Sean Pham took a break from a career in accounting and moved across the globe from Australia to Norway to pursue a passion for photography – talk about not doing things by halves! It does help when you have the raw talent to back it up – and Sean has that in spades…
How did you first get started in photography?
I think my fascination for photography started in 5th grade when my parents bought me a disposable film camera for school camp. The fact that I only had 24 shots made me really think about which scene was worth one of my precious frames haha. I didn’t touch a camera after that camp until I reached the twelfth grade and my dad let me borrow his digital point-and-shoot camera (an amazing little Casio camera that was also an MP3 player!) so I could document my last days of high school. I think it was at this point where I fell in love with photography and, since then, I have never been without a camera slung over my shoulder.
I am drawn to things that spark a sense of youth and nostalgia and I try to incorporate these elements into my images. It’s the mix of old and new that really inspires me to shoot.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw a lot of inspiration from music, fashion magazines, films and other iconic fashion photographers. I am drawn to things that spark a sense of youth and nostalgia and I try to incorporate these elements into my images. It’s the mix of old and new that really inspires me to shoot. Music is a major inspiration for me; often I’ll hear a song and instantly start planning for a film that I would like to shoot.
What are your goals with your photography and what do you do to keep challenging yourself creatively?
I would love to shoot some editorials and get published in a magazine someday. For this to happen, I need to start meeting more new people and start building a larger creative network. This is one of my biggest short-term goals. I’ve also started to do short fashion films along with the photography to add a different dimension to the shoot. I find it refreshing to record some motion because photography only captures a single moment in time whereas, with films, I am able to capture motion and sound, which I think is another amazing tool that I can use to create.
Have a look on the [model] agency’s website to see the type of images that they use for their models and tailor your portfolio towards it. For example, if you want to shoot fashion and portraiture, don’t have your portfolio full of landscape photos.
You shoot a lot of agency test shoots; how did you first go about approaching the modelling agencies? Any tips in this regard for new photographers looking to test?
I’m not going to lie, making the first contact with agencies is a daunting task, but I just emailed all of the agencies around Oslo letting them know that I was new in town and that I wanted to work on my fashion portfolio and that, if they had any new faces that needed some photos, I would love to shoot with them.
My tips for new photographers looking to test would be:
1. Have a look on the agency’s website to see the type of images that they use for their models and tailor your portfolio towards it. For example, if you want to shoot fashion and portraiture, don’t have your portfolio full of landscape photos.
2. When you communicate with model bookers, be clear on what you would like to shoot and be prepared i.e. when you are organising a shoot, try to prepare a mood board with relevant images so they know what you’re trying to achieve.
3. Bookers are busy people and don’t want their time wasted. When you communicate with them, make sure you are actually going to bring some value to the table. Typically, the more worthwhile the shoot is (you can provide hair, makeup, a stylist, etc.), the more likely you’ll get a model.
What has been the high point of your photography career so far?
I quit my accounting job and moved to Oslo with my amazing girlfriend just under two years ago and I decided to really concentrate on my fashion portfolio. I even did some e-commerce work for a small clothing company which I thought was really cool because it was the first time I was able to capture images of clothing in a commercial capacity.
Overall, making the jump from weddings and engagements into more fashion-oriented photography has been the highlight of my photography career so far. I’m glad that I was able to be involved in the wedding industry, however I think I’ve found my true calling with fashion photography.
What is next for you?
I’m actually moving back to Australia at the end of this year. After my two-year hiatus from home, I’m now refreshed and ready to get back into building my career. Even though I’ll be getting back into the corporate life, I’m still going to continue building my portfolio.
I’m really looking forward to working with agencies in Perth to create some magic.
See more of Sean’s work at:
All images copyright Sean Pham.