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Mobile Photography & Art – ‘Intimate Interview’ with Sean Hayes from Brussels, Belgium

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Sean Hayes is something of a cultural artist crossing geographic boundaries, one who transforms cultural landscapes. His art is an experience, his portraiture and street work allows for a direct and intimate interaction with the viewer. The meticulous staging of light within his images fills the air with an awareness of living. Hayes’ landscape photography owes its eloquence to its matter-of-fact nature. Everything is observed, Hayes’ images carry the romantic undertow of both myth and mystery. Hayes achieves an engaging style with his art, he not only manages to cross physical borders between countries but I feel, he has a sense of the emotional boundaries between people, his portraiture demonstrates a level of empathy with the subject that brings us into another’s world, another’s pain, another’s joy.

Hayes is an award-winning photographer whose work has been selected for exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Milan, Brussels and Paris. In 2012, Sean was awarded an Honorable Mention in the landscape category of the Mobile Photography Awards and 2nd place in the people category of the MPA 2013. For the 2015 MPA, he received honourable mentions in the Black and White, Portraits and Photo Journalism categories. He also won 3rd place for his Photo Essay of Irish landscapes. For the 2016 MPA, he received Honorable Mentions in the People, Landscape and Transport categories. Sean lives with his Belgian wife and children in Brussels and works as a professional photographer and advertising art director.

This is our 30th interview in this series of intimate interviews. TheAppWhisperer is the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website and we feel it is important that our community feel close to one another, as it is this support that helps us to nurture each others art, gain confidence and continue to grow.

To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarini and myself, go here.

All images ©Sean Hayes

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

Astronaut.

Like many of my generation, I was hypnotised by the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I was inconsolable to learn I had to be an American military test pilot to qualify for astronaut school. Today, conditions and opportunities to join the ranks of intrepid spacefarers are completely different.

All you need nowadays to get into space is to be a paying passenger. Preferably a billionaire.

Oh well. The dream lives on.

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First Recognition?

Running.

10 years old.

I won a street race in Clones, Ireland. My Mum’s home town.

Could have been 500m or 1500m. Memory doesn’t go the distance these days.  

But I do clearly remember age eligibility for the race being a little odd.

I distinctly remember overtaking “boys” with fledgling beards.

I also remember the relief and disbelief having crossed the finishing line first.

First Job?

Barboy/Waiter.

16 or 17 years old.

Fantastic tips on a Saturday night. Empty pint glasses full to the brim with silver and copper coins. Felt like a pirate with treasure. First time I heard an adult use the word “f*ck” in polite conversation.

I learnt how to remember orders consisting of 5 pints of Guinness, 3 pints of Smithwicks, 2 lager and limes and 4 packets of Tayto crisps. Balancing and delivering all that, without spilling a drop, over the heads of hordes of weekend revelers to target table is a skill not to be sneezed at.

Especially when carrying a full tray of drinks.

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Private or State School?

Christian Brothers. The feared Men in Black. Can confirm their black belt Catholicism. Have come to realise later in life I received an outstanding education. I have the scars to prove it.

University Work?

After a faltering attempt to enter art school I got a job as a dogsbody in a Dublin advertising agency. Hung out with the cool art department guys who seemed slightly less psychotic than the “suits” who ran the place. Graduated to junior pencil-sharpener at another agency where the creatives were even cooler. And the work they produced was better. Rinse and repeat. Have moved agencies, and even countries, many times since in my quest for a more creative working environment. It’s been tough but rewarding. The University of hard knocks is my diploma.

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Who was or still is your mentor?

Dictionary definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”

In most of my work environments, throughout the years,

the modus operandi was looking after number 1.

Sad to say, but it has been my experience.

Ad agency creative departments, in my day, were very clear cut in their demands.

Sink or swim.

You could do the work, or you couldn’t.

You could win awards. Or you couldn’t.

I believe mentors do exist – I was just never fortunate enough to find one.

Or for them to find me.

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How physically fit are you?

I was very sporty in my youth. Track and field were my game. 100m and 200m specifically. Won medals and good friends. It has stood me in good stead as I navigate my 50s, although I probably couldn’t run 100m in 100 sec these days. I hit the gym at least every other day.

That being said, I’ll leave Ultimate Frisbee to the younger guys and gals.

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Ambition or Talent?

Ambition is the defined destination. Talent is the fuel to get there. To stand any chance of achieving “success” the two must be combined. I would add tenacity to the mix. In fact, I would say determination to stay the distance is a greater indicator of eventual “success” than either ambition or talent.

How politically committed are you?

I used to be politically agnostic. “Why bother voting, the government always gets in” was my arrogant appraisal of politics in my youth. But times have changed. The caliber of politicians has significantly declined in recent years. You don’t have to go very far to find examples. Any sense of civility among the ruling political class has all but evaporated and has been replaced with a vainglorious venality and lack of empathy for people they are mandated to represent. A power vacuum has developed, and Corporations are positioning themselves to fill the void. Technocracy is rapidly replacing democracy as a collective guiding-light. We are now more commodity for data harvesting companies than citizens. Technology, and its paradigm-shifting impact on society – AI, the singularity, robots, humanism v transhumanism, Chinese style social credit systems, surveillance capitalism, climate change – are not the stuff of sci-fi nightmares. They are very real and here now. Our governmental and legislative systems were designed for a 19th century industrial landscape and are wholly inadequate for our new century. It’s not hyperbole to state we are at a major crossroads of human evolution. And nobody seems to be at the wheel – with the exception of Silicon Valley executives. I have children who will inherent this brave new world. Time for us all to get politically involved and try to shape the future narrative.

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What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

My mind.

Joking apart, a holiday home beside the sea.

I grew up beside the sea and now live in a landlocked city.

I miss the sea.

The sea is a constant reminder of elemental forces greater than oneself.

Very humbling.

Which is good for the soul.

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What is your biggest extravagance?

My camera equipment. No surprise there.

While not a gear junkie, I do like finely crafted camera equipment.

Less is definitely more if you are interested in the aesthetics of image-making

but it does help to have the right material.

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What places are you the happiest?

A place where other people are happy.

While not exactly an empath, I do easily pick up on the vibes

of people around me.

Good or bad.

A weakness? A strength?

For others to decide.

What ambitions do you still have?

Interesting question. And timely.

After 30+ years working as an advertising creative,

I have achieved everything I set out to do. And more.

My new passion is an old one: Photography.

I bought my first DSLR when I was about 18 and, unfortunately, it was stolen almost immediately.

I stopped.

Entering my 50s, I picked up an iPhone and started taking pictures again.

Thanks to the online mobilephotography community I was encouraged to continue.

The work was appreciated and gave me the courage to reinvest my time in photography.

I am currently a professional photographer, specialising in portraiture and landscapes.

My ambition is to be world-class.

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What drives you on?

Fear of failure is often cited as what drives people.

At my age, the dynamic has switched to a clear sense of the quickening of time.

I’m driven to make beautiful and compelling work in photography.

In the time left to me.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My family.

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What do you find most irritating in other people?

People who are constantly irritated and continually attempt to pin the cause of their irritation onto other people.

In other words, people who never take responsibility for their own sovereign states of being.

The modern world can be incredible annoying and frustrating.

But it is always your decision on how you react inside to outside circumstances.

If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would he think?

You’re still alive !!!???!!!”

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Which object that you’ve love do you wish you still have?

A childhood scrapbook full of newspaper clippings, dated July 20th, 1969, announcing to an amazed world the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. My Dad threw out all my stuff when I left home. Inadvertently, of course.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes.

Anecdotal evidence is overwhelming, if you choose to do the research.

For my strictly Newtonian materialist friends, I cite the first law of thermodynamics – energy cannot be created nor destroyed: only transferred from one form into another. If you understand anything about what it is to be human, you understand we are 100% energy.

Check out the wacky world of the quantum physics for proof.

For my more esoteric friends, the absurdity of death being the end is just that.

Absurd.

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What is the greatest challenge of our time?

It’s critical we retain our capacity for critical thinking.  

Information, although easily accessed through search engines, is increasingly curated and even censored, if it does not match the prevailing ethos of the companies who now have become monopoly suppliers of our quest for knowledge online.

Teaching discernment skills in schools,

colleges and universities will be our greatest need in the future.

And our greatest challenge.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

8 ½ .

But ask me again in an hour.

Life always, always throws you curveballs. Constantly.

That’s how we learn.

And when you learn, you grow.

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