Saturday, March 6, 2010
THE EVOLUTION of SEAN HIGGINS
There's an old saying, "youth is wasted on the young", and while this is true in some cases, I do not think it applies so aptly in today's world where young people have far more resources available to them, thanks to the computer and the infinite possibilities that go along with it and an internet connection. We all have dreams that take shape as we grow, but those dreams often change over time when they knock up against reality and resources. Some things just can not be accomplished without funding or the ability to get yourself noticed in a crowd of seasoned professionals. And then there is that problem of people not taking you seriously until you've experienced life on your own terms, without the help of parents or other family members footing the bill.
The internet has changed much of that, and we have seen how people have taken advantage of it's far reach to carve out a niche for themselves, get their work noticed or have their voices heard. The social networking sites like My Space and Facebook were the forerunners to sites that cater to a specific industry like Model Mayhem and Model Coast, and just like the former sites, they have made it possible to touch base with indviduals who are too far to connect with in person and develope relationships. With the latter, an aspiring model or photographer can easily find themselves in communication with one of their personal heroes, and praise in this form is impossible to describe in words.
Model Mayhem is also a place where you can nurture friendships, even if it is only on a professional level, and it allows the sharing of tips, critiques, suggestions and compliments. I have corrosponded with my own personal idols, some whom helped to shape my desire to be a photographer like Henning von Berg, and others that I became familiar with later like Zedneram, Murray!, Carlos Arias, Rick Day, Mark Henderson, Dave Lewis, Ron Reyes, Mark Grantham and Ethan James whose work and style has served as a learning platform to my own style.
And then there are the ones who are just starting out who I can see incredible potential within, who take chances with their art in a way that we only do as we are evolving and create something that is unique in the respect that it has a personal stamp on it that we may not have thought to try.
Sean Higgins lives in Australia, which is quite a distance from my hometown in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and yet we have communicated as if he lives down the street from me. He found my portfolio on Model Mayhem and sent me a few comments, which lead me to his own portfolio, which was all modeling initially. There is a raw quality to his images that I liked immediately because I could sense the living person beneath the visual. And what a visual it is, with his defined cheekbones, expressive eyes and beautiful, full lips. There were not any credits associated with his images, which I later learned were all self portraits. Now, of course, I was more intrigued. He would later add a photographer profile, but before this happened we had formed a bond and become long distance friends.
What impresses me most about Sean goes beyond his looks and his talent. I am drawn to his vision and his future projections regarding where he wants to go and what he wants to do with his art. He is witty, intelligent and keeps a firm eye on the long range prize when it comes to his art and dreams, and I admire all of these qualities. In my view, Sean is inspirational and a true exapmle that what youth really offers is opportunity and potential, and I wanted to share him with my readers in hopes that another young artist, with dreams of their own, can take something from his journey and apply it to their own path.
BLISS: When did you first become interested in photography?
SH: Only really recently actually, not even a year ago!
I started doing Studio Art at school last year as one of my subjects, and for the first semester I studied drawing. It was fun, and my work wasn’t too bad, but there were these two Asian girls in the class, who were both drawing prodigies. So, in comparison to their work, mine was rather mediocre haha. I decided for the second semester, I’d try something that THEY weren’t good at, that I was also interested in having a go at; Photography! At first it all started with borrowing the schools crappy cameras, but my parents saw that I had ‘potential’ I guess, and chipped in so I could buy a proper camera!
Since then, I haven’t looked back.
B: You are also a model and frequently use yourself as the subject in your photographs. Have you always been interested in modeling?
SH: Modeling! Ah... prepare for a rant.
WELL, believe it or not, but I used to be the ugly kid at school. I hung around with this group of people, who almost every day, would find it funny to put me down. I had short, frizzy curly hair, bad acne, bushy eyebrows (haha uh oh... it gets worse...), a moustache (yes, you heard me), braces + buck teeth, no jaw, and an upturned pig nose LOL.
After copping abuse from my so called friends for the first 3 years of high school, I had had enough. I started working out, I straightened my hair, I went on medication for my acne, my braces came off and my teeth were nice, I shaved that MOUSTACHE, and bamn! The dirt is gone! Lol. The final result of this make over is what you see now.
The best part of the makeover however, is that I had a lot more confidence, and I was able to discover who I am as a person. With this self confidence, I moved away from those ‘friends’ and made a lot of new actual friends. These friends told me I should get into modeling, and one of them linked me to the model mayhem website
I use myself in my work because I find that it’s very important to be comfortable in front of the camera, and I guess that I know the result that I want to achieve, which makes it easier on my behalf if I use myself. Plus, I don’t have the money/time/accessibility to find other models! I would if I could!
B: Your photos are often taken at interesting angles and your crops and editing seem to be signifiers in your art. How would you describe your style?
SH: Why thank you!!
When it comes to my style, I find it varies a lot between each shoot. I can say now, that I have never taken a photo without music playing in the background or inspiring the shot. I choose music appropriate to the shoot I am taking. I find that by playing music, it inspires both me as a photographer, getting into the sounds and lyrics, to portray what I interpret the song as through my work. I also find that it inspires the model to act out what he/she is hearing, and really get into the mood of the shoot!
Playing music is really helpful, because none of the models I use are professional or have any training really (except one or two) and the music really helps them settle into the mood and get comfortable in front of the camera!
SO to answer the question, simply, my style is based on the music. In saying that, I love creating edgy, intriguing and eye catching images.
B: Do you employ a different style when shooting yourself than you do with your other models?
SH: I guess when shooting myself, it’s rather spontaneous. Depending on my mood, how I look that day, what I’m feeling and what song I’ve been listening to, my style will vary. Sometimes I won’t intend on taking anything spectacular and then I just randomly take an awesome shot and decide to keep it.
B: You are still in high school and your work has yet to branch out and include a variety of different people. Are most of your models people you know from school?
SH: Yes, I’d have to say, 80% of my models are from my school. The other 20% would be friends from outside school, who I’ve met either through parties, myspace/facebook, or through other friends. I really enjoy working with people I am close friends with, because it’s such a fun, comfortable and enjoyable experience.
In saying that, I know this expectation of shooting only people I know closely won’t last for ever. So hopefully sooner than later, I’ll be recognized, or hired, so I can work with people I don’t know on a personal basis. It’s all about the experience, so the more the better
B: What is the reaction of people around you towards your photos? Are your friends supportive of your art?
SH: My current friends are very loving and appreciative of my work, which really encourages me to strive to continuously improve my photography skills.
My photography work is actually quite highly looked upon at school, amongst teachers and students. Almost all of my work is on my facebook, so a lot of kids from school can see my work when I upload it!
All the positive feedback is great. But I love my media teacher, and my studio arts teacher, because they are constantly providing constructive criticism, helping me improve me work
It’s thanks to this constructive criticism that I am always thinking of new ideas and looking at new approaches to my work. I love a challenge.
B: You have told me that you never considered yourself attractive when you were younger. Has that perception changed as you've gotten older?
SH: Gosh. Well, speaking as a teenager, I believe that every one, (including myself) has a right to feel self conscious. Standards are set so high by the media, and schoolchildren can really be the cruelest people.
But speaking as myself, I feel a lot better about myself than I used to. The whole experience was definitely worth having though, and I would never wish for it any other way. I’ve grown from it, and learnt a lot about myself, and about people in general.
B: I think you have amazing eyes and beautiful full lips and both really stand out in your photos. What would you consider to be your best features?
Never felt this complimented from an interview before ha-ha!
If I were to pick my best feature, I would also pick my eyes. They are the only part of me that hasn’t changed since I was younger, and have always been the thing I’ve liked most about my appearance. I mentioned that because back in the day when I hated my appearance and couldn’t stand the sight of myself, I’d at least be happy about my eyes.
B: In your self-portraits, you appear to have a well defined physique. Do you work at this or is it natural?
SH: My body comes from two causes.
The first reason is that I’m a dancer. I have been dancing since I was 10, I specialized in Ballroom and Latin, and came 1st in the Australian Dance sport Championships with my partner in 2004. In 2005, I injured my foot, and had to give it up for a year. When I came back to it in 2006, it wasn’t the same, so I branched out and tried other styles. Hip hop, contemporary. The world of dance fascinates me equally as the world of photography and art. I’ve always wanted to integrate the two worlds together in my work.
The second reason for my physique is that I have Type 1 Diabetes.
I was diagnosed when I was 8 years old, and have always had a pretty strict diet since then. I can eat what I want now that medication has improved, but I find that I still enjoy eating healthy more than eating junk!
I guess the combination of growing up through puberty, dancing, and having a strict diet has resulted in having a good body!
I was always slim though, up until recently. I remember in year 9 (three years ago), I weighed 48 kilograms? (Something ridiculous like that.) But in year 10, when I went through my whole transformation stage, I put on a lot of muscle onto what I already had and hit 70 kilos midway that year.
SH: SO MANY!
I love high fashion photography! I also love horror photography and crazy make up work! Right now, I can think of four photographers from the model mayhem website that I adore:
Sean Dibble - rSEANd PHOTOGRAPHY
KooK – kookingproductions
All have their individual styles, which I would like to look at sometime soon in my photography career!
B: Which photographers would you most like to work with as a model, and why?
SH: I was going to say any of the four mentioned above, but they all live FAR away. Sob.
I love cool concepts, weird make up and awesome ideas. Any photographer that has an intriguing idea and equipment that looks/sounds promising, I would love to work with!
SH: Okay two ideas!
One: Would love to do some high fashion – brand/label underwear modeling!
Two: I’d love to do shots with other models, guys or girls! Something sexy lol
B: What about as a photographer? What types of images would you like to be taking that you have yet to try?
SH: It’s my dream to have access to a studio! And to use REALLY big epic fans, on models with long hair and draping outfits!
SH: Okay those were totally SEMI-nude. Haha
I’ve considered it. And my current answer is yes. I can imagine it to be a liberating experience.
B: You live in Australia. What's it like "down under"?
HAHA not what you think.
SH: Are you planning to go to college? If so, what do you plan on studying?
Yes! I’m all for education, and am aiming to study psychology, English, literature, social studies, philosophy, and some how fit in photography and dancing
B: What are your ambitions after leaving college?
SH: I’d love to audition for So You Think You Can Dance!
Vote for me?
In all seriousness though, if that doesn’t work out for me, I’d like to possibly work in the field of psychology.
B: If I asked you to pick a favourite image of yourself, which one would it be and what makes it so special?
SH: I found this band a while back, called She Wants Revenge.
I liked a few of their songs, and thought the band name was bloody brilliant.
I’m a Scorpio, and one of the main traits of Scorpios is that they ‘get their sting out once they’ve been hurt’.
After I started getting into photography, I felt it was time to take a photo, that was subtly symbolic for how my transformation as a person and making new friends and becoming happy with myself and who I am, was a bit of an “IN YOUR FACE?” to the ‘friends’ who used to bully me all the time.
In the photo, my left eye is blackened. This is symbolic for the unpleasantness I had been put through. There is a metallic scorpion hanging from my mouth, and this is symbolic for my revenge against these people. My revenge being that I now have moved on, and consider myself above them. They now hear about me all the time at school, because of late my photography/modeling work seems to a commonly discussed topic.
B: What about the photos that you take? Do you have a favorite one? If so, why this particular image?
SH: I took this stunning photo of my friend Bianca just a few days ago actually. The theme for the photo was “The party don’t start till I walk in”. I love Bianca dearly, and her reaction to the final product of this photo was priceless. It is my favourite photo because it really compliments the theme, aswell as looking high fashion, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with this shot.
SH: Sort of answered this question earlier on, but my self portraits are really just done off the spot. I tend to fall madly in love with a song for a good week or so, and listen to it non stop. When I do this, I usually end up getting these ideas throughout the day and eventually end up experimenting in attempt to put these ideas into an image.
B: Will you always take self-portraits or do you plan on moving away from them as you shoot more people?
SH: Of course not!
The self portrait thing right now is a) a self esteem boosting thing, and b) because I don’t have any other models with me at the time when I get ideas for shots, so I just use myself lol.
The more I work my reputation up, the more models I will be able to find and will know of my work, and the less I’ll need to use myself to express my ideas!
SH: Yes, I’ve modeled for two professional photographers, and I’ve modeled for a few friends at school for their work.
With one of the professional photographers, I found they worked SO quickly that it was almost like it was a chore they wanted to quickly complete. This was a shame, because his work was wonderful, and if he slowed down just a tad, I’m sure it could be a more enjoyable experience for both his future models and himself.
Working with my friends is great. It’s so casual and I even sometimes gave them tips on what to do!
B: Do you prefer to work with others or are you more comfortable as a model when you are taking the photos?
SH: I’d say equal for both. When it comes to creating a piece of work I find intriguing, I’d be equally comfortable and willing to work with others than just take the photo myself. Personally I would really like to start working with others more often in the not so distant future.
B: Will you continue to shoot solo, or have you thought about posing with another model?
SH: Another model? Yes please
B: Do you have any other artistic leanings besides modeling and being a photographer?
SH: I’m into drawing, and dancing.
I haven’t drawn in ages though, because it’s quite time consuming, and I do not have that time in my final year of High School, but I still find some time around my studies to dance, which I think I need, otherwise I’d be obese by now LOL.
i) When no one is home but me.. I totally watch horror movies and eat peanut butter by itself.
ii) My first full on kiss (it was almost slightly a bit of a make out sesh..) was when I was 6… Yeah.. That’s right; I was getting down when I was SIX! Lol. Thank the next-door neighbor for that.
iii) BACK in the day when I had really bad oily skin, (gross?) all my supposed friends used to call me ‘grease lightning’. LOL isn’t that awful.
Thankfully I’ve outlived that name
iv) It wouldn’t surprise me if I have spent more money on underwear than clothes. ;)
v) I can walk around on concrete on my toes, jump up and down, stand on one leg, and it won’t hurt. I have superman feet. Lol.
B: What's next for Sean, both as a model and behind the lens?
SH: This year proves to be somewhat epic so far, and from what I’ve heard, it just going to keep getting better. After some unmentionable event that occurred last year (ooh I’m so mysterious) I shaved both sides and the back of my head, as if to represent that I’ve gotten rid of the old, and started fresh with the new
In doing so, this new look I’ve got going for me has managed to result in me being requested by quite a few photographers, online or at school, to model for them!
I’m so excited for what is to come my way!
As a photographer, over the holidays I posted almost all of my work on face book, and since then, I have been hired a couple times as a photographer.
When I returned to school, I showed my teachers some of my work, and was then offered another job!
This year I am working with a guy called Patrick Riley, who is a 22 year old Hair Stylist, hoping to venture out into the industry and create his own website advertising his Hairdressing Skills. He is also a make up artist.
Together, he and I are going to create a website to advertise his business, and I will be photographing his work and developing the website myself.
Alongside that, I am also working with another friend, who is in the midst of initiating a campaign to advertise their new line of cosmetics called “Androgyny”, which is designed to be usable by both boys and girls!
©2010 - Sean Dibble
All photos by Sean Higgins for SH Photography