Fine art and portrait photographer Seanen Middleton draws a lot of his inspiration from music. He especially likes atmospheric and dark music to really pull out that imagery in his images. We had the chance to talk to Seanen about how he expresses himself through provocative images, and how his popular halo photo had global success and led to an album art deal.
What’s the one quote that always fires you up?
SM: “...Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” – Ayn Rand
Do you have any particular habits that are a part of how you begin your creative process?
SM: I listen to a lot of music. I like to put my headphones on and go for a walk or even just lie on my bed and see what kind of imagery it invokes. There is definitely a strong connection between music and imagery for me and it really is the best thing for putting me in that emotional, creative state of mind. I love anything atmospheric and dark, often with interesting and unusual components to it. I adore Bjork’s music for this very reason. It invokes this part of me that just wants to create something.
What do you do when you hit a wall during your creative process?
SM: I used to get upset and frustrated because I could never work out what the best thing to do was. I would often force myself to try and create, but for me that tends to be a recipe for disaster and the quickest way to make me never want to pick up my camera again. As I have gotten older I have learned to just wait. Go about my daily life. Consume art and music I love. Slowly let my creativity replenish and most of all be patient because that need to express myself is so ingrained within my being that it is impossible for the motivation not to come back. It always does.
What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever captured and why?
SM: Vespertine, Part One
There are several reasons why this photo means a lot to me.
First of all, it is because, visually, I absolutely adore it. I remember shooting it in my bedroom, lit by nothing but the dusk light coming through my window and an iPhone torch that I used alongside a long exposure to create the halo effect. I literally had my subject sit as still as possible whilst I span it around his head. I remember looking at the back of my camera and being ecstatic about what I had captured. That feeling. Wow. Best feeling in the world.
Secondly… the amount of people that image resonated with. It blew up. People just absolutely loved it! To make that connection with so many people through something you have created is just wonderful. Everyone wanted to buy it as a print… I sold it all across the world! From Leeds to New Zealand. I guess that is the dream of every artist. And then came along Odesza. Yep, American dance duo Odesza who sell out venues all across the world and are adored by hundreds and thousands of people. They chose to buy this image alongside several others for their new album, A Moment Apart. This one was used for the lead single Line of Sight. Well that just solidified this image as iconic in my artistic journey. It will forever mean so much to me.
What book would you recommend any creative person read?
SM: It doesn’t matter, but just read. It builds your intellect and makes you a more articulate and mindful person. Everyone should be able to express their own ideas and thoughts with eloquence. And this is not just for creatives!
Dane Johnson was the former Editor of PHLEARN Magazine, where he helped creatives share their stories. Dane currently is the co-founder of Clementine Coffee Roasters and he accepts most assertions of his hipster-ness and millennialism without flinching.