Jarrad Seng’s work touches on many unexpected worlds. The Perth photographer is always bundling himself off to some new project in photography or film, travelling and pulling stunts so it’s a fun journey to follow. I first came across his work by way of a random call; he wanted to use the abandoned pool out back of my Scarborough rental for a photo shoot. Then again, when he put out an ask and rocked up in Guildford to set some shit ablaze in a field. This jettison of formality is something which has contributed to Seng being recognised as a premier creative worker in Australia, and led to features in media outlets across the world. Recently, Jarrad has been racing around Iceland with his crew taking righteous snaps and sharing the sense of daring they take with them. Pelican sought him out to ask for a slice.
What kicked off photography in your life, and why do you think it has assumed a bold part of it?
It all stemmed from my love of live music. I was writing about music, playing in bands and going to shows every weekend – it was a natural progression to start capturing the energy through a visual medium as well. It all just snowballed from there.
I don’t necessarily love photography. I mean, I like it. But it’s more about what it has allowed me to do – travel the world and meet interesting people along the way. Photography has become the medium through which I get to experience all kinds of crazy and wonderful things in life that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
Much of your work reflects your drive for adventure and creative living – is this an integral aspect of yourself that led you to start taking photos? Did photography help draw it out of you, or do the two simply go hand-in-hand?
I think it’s a bit of both. I love creating, whether it’s through film, photography, music, whatever. And there’s no better way to find creative inspiration than through travel and adventure. So for me, travel and creativity go hand in hand, and each finds it hard to exist without the other.
How has the rapidity and immediacy of contemporary media, like Instagram and Snapchat, changed your relationship with photography and your audience?
Social media certainly has affected both the way I shoot, as well as how I interact with my audience. It’s so hard to juggle all of the different mediums. I might find myself somewhere epic, like the edge of cliff. First priority will be getting that crazy landscape shot. But then what about a funny Snapchat while I’m there. Plus, a Twitter post. Oh wait, why don’t I live broadcast this on Facebook. It gets pretty full on trying to feed the machine. That was probably the most obnoxious first world problem I’ve ever written!
Bouncing between travel, portraiture, music/events shoots, filmmaking and brewing up zany propositions, how often do you find yourself switching off your enterprising, image-concocting side?
Almost never. There are so many ideas floating around that it makes it pretty hard to switch off from that side of things. I meet so many creative people around the world and dream up ways to collaborate with each one. It’s exhausting, but if even five percent of those ideas come to fruition it’s worth the grind.
Finding yourself in many different fascinating worlds, what do you suppose your balance is between studious, meticulous shooting and spontaneity? Do you curtail this mix in any way?
The vast majority of my work is unplanned and spontaneous. I’m not a meticulous person. At all. I mean, I completed one year of Law school and only barely passed. It’s not a strong point of mine. Of course, I’ll always know what general location a shoot will be, but apart from that I’m basically winging it nearly all of the time. It’s kind of like the difference between assignments and exams. I always hated assignments because essentially how well you do is a matter of how much time you are willing to spend working on it. And I’m lazy and never have any spare time. I’d much prefer an exam where you’re on more of a level playing field, and it’s all about how well you can work (or bullshit your way through) under pressure.
Your exhibition last year – The Space Between – gave me a sense of isolation and gravity. At the same time, a lot of the on-the-run content coming out of your Iceland trip showed a jocular, communal experience shared with affable creatives. As we see Perth creative communities becoming more prolific and lively, what do you find are the benefits of inclusive arrangements like this, and are there challenges therein when it comes to individual direction and space?
I love collaborating with other people. It’s more fun, ideas that may at first seem ludicrous end up gaining steam as you bounce off each other, and it’s just nice to share travel experiences with others. The downside is that it can be difficult to capture unique content when you’re working so closely with another content creator. But there’s plenty of time to venture out alone, so I’ll always choose to collaborate over going solo when I can.
You evidently hold music dear. What’s keeping you moving/moved at the moment?
James Vincent McMorrow, Japanese Wallpaper, Woodes, Banks, Airling.
There are so many elements which make up musical performance and live consumption – what makes for successful documentation of a show?
The feeling that you are there, present in the moment. If you can convey that in an image you’ve done your job.
Any dream clients?
Interview by Nathan Shaw