Interview with Photographer Sean Dagen

This week, we talked with Photographer Sean Dagen about his craft, his past, and how some of us budding photogs can get comfortable behind the camera.

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“Another photographer once told me that your job is to shoot.
If you’re not working for a client, you need to be shooting.
If you’re working with a client then even better – you’re getting paid to do it!”

 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always had an interest in photography from a young age. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Thankfully, I had an amazing photo teacher in high school who supported me and really helped me grow photographically. That was the one slightly commercial interest I had in high school, so I decided to follow it into college.

When & how did the you get started in the industry?

I moved to San Francisco the week after I finished college. I was working for Just Film in Sausalito at their lab. I had a friend from school call me and say, “What are you doing working at a lab? You need to be assisting!” My response was, “What’s assisting?” In school, my focus was journalism and the teachers never discussed any other options with us, assisting or otherwise.

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That conversation sparked a fire and I called everyone from San Francisco who advertised in Workbook in 2001. Somehow, I got Shaun Sullivan’s phone number and he simultaneously had a posting at New Lab looking for a full time assistant. I was very lucky to transition from a steady income to another somewhat steady income, and to have such an amazing and patient teacher in Shaun. I made a lot of mistakes and he was always very patient with me. I am forever grateful for him passing on parts of his craft to me; it felt much more like an apprenticeship, being taught by a master at his trade.

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“I admire a lot of artists. I don’t feel that any one is the end all, be all. I am grateful that we live in an age where it’s so easy to see work from peers and be inspired by those around you and not just big names. I draw inspiration from both of those sources.”

What sets you apart from other photographers?

I think that we are all set apart by our own unique vision that we bring to the table. The best thing is when you get to collaborate with others and meld those visions together to create something beautiful.

“Every person I have been able to collaborate with is a gem in their own way.
Each collaboration brings with it new opportunities, new lessons, and new discoveries.
It’s been an honor to have worked with some many talented people.”

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What’s your favorite part of this career & what’s the biggest drawback?

My favorite part of my career is that people pay me to do what I love, something that I would be doing anyway. What more can you really ask for? The biggest drawback is that being freelance, the workday doesn’t usually end when I leave the set and it can sometimes cut into personal and family time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to try out photography?

Do it. Do it again. Keep doing it again and again. It takes awhile to get really good at something. It’s all trial and error and developing what your own vision is that you have to share with the world. Don’t give up!

Thank you to all the people that have supported me, believed in me, and helped me to find my own vision. I am forever in your debt.

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