Sean Davey hailing from Tasmania, Australia, has been calling the North Shore of Oahu home for the past 17 years. A very interesting, friendly chap, with a sense of style all his own, he creates unique images by always looking for different approaches and different ways of shooting photography. In a sea of modern day photographers his work stands out. Take a glimpse into the world of Sean Davey.
Guiherme Alves.: So how did you start shooting?
Sean Davey: By accident, sort of (laughs). I was coming back home from school and went to the beach to check the surf and the surf was really, really small. I wished that I could shrink down to the size of a cockroach and ride those waves, but instead I went home and grabbed this old camera that you had been given years ago. I went back to the beach and, properly composed the picture and took just one shot. When I showed it to my friends they were all like: “Whoa, that’s nice! Where was this?”. And a light bulb went off. (laughs again). And that was the start of everything. This was late October back in 1977.
G.A.: And who was a major inspiration for you when you started shooting?
S.D.: Oh wow, there were quite a few… There was this guy, Max Dupain, which was an Australian photographer, and I always appreciated his work. He shot really good black and white. His blacks were really black and his whites were really white. The contrast in his pictures were so good. That always resonated with me. Also Warren Bolster. He was an innovator. One of those guys always looking for a different shot, a different angle and I take a lot of that from him. That’s what I like to do. If there’s 20 other lenses at the beach I’m gonna try to do something different, maybe shoot speed blurs. And I don’t mind missing the shot. What’s the point of getting the same shot as everyone else? I would much rather try and create something of my own. I always was inspired by those who push the boundaries a bit. Another guy who inspired me when I was young was Woody Woodworth, Californian guy, and I remember living in Australia and seeing all his photos and thinking: “Wow, America has some really good waves!”, (we both laugh) little did I know! (Both laugh again). But I mean his work was that good. I was convinced that California had the best waves anywhere, back then.
G.A.: So you’re much more concerned about the artistic process and not just shooting a famous guy riding a wave?
S.D.: Definitely. Let me give you an example: people shooting Teahupo’o, sitting in the channel, in a boat, and going through a whole roll of film in one wave, this was back when we were still shooting film. I don’t see the point in that. I’d much rather wait for that innovative angle, for that innovative shot. Something that makes my shot stand out from the rest.
I like to create something that people haven’t seen before. Something that make people look a second time. Anyone can shoot a “great photo”. I wanna take a really great photo.
G.A.: And what do you mean by “anyone can shoot a great photo”? Do you mean it is too easy to shoot with all the technology we have nowadays?
S.D.: Well, yeah. Nowadays you don’t need to know much about photography. People just point and shoot. Maybe they change the settings a bit. But it doesn’t matter. You’re not shooting film, if you mess up you just keep shooting. Where when you shoot film and you mess up a whole roll of film, you’ll remember next time (laughs). So the experience is different. People don’t gain as much knowledge from it. Way back then (when I was shooting Kodachrome) I had to wait two weeks to see the pictures that I shot. Two weeks! Very different from someone just pointing and shooting, pointing and shooting. People don’t acquire the experience that we had to have when we used to shoot film. So that’s the main difference.
G.A.: I know you do really great black and whites and speed blurs, but is there anything in particular that you really like to shoot more?
S.D.: My “Shadow Land” collection has been the big thing for me in the past year or two. I always have been drawn to shadows and silhouettes and strong blacks and whites, that kind of thing. I have this image that I shot of these swimmers at Waimea Bay from several years back, and I took this picture looking straight into the glare, it came out looking like it was black and white even though I shot it in color.
G.A.: It seems like the inspiration for those shots are much like the composition you would use in black and white, right?
S.D.: Well, there are a lot of influences coming together to create “Shadow Land”, from my early influences with Max Dupain and his black and whites, to panoramics, as there are a lot of panoramics in my “Shadow Land” collection. And color, I always been into intense colors. It doesn’t have to be oversaturated, what I like is when colors are separated into blocks. A big chunk of blue or a big chunk of red, it makes it look very much like art; I like bold colors and contrasts. But in “Shadow Land” I wanted to also show the human form. So it’s not about shooting someone in specific, no identities. And I feel like people get really into that. I feel that they can “transport” themselves into the image as there is no clear identity and that allows them to imagine themselves in that picture. Also, some of those pictures were taken years ago and some of them were taken yesterday. I don’t necessarily try to make my images look like they were taken at any particular time.
With over 140 magazine covers and a career that hax spanned for over three decades it is clear that his work is here to stay. If you would like to know more about Sean Davey look for his social media outlets:
and his website at www.seandavey.com
His art is also available at the Aloha Gallery at
62-208 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa and North Shore Soap Factory at the Waialua Sugar Mill.