that has helped me out the last few months is the quote:
“if you’re sick of starting over, stop giving up”
For me creativity is really, really easy and I have a lot of ideas of things that I can do, and it’s like a non stop flood of creativity, but the thing is, is finishing and that’s where I really, really struggle. There are some things I was ready to let go of and in the last hour I was able to push and see it through and be completely rewarded by the risk. Which is a rare, rare occurrence for me.
Being a wedding photographer is easy for me, there’s no risk in it, it’s second nature as I’ve been doing it for 11 years, but there are all these things that I want to accomplish that I started, and because of anxiety I almost gave up.
There are some thoughts that I came up with in the middle of the night and I had to write it down on my phone.
Fear is the number one killer of creatives. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what others will think.
If we succumb to those fears, we may never see our full potential.
But if can we push through our creative fears, we can be rewarded by our risks.
I try to remind myself of this quote a lot because it helps me out. These things stick with me a lot and own me, so being able to break through is a super good feeling.
I’ve been telling myself this for 3 years but I always give up on stuff. I finally experienced the reward of taking a risk, almost for the first time in my life.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
This American Life.
Fav Music // Share a (Spotify) playlist
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
Salt of the Earth.
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading.
David and Goliath
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
I loved Genesis by Sebastião Salgado so much.
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
Espresso on the rocks
Favourite (photography related) TED talk:
Last gallery / exhibit you visited:
Your favourite photography book
WAR – VII
A creative you’d love to see interviewed on ARC?
Links to your personal work // projects
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME SEAN!
You can see more of Sean’s work here // Web
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next with nomad, world & humanitarian photographer, David duChemin
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