Shea Brennan Photography Interview

BY PJ CARMICHAEL

I’ve known Shea Brennan for the past three years and I am an avid fan of his photography. His photographic style is purist, to say the least: he sees something that he finds interesting and he takes a picture of it. His photos make use of various subjects, from action sports to the landscape of Central Massachusetts, and he presents the ordinary as extraordinary through his photography. I sat with him to ask him a few questions about his unique photography, as well as his philosophy behind it.

How did you first begin taking photographs?
I got my first camera in seventh grade. It was Christmas. I got a Canon A540 Powershot (point-and-shoot) camera. It could shoot both photo and video. I was definitely influenced by my friends who were into action sports to shoot photo and video, especially because I wasn’t that good at the actual riding (BMX and skateboarding) side of it. What made me think of it more seriously was doing projects for school.

What were the first subjects you took photos of?
My friends skateboarding and BMX riding. Trail riding. I did more BMX photography than skateboarding photography, but both played a part in my subject matter. Taking shots of our adventures. Candid photographs of where we were and what we were doing. It wasn’t until junior or senior year that I started to think more seriously about what it was I was actually doing. I developed a more personal style of what I wanted to do, but up until that point, it was just being in the right place at the right time.

What are some of your photographic preferences?

I love when I get the right thing in focus. There are times when I’ll take a photograph, and there is almost luck to it. I can try as hard as I want to get it to come out good, but in the end, there might be some factor, mechanical or otherwise, that prevents me. I like getting extreme close-ups. I like being able to get fine detail. I like balanced landscapes and good timing. I like shots where the environment plays just as much a part as the subject matter.

What are your favorite subjects to shoot?
I like shooting night photography around the Fitchburg State Campus or trying to. A lot of the photos I take are from my cell phone, so they aren’t the best quality at night, but in a way, that plays into what I like about the photos. I like to take pictures of little things that other people might not notice but that I see.

Are there consistent themes to your photos?
I feel like a lot of things that I take photographs of are rather mundane, except for portraits, which I feel are uniquely beautiful in their own specific ways. I’m trying to show that there’s more than meets the eye. A lot of the things that people might overlook can have a lot of value when seen from different perspectives. I’m trying to show what I find important. My ultimate accomplishment, by taking photographs, is capturing the things that I find important.

Who are some of your favorite photographers?
One of my favorite photographers is Walter Pieringer. He’s a photographer I got into through BMX, but he shoots all sorts of subject matter, just like all photographers should. I see adventures in his photographs. I feel that the time and preparation put into going to each location give his photographs a really epic quality. Another favorite is Jeff Allen. He’s from Boston, based in New York, and a lot of the images that attracted me to him were really great medium format shots and especially shots that didn’t use fisheye lens. In BMX and skateboarding, there can sometimes be an overuse of the fisheye lens. Using a fisheye a lot can take away from capturing the surrounding environment. What I liked about his photographs was that he was not afraid to get a wide shot and incorporate more of the location.