Interview: Drawing Hope from Emotionally Dark Places with Seanen Middleton

As a teen, Seanen Middleton struggled with a lot of emotional turmoil. Desperate to find a healthy outlet for his feelings, he turned to photography and discovered a way out of the darkness by using self-portraiture as a means of escape. Seanen finds visual inspiration in the coasts and forests near his home in England, and they’ve helped him develop a portfolio of vivid, emotion-packed images that speak directly to your heart. Their somber themes and undertones are paired with a color palette so rich and inviting as to draw hope into these dark places.

We were thankful for the opportunity to chat with Seanen about his stunning photography in this Behind The Lens look into his creative process.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?

I started shooting when I was about fifteen or sixteen. I was a troubled teenager with a lot of emotional baggage, and I was pretty desperate to find a way to express my emotions in a healthy and productive way. Photography came into my life at the perfect time and steered me away from the dark road that I am certain I would have gone down had things been different. It introduced me to a new perspective of life, one that emphasized the beauty and the magnificence of the world around me. All these new emotions were the driving force behind my journey into photography and before I knew it, it consumed my life and I've never wanted to do anything else since.

What are some of your interests?

Music, politics, philosophy, human behavior and nature in all its manifestations.

Where do you call home?

The Lake District in Northern England. I grew up there and it is a truly magical place, I would recommend anyone to try and visit it at some point in their lives. There's something about the rolling hills that comfort me like nowhere else ever has, even if I find it quite a lonely and isolated place at times.

You incorporate such powerful ideas into your work, what keeps you inspired?

I always struggle with this question because inspiration often just comes to me without much thought behind it. I just do what I normally love, which includes listening to a lot of music, looking at different types of art, taking walks in the wilderness and spending time with my friends and loved ones…and then if I am lucky an idea will pop into my head. I don't overthink the process too much. I just carry on stimulating my mind with things that I find beautiful and hope for the best.

How do you keep your artistic voice unique to you?

I just do what I find interesting and try not to pay attention to other people so much, which is actually easier said than done. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what direction you need to take your work, and whilst yes, this can be useful and getting advice from others can be a really positive thing, it is worth remembering that it is YOUR work, YOUR mind and you should try to stay true to that. Don't fall into the trap of creating just to please other people. If you don't love what you create, something needs to change until you do.

How has your style evolved through the years?

Well, obviously my technical ability has improved dramatically and I think my ideas have matured a lot, too. They have expanded. When I first started, my photos were all about me, but now I love to look at more abstract concepts, philosophical ideas, etc. I guess, just like me, my work has grown up, but not in a boring adult way, just in a “I am more self aware and I understand the world a lot better” kind of way.

How much planning goes into a shoot?

Not much. Normally I have a vague idea about what I want to create, what lighting/location I want and then I just let it happen.

How do you light your photos? Do you use artificial or natural light?

80% of the time it is natural light but I do also use a soft box that I own and occasionally I will shoot something with street lighting. Natural light is my absolute favorite though.

Do you have a favorite shooting location?

I love the woods most of all. I love the way light filters through trees and how the leaves and plants seem to breathe colors. There is endless inspiration in the woods for me.

How would you define your style?

I think this is always changing but all of my images seem to have a dark and romantic quality to them.

Is there an overall message you would like your photos convey?

A oneness that we all share through emotions and nature. I find something really beautiful about being able to connect with people through shared emotions. We are all animals that experience the same core feelings, and I think when you can tap into that through artwork, you can create a real sense of connection with your audience. I love the idea of making someone feel like they are less alone; I have been in that situation many times before and for the most part, it was art or music that got me through. I guess emotions are a universal language that we can all relate to, regardless of background.

What challenges have you faced while creating?

I go through long periods of being uninspired and then all of a sudden, I will be filled with creative energy and just go crazy creating things…until I burn myself out and the process starts again. I do find it really difficult, especially when I try and force the creativity out of me. I’ve come to realize that if I want to create my best work, I just have to let it happen naturally.

What's a must have in your gear bag?

My beautiful 35mm f/1.8 lens.

There is a vibrancy in color in your style that is beautiful, is there a lot of post-processing that goes into a completed photo?

It varies. I try very hard to get my photos as perfect as I can in camera, so I get the lighting/composition as spot on as possible, but color is something that I love to play around within post processing, because it gives me complete control over the color palette. I'm very particular about what colors I like! I tend to take the existing colors in an image and change them to a shade that I find the most visually appealing and so they compliment/balance each other out. I especially love clashing warm and cold tones together. I also love how color acts as a visual language, another way to communicate thoughts and feelings to your audience.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any upcoming projects?

I just plan to continue creating images that I love and sharing them with my followers. Hopefully in the future an opportunity will come up which will allow me to do this full-time as a way to make a living, but we shall see. My most recent project is shooting some work for a charity that is raising awareness of depression among men. This is something that is very close to my heart so it means a lot that I can help out somehow. You can find more information here.

Thank you so much Seanen! If you would like to stay up to date with this talented photographer's work please visit his website and Facebook Page.

Are you a photographer? Would you like to be interviewed for our Behind The Lens series? Leave your website in the comments below!

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