10 minutes with Daniel Shea
In two of your projects, Plume and Removing Mountains, you explore the world of coal and its production and effect on the landscape. How did you become interested in the subject of coal? Also, how did you go about meeting and photographing your subjects for these projects?
I was introduced to the politics surrounding mountaintop removal through a few friends that traveled to West Virginia every summer to work with Mountain Justice Summer, a direct action activist group that fought mountaintop removal and general coal industry bad behavior. As an artist I was immediately interested in the abstract – the fossil fuel at the center of such a heated battle, and the manipulation of landscape that went into extracting and distributing the product. I went to West Virginia on a fellowship and was able to live there for a few months. Having a sustained presence in the local community gave me access to people and places that a traditional “drop in” journalist wouldn’t have. I was open about the work I was doing and consistently asked people I knew to introduce me to anyone.
I’m a big fan of your photography but I also didn’t know that you did installation work. When did you start using mediums aside from taking pictures and how does working on those projects affect your photography work or are they totally unrelated?
Thank you. I was a much more interdisciplinary artist in my undergraduate studies, and didn’t start working on photography “series” until Removing Mountains. I’ve maintained a studio practice on and off since graduating in 2007, but only recently have I felt comfortable in putting that work online. The two practices are pretty separate, although I also use photography as installation in my studio work. I’m going back to school in the Fall, and I hope to merge the two then.
Do you remember the first photo that you took that you really loved?
I took a picture of some friends of mine making a human pyramid in middle school that was out of focus, sloppily framed, etc. There was something that I really liked about it, but didn’t know how to think about at that point. Tillmans would be proud.
You have an hour to photograph any subject in any location, who and where would it be?
Distant galaxies, planets, life, etc., as far away from the earth as possible.
Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?
If you are looking to shoot editorial work, it seems that no one will pay attention until you make compelling personal work. So do that!
(See more of Daniel’s work, here)