We are beyond thrilled to announce that Shaun Fenn has joined the Marianne Campbell Associates roster. To welcome him, we thought a quick 10-question interview would give some insight into the newest member of the MCA family. Here he talks to us about being a gear geek, finding his voice, and never having enough time to shoot.
Shaun Fenn got his start in photography during high school in southern California. An avid athlete and surfer, he would take his long lens with him down to the beach to shoot pictures of his friends. After graduating from USC with a degree in communications, Fenn got a video production job with Saatchi & Saatchi managing their in-house editing bay and doing radio and television. Though he enjoyed his time at the agency, he says, “I knew it wasn’t a natural role for me. I was young and still finding my way. Even though I was learning a lot, I would find myself wanting to be down in the creative department whenever I had the chance.”
As Shaun explored other opportunities he ended up chasing the all mighty dollar and spending 10 years in technology. This allowed him to explore photography on his own—attending yearly workshops and developing his photographic style. But ten years in the tech industry started to chip away at his soul, so Fenn says, he took a leap of faith and decided to turn his hobby into a full-fledged career.
What is it that you love about photography?
I love to find the art within the adventure of life. Being athletic, I like to be outdoors as much as possible and create art from that environment and those experiences. Growing up in Southern Cal, in high school I would go out and shoot what was around me—surfing and skiing—that’s what attracted me initially.
Whether the assignment is editorial, commercial or personal, we are consistently presented with new challenges and asked to creatively and technically find solutions. Executing a vision utilizing the amazing and ever-evolving technology out there attracts me. I love that challenge.
How do your commercial projects inform your personal work, and vice versa?
Regardless of the work, I put a similar type of pressure on myself to deliver something I can be excited about. I have to admit this is a lot easier when you love what you do. In a perfect world of course there would be a great synergy between the projects I choose for myself and the commercial assignments I get to participate in. My goal is to continue to carve out signature work that is engaging, consistent, and identifiable in a marketplace flooded with imagery.
Is there a personal project you have in mind that you’d like to do?
Frankly I live for personal projects and that’s because I love to shoot, whether I am getting paid or not. I have a laundry list of personal projects. I would like to think that it is what attracts clients to want to work with you. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of time. Someone asked me recently what I think the biggest challenge in the industry is right now. I think it’s time. There are only so many hours in the day and you really have to focus your efforts. I love to shoot lifestyle. I love to shoot conceptual. I love to shoot motion projects. All three of these are a different animal. It’s difficult for someone who is excitable and curious. Typical photographer ADD.
How you see your role as a photographer in the evolving landscape of the medium?
I would like to think that the role is becoming more specialized. The technical component requires we have a much broader knowledge of the mediums we are providing for. (Breadth of digital knowledge, Post production, Motion, Lighting technologies for stills and motion, etc) Early on our options were a couple of camera manufacturers and a couple of strobes. Film choice was a big decision. And after you shot that film you handed it over to someone else to develop. Today we “develop” our own “film” in the digital sense. That being said, the control gives us the ability to create something personalized with a signature look. It seems to me it’s very challenging today to be a generalist – there is just too much competition out there. So I think an identifiable voice is important.
The parameters of today’s assignments, with tighter budgets and escalated time restraints, put more and more pressure on the creative process. Our challenge is to keep up the caliber of work, and deliver for our clients, under these constraints.
The more you do it, do you think photography gets easier or harder?
I would say the more you do it the better you get, just like anything else. With age and with shutter clicks, you become more seasoned in your voice and your imagery becomes more consistent. You start to hone in on where you’re coming from. Photographers are a funny bunch, we’re constantly curious. The challenge is to refine that in to something that people can relate to.
No matter what you’re shooting, be it a behind-the-scenes football game or a series of portraits, your images seem to always feature a subject on the brink of action, rather than in the throws of it. What attracts you to these moments?
Well, that’s funny, I never thought about it that way. The challenge and the beauty of the stills, at least for me, is that you have a single frame to try to communicate an emotion. Something that doesn’t give you everything, that allows you to fill in the blanks with your own experiences or thoughts or feelings. That’s kind of nice. I’m trying to communicate through the imagery that you are actually a part of this. As opposed to looking at an action, we want you to be a part of a story.
What do you see as the difference between photography and motion?
For me, it’s about storytelling. Some people may have come to motion from a video/film standpoint—that’s a different perspective. I stick to the roots of still photography and make a collection of beautiful images that tell a story that just happen to be moving. Storytelling is really the common element between the two for me. Motion is really natural for me—I love the editing process and I believe that is a large part of the success of the motion pieces.
Do you have a favorite image or project?
No. I have a lot that I haven’t taken. Normally my favorite images are the next ones I’m going to take. There are just so many hours in the day, I really can just never shoot enough. I hope it remains a healthy obsession.
How has your work or your process evolved from when you started shooting until now?
The biggest lesson for me has been to really let go. You want it to be so good and so right—I had to work at it so long to get to the point where I am now, which is to have the confidence to let go and explore unknown territory in order to evolve the imagery and really express myself. You have put in hard work to gain the knowledge and the expertise. There’s that word again, time. There’s no secret sauce, no shortcut. It’s just old school block and tackle and spending a lot of time doing it. That evolution has gotten me to a point now where I’m comfortable. But I hope I never stop learning and evolving. It is part of what continues to make it exciting. It’s like an athlete who puts in the training so that he can really go out and perform, or reach another level.
What would you be doing if you couldn’t be a photographer?
I’d probably be an architect. I love interior design and building homes. I also love coaching, and working with groups pulling in the same direction. I feed off of other people and their passion and excitement.