Spotlight: Portrait Photographer Sean Hagwell

MagMaker / August 25, 2014

Sean Hagwell

My name is Sean Hagwell and my medium is photography. And sometimes directing.

My love of photography started when I found my parents’ cameras at the age of 8. But it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized it was at the core of who I was. Nothing in my life came so naturally.

If I’m being honest, I became a photographer out of a mix of personal enjoyment and really not knowing any better. I never went to art school or had any formal training, which made learning the basics that much harder. Fortunately I was too young and foolish to know that I should have been scared out of my mind. Instead, my entire focus was—and still is—to constantly create and become exponentially better with each project. I just want to make cool content and share how I did it.

I use Flipboard to stay informed about the world outside of my own, get out of my own headspace to discover new inspirations, and learn what is and what isn’t connecting with people. If I’m not on set, I’m busy learning and deconstructing the work of others, whether that be in photography, architecture or food. I learned very early on that there is value to be found in every aspect of art, regardless of whether it falls into my particular industry. I’m a proponent of the philosophy that “talent imitates, genius steals.”

Flipboard is also great to share my work. It allows me to put everything from official releases to behind-the-scenes content in one beautifully designed layout. Combine that with the natural intuitive feel of flipping pages and it’s a done deal.

My biggest influence is, first and foremost, my wife. She’s the perfect balance to my madness and without her support I would, quite literally, not be doing what I’m doing for a living. When it comes to mentors in the industry, it’s Annie Leibovitz. Her work has spanned decades and continues to define portrait photography. Another would be Seattle-based photographer Chase Jarvis, who took the time to give honest advice to a no-name kid from Illinois all those years ago.

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my grandfather: “When you land on whatever island you’ve set sail for, whether as a photographer, director, friend, husband or father…the moment you reach that shore, burn the boat.”

See some of Sean’s best shots below:

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