Featured photographer, Sean Lotman
I am very happy to be able to share with you a mini interview with talented photographer, writer and a friend of mine, Mr. Sean Lotman. Sean’s pictures evoke a dreamlike sense of wonder and give you pause for thought in this hectic modern world. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I do. Please read on and enjoy…
Hi, thanks for being on JCH. Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Sean Lotman. I’m a Los Angeles native living in Japan since 2003, mostly Tokyo, lately Kyoto. In addition to photography, I work as a writer.
How would you describe your style of photography?
As I tend to shoot portraits in dreamy colors I like to call my work, “surreal humanism.”
Do you have a process when you go shooting? Or are you just going out and shooting whatever comes your way?
Because I need to engage in my environment when I work it’s not easy for me to shoot casually. Generally, I don’t have a specific agenda so I usually just go out and shoot. It can take a long time before I find themes or connections between my photographs but I try not to force it. I’m lucky in that I enjoy walking and live in a city where most people get around on foot. I am also lucky because Kyoto is a particularly lovely place to work, with its intersection of the traditional arts and modern Japanese elements. As I shoot mostly strangers, a lot of my photography is based on pure chance. But it’s manageable if you know where the best places to shoot are and when you get your light. It’s usually a roll of the dice so it’s exhilarating when you get lucky.
What do you want to say with photography?
I travel a lot, especially in developing countries that some Westerners consider “unsafe.” These places are nearly always much more friendly (not to mention photogenic) than Western Europe and the U.S. I hope that in my photography people recognize the world is beautiful and man, if flawed, is a fascinating creature. And for all the strange clothes, mysterious habits and unique skin color, this person on the far side of the world could be a friend too.
Where would you like to see your photography develop in the future?
I only want to continue shooting. From the pool of my best work will develop an artistic compass that will lead me in the right direction.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with the readers of JCH?
My big project I’ve been working on for more than two years is called I Do Haiku You (www.idohaikuyou.com), in which I pair medium format toy photography with haiku and senryu poetry. Haiku poetry, like photography, has an instant, strong, fairly emotional resonance. Ideally, a feeling is rendered for the viewer. It’s pretty much completed and I’m currently looking for a publisher for the series.
Otherwise, I discover patterns in my work and try to pursue them deeper. I have several ongoing projects, “Young Americans,” “Underdogs,” and something called “Our Infinitesimal Existence.” I am working on a comprehensive Japan book that will be a few years in the making. Though I’ve been in Japan for some length of time it still baffles me no end. Photography challenges me to engage in its culture, pursuing its beautiful heritage and strange trajectory.
Could you tell our readers what photographers inspire you?
Some of my favorite photographers are Jacob Holdt, Helen Levitt, Alex Webb, Steve McCurry, Joel Sternfeld, Bruce Davidson, and Ron Galella. Among younger photographers, Ryan McGinley, Pieter Hugo, Evgenia Arbugaeva and Chloe Dewe Matthews are producing very interesting work.
Do you have any advice for people who are starting out or are struggling for inspiration?
Experiment as much as you can– with digital, medium format, 35mm, toy cameras, whatever– until you find a look or sensibility that you feel accurately expresses your vision of the medium. Once you find your signature– your own particular way of expressing yourself– you can shoot anything and it will reveal your uncommon individuality.
I know you are a literary type, perhaps you could sign off with a favourite quote for us?
Oscar Wilde sums up my some of my thoughts on photography best: “A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.”
Thanks for sharing your work and your thoughts with all of the JCH followers Sean. I have been an admirer of your work for a long time now, so it is great to see it on my site.
Please check out Sean’s new site and make sure you check out the links. Oh and please comment too, we love it when you do.
Please remember that the images are reproduced with the kind permission of Sean Lotman and may not be used or reproduced without permission.