Photographer Shaun La: Bares His Sublime Soul

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Shaun La

Shaun La

IvyNoire.com: When did your career as a photographer start?

Shaun La: I picked up my 1st film camera when I was around the ages of 17 or 18. As for being paid for photography & it becoming a career, I started to be paid for my photography in my early 20’s. I am 37 years old now & photography is the only art that I have ever practiced. People say that I am a writer as well, but writing is more about proving my existence, photography is the elements that made me who I am.

IvyNoire.com: Who or what influenced you to become a photographer?

Shaun La: Art would have to be my influence. To realize that photography is 180 something years old & I am alive to participate in this new art-form, which as an art, it is only about 70 years old. I find this to be culturally remarkable. Throughout the years, photography has been battled against as an art-form & these 70 years were not consistent, it has been movements in photography where we would see 10 or 15 years of art being accepting of photography & then a gap where confusion sits in & photography is stated as not being artful enough. To be able to step up & provide a contribution to photography for artistic purposes, I believe that this purpose alone is an influence all in itself.

A photography session.

A photography session.

IvyNoire.com: Do you believe in the expression “A picture is worth 1,000 words”?
If yes, why do you believe this is true?

Shaun La: Yes, a thousand words is the minimum. Photography & mathematics have a commonality that they embrace together & it is called infinity. A thousand words is a correct way to start up a deposit in understanding a photograph, but do not stop there, please continue to add interest.

Actress & singer Margot B

Actress & singer Margot B

Photography portrait of the actor Terrell Tilford:

Photography portrait of the actor Terrell Tilford:

IvyNoire.com: How does photography add beauty to the world?

Shaun La: Photography adds to the proof that beauty is right there for us as onlookers to look at, you know that there is a saying that there is someone for every one. Well, photography has that kind of beautiful visual articulation to it. I tell people to venture into photography & not to fight the preconceived notions of what is beautiful, but to see it all, preconceived, conceived, new, old, historical, modern & future wonders. A candid 5×7 photograph of a lady on her refrigerator’s door can offer beauty, just like an 8×10 American VOGUE cover with a lady on the front. Tour photography & try not to be bias; I practice this doctrine when looking at photography. There is enough room for every beautiful emotion that life has to offer & if photography can capture beauty, let us see it. So, the possibility that photography has in terms of capturing beauty is a disposition that will always add to us as a culture. Think about this, in the next century, they will be looking at the photography that we are participating in today, what a certitude of relevance to have as an incentive to love photography & the beauty that it can pull in & give out, continuously.

Photograph of actress Victoria Platt:

Photograph of actress Victoria Platt:

An outdoor photography session:

An outdoor photography session:

IvyNoire.com:  How does it provoke thought?

Shaun La: Photography provokes thinking because it displays to you a vantage point that real-time does not grant you. There is a natural theory in knowing that your memory can see a photograph & that you can actually place your mental frame into a photographic frame, even if it does not involve you being in the photograph that you are studying. Whenever you see a bride & groom smiling after their wedding ceremony, an inmate dressed in prison issued clothing, looking at the camera, a boxer’s punch landing flush on the right side of their opposition’s head or a confident lady wearing fashion & accessories, looking well-dressed with an energetic appeal, you are getting into that moment, all provoked by thinking about what you see. There is a thinking that is going on here, between the onlooker & the photographic print. This is the energy that respects photography. The onlooker is identifying with the moment, & all of this is from the eyes & the brainpower linked to emotionally feeling something. When it comes to photography, even if you do not feel anything, this is another gesture that allows your visual sensitivities to know the difference between feeling something & not feeling anything. The provocations of photography is visually stimulating, once you start to enjoy thinking about & thinking with photography.

Protestors in front of ABC News in Manhattan:

Protestors in front of ABC News in Manhattan:

A lady speaking against protestors on 125th & Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem, New York.

A lady speaking against protestors on 125th & Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem, New York.

Protestors at a gathering in Times Square, who were protesting against the execution of Troy Davis:

Protestors at a gathering in Times Square, who were protesting against the execution of Troy Davis:

IvyNoire.com:  What places has photographer taken you?

Shaun La: In terms of physical places, all over the United States; in terms of emotional places, photography has taken me into many emotions, lessons & into questions while finding some answers, some mysteries & above all else, it has taken me into the belief that this is an art form that is alive.

IvyNoire.com:  How do you capture emotion and expression in a single picture?

Shaun La: There are various powers, energies along with mental activity that happens when you capture the emotions & expressions from an individual, a landscape & even an object. Also, I strongly believe that there is a duality in photographing an individual, or an anything for that matter, all of this points back to the photographer & what is being photographed being on the same conscious level. As a photographer, I am always willing to believe that a moment can happen, but to know that the emotion & expression does not always happen is another understanding that I found to be important enough to learn as a wise lesson. I do not think that any photographer can predict a moment, you can prepare for it & that is about the only step that a photographer can take towards being the person who capture emotions & expressions.

 A Bird flying alone in the sky on the West side of Harlem.


A Bird flying alone in the sky on the West side of Harlem.

Photograph of Cornel West:

Photograph of Cornel West:

IvyNoire.com: Does the price of a camera matter in ways that it affects the quality of the picture?

Shaun La: I work only on film, 35 M.M. or 120 M.M. & I am slowly taking the step up to large-format photography. When it comes to photography, the light is what affects the photograph. The term photography in a root word sense is defined as drawing or writing with light, so one must understand that light is the alphabet. As for the camera, every camera has shutter speeds to select from, a lens & an aperture setting on that lens. There are pieces of equipment that can be expensive or inexpensive, even home made, but these pieces of equipment are tools to build & I believe that how you use these tools are more beneficial than the price of it. So, pragmatically speaking, no the camera does not affect the quality of a photograph, the photographer does. If I take a photograph on a 35 M.M. film camera & I want to enlarge it, there will be a limit to that enlargement & with 120 M.M. film, I can go bigger than the 35 M.M., but there is still an enlargement limit & with large-format photography, the biggest possibility of enlargement would be even greater than 35 M.M. or 120 M.M.. Yet, a good photograph can happen with any kind of camera purchased from any price range, even if it is just a 4×6 high-quality print that is made from what the camera captured. Any print size of a photograph can have an outstanding quality to it, because a good photograph can come in every size. One time when I exhibited my photography in Harlem, I had 5×7 photographic prints neatly framed & mounted to the wall. The other photographers had large prints & we all had quality photographs up on those gallery walls. I was just the only photographer with smaller photographic prints. It is easy for people to limit quality to a size, but a good photograph will have a lasting quality to it. Again, this goes back to the photographer & their skills, their eye & what or whom is being photographed.

A photography portrait of the author Shannon Holmes

A photography portrait of the author Shannon Holmes

IvyNoire.com: Do you have a special style in your photographs that can single you out like strokes in a painting?

Shaun La: No, I do not. My photography has space in it, & what I mean by space is that I can walk in different genres of photography, because I do not have the dominating need to stay in one genre of photography. I commend my fellow photographers who can be dominating in one style of photography, but as for myself, I humbly walk thru the spaces in photography as a seeker, not as a settler.

IvyNoire.com: What makes a good photographer in your opinion?

Shaun La: This is a terrific question. Originality would be the foundation for a good photographer. If a photographer does not have originality, the very least that they could do is show the world what & where the visual sources that inspired them came from & not to just run with another photographer’s style without acknowledging them—if they say, “hey A or B is who I copied this from & this is my version,” from there, I think you can see a good photographer showing how they were influenced by the style of another good or great photographer. Another rank of being a good photographer is actually knowing the history within this visual medium. Photography has only been around for 180 something years, we are at a learning place that has so much depth to it. Unlike painting, music, acting, & literature, photography does not have centuries worth of classic material. This special place of being able to learn so much & have a direct contact to the builders of photography can be a platform for a good photographer. Just for the sake of being able to have intellectual conversations about photography is worth it, just as people are intellectual about painting, music, dance & literature, a good photographer would know that he or she has to extend their knowledge to be a reflection that they know what they are talking about & explaining that yes this is an art form.

IvyNoire.com: What do you enjoy most about photography?

 Shaun La: Being able to participate in bringing a moment into a memory. I think this is a ruler for measuring your existence, which can be outstandingly powerful when you wake up early in the morning or think about it, quietly at night.

IvyNoire.com: What motivates you to do what you do?

Shaun La: Life motivates me. I know that some artists will go with looking at other artists & their works as a way to be motivated. But, I am an art-lover, so that is not a place that I go to for motivation. When I go to a museum to look at paintings, sculptures or photography, I am going as a fan, I am not looking for a boost of motivation. However, just being able to know my responsibility as a photographer is enough motivation to be myself with a camera. I am a living photographer & this is something which is spiritual to me.

IvyNoire.com: What projects are you currently working on?

Shaun La: I am currently working on a portrait project, which I am going to exhibit. The thing is, I am unsure of where I am going with this project. It is about individuals, because I do not call people that I photograph models or subjects & these photography sessions are coming together with their own energetic speed. The messages in this project will come to me. I have been doing photography long enough to know that at times, some projects come right to you, & during other times, you will have to walk thru the project by going into it & allowing the looking back to be the way to comprehend what you were doing.

IvyNoire.com: Would you like to add anything else?

Shaun La: Currently working on a book about photography titled, “The Perpetual Intellectual View Called, Photography: Essays,” which will be a collection of my essays about photography. My book will be without my photography & it will be a conversation between photography & myself. I have over 40 essays to select from, so I find this to be educationally fun.Yes, I know, I am aging backwards as an artist. Typically, a photographer will go scholarly as they excel into their older years & they will do coffee table books first, while they are in their younger years. I want to explain photography & express to the universe that I am not only a photographer but a writer who is expounding on photography being an intelligently important art form. Of course, I will do a coffee table book, but this will be down the line in the bright future.

IvyNoire.com: How can people find out more about your work?

Shaun La: You can go to my official website at: http://www.shaunarts.com/

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11 Comments

  1. Diane Powers on

    Stunning interview articulating Shaun La’s pure passion for the art of photography. I found it insightful and inspiring!

  2. Thank you for taking the time out to read & for the comments, Diane & Brian. I am pleased that the sense of Art & Photography were perceived in this interview that placed some thought-provoking questions about my doctrines on Photography. Enjoy your day & the rest of your week.
    Shaun.

  3. What an amazing piece!!! Shaun La is one of the most truely authentic Photographers of our generation. Pure and Powerful. Shaun La’s work, his “Eye” will take you directly to the Soul of the Photograph.

  4. Excellent interview! Shaun’s work is impressive and his knowledge of photography continues to expand!

    I am honored that he is a fellow photographer, and friend!

  5. Stephanie, thank you so much. Your commentary means a lot & it is rewarding to see your support. Keep being a Bright thinker.

    Your acknowledgement is great encouragement, fellow photographer, Roger. Thank you & keep up that good photography that I respect.

  6. Tiara Inesti on

    Wonderful reading, great interview. I admire your both of your talents in writing & photography. So much to learn from. Wishing you a fully succeed in the bright future.
    Oh and this is my fave line :
    “There are various powers, energies along with mental activity that happens when you capture the emotions & expressions from an individual, a landscape & even an object. Also, I strongly believe that there is a duality in photographing an individual, or an anything for that matter, all of this points back to the photographer & what is being photographed being on the same conscious level. As a photographer, I am always willing to believe that a moment can happen, but to know that the emotion & expression does not always happen is another understanding that I found to be important enough to learn as a wise lesson. I do not think that any photographer can predict a moment, you can prepare for it & that is about the only step that a photographer can take towards being the person who capture emotions & expressions”

  7. I like to think of Sean as the “intellectual photographer”. And it isn’t necessarily his approach to how he photographs, but to the art form itself.

    “. I do not think that any photographer can predict a moment, you can prepare for it & that is about the only step that a photographer can take towards being the person who capture emotions & expressions”

    I like this quote because as an amateur photographer I always wish I could capture “emotions & expressions” the way a “real” photographer does. And here Sean is saying all he can do is prepare for it. Perhaps it is his pure love of the art form that allows him to capture a moment, emotion or expression as he does.

    Keep it up Sean, we all look forward to the coffee table book.
    Great read, as always.
    Lisa

  8. Tiara, thank you for your time & for your bright comment. I am glad that you learned something about Photography from this interview. Ivy Noire placed some questions that were really on the pace of discussing Photography as a serious visual medium. You have a favorite line, now this is way too cool. Thanks again, & enjoy your day & week.

  9. That is a great compliment, Lisa G., thank you. I am excited to hear that you look forward to my coffee table book, & that you were able to receive that quote from me in the sense that you could embrace the artistic elements in photography. I hope that you & your weekend is a carefree one.

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