Sean Scott is a humble man. A gentle man. And one of Australia’s greatest photographers.
The father of three is a go getter who, above all odds, has managed to live a successful life doing what he loves. Opinionated, passionate, and hard working, Scott is a man who inspires, a man who built a legacy from the grains of sand of Burleigh beach.
Us Wayfarers were proud to introduce Scott to our second issue, to which he responded with positivity, and a bucket load of incredible photos.
For those unfamiliar with Scott than take a breath, sip on some tea, and put your feet up, for here follows the photos behind the name, and the man behind the lens.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Sean: Forty one years old, live on the Gold Coast, since I was five, I have three small children, who were born and raised here and have travelled around the world with me taking photographs. I started off as an electrician for Energex, and I did that for ten years just doing my photography on the side, selling my stuff at beachside markets, and this is well before the Facebook and Instagram days – and I slowly made a name for myself selling my work like that and then with the help of my full time job as an electrician I opened up my own little gallery in the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade, and had that going for almost 9 or 10 years over there, then the last three years we moved the gallery to James Street in Burleigh. So I’ve just been working on the one here in Burleigh lately, it’s a kind of lifestyle store, with all the art work and everything else that you love from the Gold Coast. So that’s how all the photography started, but in the last two or three years there’s been a lot of social media work as well.
When did you start taking photos and how did you learn to take the shots that you do?
Sean: I started taking photos about 15 years ago now. I was always into it as a kid, I used to get disposable cameras, but originally it was with my wife, my fiancé at the time, booked a trip to Tasmania and I had a little film camera and so I started taking photos on the way. I got there and just taught myself how to use a film slr over there, taught myself manually, all the controls, and from there people were liking what they saw and thought well maybe I should start selling them. That’s when I learnt to make frames and how to put them together so I can sell my photographs. It was pre-social media back then, so I like the fact that didn’t really have much influences so I kind of just knew I loved what I saw and loved shooting things for people, and that’s the thing about photography – being able to show people what you saw, getting them to come down and check places out.
You have various styles of shooting photos, do you have a favourite style?
Sean: It’s a bit all over the place at the moment. But I don’t know. Originally, it was all surf based, being out at the point of Burligh I knew what it was like being out in the ocean and Kirra, and the sunset and the waves are all gold and I thought ‘shit, this looks so cool’ so I got my camera out there and starting shooting a lot of water based photography, which I still love doing. But then I love the mountains, I’ve just shot through New Zealand and Iceland and its amazing. It’s all what’s inspiring me basically, so that’s why my style is a bit all over the place really, it’s just what I love to go out and do. So I just capture it.
Do you have a favourite thing to shoot on the Coast?
Sean: I suppose on the Gold Coast I do love Burleigh. I live at Burleigh, so it is my favourite thing to shoot. I’m always down here for sunrise and in the water. I also love being out in the water at Kirra and Snapper, and getting away from the crowds and shooting those empty golden waves. Underwater I shoot Bilinga, I love doing that there. But above all I suppose my favourite spot in Kirra Hill. Or maybe Tallebudgera Hill. There’s a few spots around here, I like to go for different things but it all depends on the conditions. I’ve got so much to pick from. It’s part of photography to mould to the environment as it’s happening. It’s some of my favourite spots that I keep an eye on.
That’s it. And there’s never a real routine to it is there? Always up and go, not sure where.
Sean: That’s it. Most days I wake up and don’t know often what I’m doing or when I’m doing it. So I often just get in the car, go for a walk around Burleigh Hill and then comes out and a rainbow, so it changes so often. So it’s great having that flexibility now where I don’t work in the gallery, pretty much so I can do other work and keep behind weather and conditions and just go where it feels right.
There is quite a lot of diversity here on the Gold Coast. Definitely a lot of different areas to shoot, different surf breaks, mountains, and other landmarks. Is that part of the reason the Gold Coast is so special to you and your work?
Sean: I suppose, yeah, there is heaps here to shoot, it will always be home to me. I do sort of stay toward Burleigh Heads and south, I don’t usually go much further north than that, I would probably just say that up north it’s a different part of the Coast with a mix of different people. I think it’s got its own little vibe, so I think you should find the people you love and I’ve got plenty of them here. I tend to just say I’m from Burleigh, as people hear Gold Coast and think Surfers Paradise.
Sean: But I know there are a few people working with parts all over the Coast, I just shot a little video with Gold Coast Tourism of Burleigh and they shot me doing sunrises here and doing what I do in Burleigh Heads, so they are trying to show the same thing that I love. But there are a lot of nice new cafes now, bars, and culturally stuff that’s happening all around the place now, which is good to see.
You do shoot a lot of places around the world, places like New Zealand, Fiji, Iceland, what is the most humbling feeling for you returning back home from a trip?
Sean: The feeling. When you just feel like you’re at home, you know. You can walk around Burleigh and it kind of just hits you there. You can smell it, smell the national park, the salt, you see the surfers out off the rocks paddling out. It just feels like home so you know you’re at home. It’s pretty much what I love about it the most.
Is there anyone you look up to, or is there any inspiration that you draw from for your work?
Sean: That’s something like I was mentioning earlier, it’s all changing with photography – so many people are doing it – it’s hard not to get inspired, or cluttered depending on which way you look at it as well. But, Chris Burkard is a pretty incredible photographer, I see a bit of his work around. I do try and just do what I want to do myself, that’s the way I started. Now it’s harder because you see so much all the time, so half the time you are getting inspired by someone, and there really are so many good photographers now it’s hard to just pick out one or two.
Any advice for emerging photographers? What they should be doing, what they should be using?
Sean: The one thing I always say to people is with photography you have to be in the right place at the right time, the other thing is you have to be out there. You’re never going to be in the right place at the right time if you’re sleeping in or if you see a storm coming and you just stay home. You’ve just to always put yourself out there, the more times you do that sooner or later you’ll find yourself in that right place in that right time. That’s one thing, another thing I like to tell people; with social media taking off it seems to have created a bit of a cult or a want for things instantly. Sure, some people will have grown to fame really quick or will have earned some amazing experiences but still a lot of it takes a lot of hard work, I think, that’s what I did. You’ve got to be in it for the love of it. Just keep working at it and it should sort itself out. It shouldn’t be about chasing followers or chasing likes on the Instagram page. You’re only going to be jumping into a phase that thousands of others are jumping into at the moment. If you’re genuinely in it because you love it I think you’ll go really well.
What is your greatest achievement?
Sean: I suppose my three children. That’s what I would say there. Apart from that … I don’t know.
Sean: I guess I do love living my life. I love what I do. I get up every morning not hating going to work. Having my whole family travel with me, it’s a bit of dream.
You are living the dream, aren’t you.
Sean: Yeah, when things are good and things go right, it’s great. When shit turns bad it can get stressful, but at least it’s something that I love. So fortunate of what I do, that’s for sure.
What is your ultimate goal?
Sean: I suppose, to submit myself into what I’m doing. Get a bit more of a financial stability behind me so I can keep going. At the moment I love what I’m doing, still got to worry about the business side of things but if that took off a bit more that’s all I’d need. I guess just watching my kids grow and develop, and me just helping them as much as I can too.
Do you have any plans for the future?
Sean: I do go to Western Australia at the end of next month. I was invited to go to Tonga next year but I had to turn that down because I’m travelling around Australia, with the kids in three-month long segments, because I was named an ambassador of Tourism Australia so it’s a part of that I’m trying to work out an around Australia trip so I can photograph inland and coastal regions throughout Australia. Get to the outback. That’s sort of my plan for next year. This year I went all over the world, next year I want to spend my time exploring home, finding all the hidden gems.
Anything you’d like to add?
Sean: The only other thing I’d say I find interesting is the social media side of photography – which I like, it’s been great to so many photographers, it keeps me busy but, you think ‘shit, everyone’s a photographer now I better try make some good shots’, definitely makes you work harder – thought the one thing I’ve noticed is that of a morning you’d go down to Kirra Hill at sunrise to take photos and there’d be nobody now you’ve got ten to twenty people there. You get there early enough in the morning and you’ll see people climbing cock rock at Burleigh, you might get five different girls hanging off there doing a sunrise photo. And they’re all doing it to get a photo for their Instagram. In the past you’d go there just for the memory, now they all go there chasing this photo, which only lasts a day or so on their Instagram – but they’re now left with this memory. So even though they’re doing it for the wrong reason the reverse side of the fact is you’re getting a memory afterwards. Because it is pretty cool. And you see so many people doing things for their selfie, and it’s ridiculous sometimes, but at the end of the day they’ll probably remember a week later or a month later and say to their friends ‘how cool it was to get up that morning and climb up Burleigh Hill for sunrise’, but they’ll forget about the selfie but not the memory. That’s the good side of social media, it’s getting a few people out an active and doing some good stuff.
Photos by Sean Scott | @seanscottphotography
Published by Us Wayfarers, issue 2