Armed with a camera and an imagination, self-taught photographer Aaron Sehmar works in the field of fine art photography and model portraits. His inspirations surge from cinematography, fashion, art and literature; which is evident in the imagery that he captures.
For Sehmar, the learning curve he has endured has been an adventure, as teaching oneself the technique and practices of a medium such as photography is challenging. Furthermore, not having a mentor or taking classes in photography can leave a photographer in a state of curiosity that can only be satisfied by the internet or books.
“(Photography) has the power to freeze time and preserve precious memories but I’m interested in the way that photography can be used to create images that are fictional, or staged,” he said.
“Does staging an image take away any of the honesty and truth that is so inherently linked to the medium? Isn’t every photograph part truth and part fiction, based solely on the way the photographer has chosen to shoot the subject?
“It is definitely questions such as these that keeps me shooting.”
Photographing in the world of fine art photography bears a lot of challenges that the photographer needs to respond and adapt to. For Sehmar, his most prominent challenge is selling images as prints; followed by exhibiting images and contacting galleries. Furthermore, the physical act of “going out” and shooting something is another element of photography that Sehmar also finds challenging.
“…its so easy to have an idea on paper or in your head, but its different to actually doing it,” he said.
“Ever since I graduated from university a year ago, I’ve realised how little time we have to ourselves on a daily basis, so for me, I find it challenging to find the right kind of shooting balance, as I don’t want to overshoot and become bored of my work, but I don’t want to not shoot anything.”
In most of our interviews with creatives we often talk about the topic of organisation and planning for the work that they do. When Sehmar thinks of an idea, he doesn’t write it down straight away. Most of the time, the idea stews around in his mind for a few days and he tries to expand on whatever the original thought was.
“…once I’ve got a general idea of how I want to whole image to look, mostly including the clothing, props and location, I sit down and either draw it out or write a description of the images down in a few lines,” he said.
“Normally, the images aren’t very clear, or not very detailed, but they’re really there to remind me of what I originally thought about shooting as I’ve learnt that there a lot of room for improvisation when you get to the stage of shooting.
“There are times when I just go out and shoot with no particular idea in mind. A few images, such as Fugue and Wastelands were actually shot in 2014, but it wasn’t until the start of this year that I came across them on my hard drive and edited them.”
In regards to the business side of photography that seems to be a somewhat taboo topic in the creative world of photography, Sehmar finds receiving payment for work and making a constant source of income the hardest of all.
Pricing the services that a photographer offers is one of the hardest things they will ever have to do. After all, most often the client isn’t receiving anything tangible as they’re paying for a service. They may receive printed photographs or a USB with digital images, but at the conclusion of the service a client is most often paying for the photographer’s time.
“We live in world that is over saturated with images, so how do you stand out and make someone believe that you are worth hiring?” he said.
“I don’t think that the fact that pretty much everyone has access to a camera necessarily helps the status of photography, and I have certainly seen the effects of this first hand from people who demand free work, or wonder why you can’t just shoot images for them on a phone.
“I think if anything, being a photographer now is very hard, even more so when you have no one to guide you or to give you advice about how to move forward or develop your work, which is why I think it’s important for there to be more discussion about photography between photographers.”
As a photographer, doubtful thoughts about whether they are good enough to ‘make it’ in the realm of photography often occur. These negative thoughts often lead to what many creative people struggle with; self doubt. Not believing in yourself can be detrimental to your work, career, confidence and mental health.
“I’m not sure if non-photographers realise how much confidence you need to just to be able to go out and shoot any image, no matter what the subject is,” he said.
“It’s a medium that, subject to popular belief, takes a lot of time, in which the shooting of the image is just a small percent. You have to market, retouch, learn how to use equipment, create the concepts, meet with clients, and learn about business.
“I try and do the best I can by shooting ideas that I feel are original (although there is no originality) and meaningful to me, but there are days when I look at my work and feel that it’s not good enough, or that I’m doing something wrong because not a lot of people are responding to what I post.”
Photography is an investment of not only time and money, but also mental motivation and energy. It requires the photographer to be constantly learning, developing and improving. All these things combined take consistent and sustained effort that can be mentally taxing.
“There are times when I wonder why I’m doing so much work for little return, but you have to remember that photography is an investment,” he said.
“It’s not a career that one can instantly dive into; it takes a lot of time to build up connections, a good portfolio, think about good concepts and generally understand your own tastes and methods of working.”
In Sehmar’s collection of work, his flair for both storytelling and creativity emanate through the low-lit photographs. For the above image, Sehmar said it was one of his rare shoots where the idea of the image came after shooting it via the title.
“The meaning of Periapsis is “the point in the path of an orbiting body at which it is nearest to the body that it orbits”, so I tried to interpret it as this person who is an informant and is giving out information about the people in the house that is behind them,” he said.
Sehmar’s creativity is also evident in the fact he most often shoots self-portraits, which acts as a “cathartic” exercise for him.
“…you can just relax, take as long you need to get the images right without having to worry about any time restraints or models not turning up/posing how you want and you have full control over the clothing,” he said.
The process of self portraiture for Sehmar usually involves relatively quick shoots that are no longer than an hour. His equipment is light and includes a tripod and wireless remote trigger.
“The main issue with shooting alone is focusing, because I’m most often in front of the camera before the shutter is released,” he said.
“To deal with this, I either use back button focusing, where I focus the image first, using the focusing points (I shoot with a Canon 60D), guessing where I’ll be, and then use the wireless remote to take the shot.
“There is a lot of trial and error, especially if there’s movement, like running involved, but that’s part of the fun!”
If you would like to see more of Aaron’s work and check out what he’s up to, you can visit his website and blog via aaronsehmarphotography.co.uk.