DDM: People regard you as a creative person. Do you agree? Please explain your answer.
Shawn: To be honest, I’ve always wanted to call myself a creative person, but I’ve often struggled. It’s true that I make things: pictures, videos, designs, drawings. Some of the things I create a probably more creative than others. For example, when it comes to drawings I have a hard time trying to create something from scratch. It’s so much easier for me to redraw or just illustrate something that already exists. With photography, I often find inspiration in other artist’s work. I use that inspiration to draft my own ideas and create something new. To me, that’s more creative. At the end of the day, I’m a perfectionist and I’ve had to train myself to hit publish. I could sit and edit for hours and never be happy. Nowadays I’m trying to create, learn from that medium, and try to push the bar next time.
DDM: Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
Shawn: What a loaded question. Honestly, I think it depends on the day. There are some days that I think my work is perfect because of the imperfections. But then there are some days when it’s all I can think about. Usually it’s from a handful of stupid mistakes – like trying to move too quickly and losing track of what’s important. Anyway, to get back to your question… today, I wouldn’t change anything. It’s all where I’ve been and who I am. It’s an example that I can improve when I’m dedicated.
DDM: Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Shawn: I’ve definitely doubted my talents, particularly when a project doesn’t go as planned. I can remember times when I’d be on a shoot and the lighting wouldn’t be working out like I had planned. I’d get frustrated and nervous while I tried to fix whatever my problem was. Sometimes I just had to take a step back and think about the problem in chunks. Ultimately, I try to stay cool in the moment, or at least make it seem like I’m relaxed. The last thing I want to happen is make everyone around me nervous. I’ve found that when I slow down, I can figure it out.
DDM: Have you ever felt enlightened by an event in the past that has given you a new perspective on life? Please explain.
Shawn: Yes, arguably often. I have to admit that I am a podcast, TedTalk, YouTube junkie. Even more than that, though, I try to find inspiration from places outside of my bubble. I’m constantly looking to challenge the way I see the world and I find inspiration in differences and inconsistencies. I love to learn from people who are in a different place.
DDM: If you and I were to trade places, tell me one thing about yourself that I should know.
Shawn: For most of my life now, there’s been a defining moment that stands out to most people: I’m a high school dropout. In fact, the only time I spent in a high school classroom was when I was an apprentice in a college teacher education program. I had a terrible time in school, often getting failing grades, refusing to turn in assignments, and just altogether disliking school. Of course, there were years that I liked, but that certainly wasn’t consistent. When I decided to go back to school, it was because I wanted to learn. And now I look back glad that I did so. Certainly not because of the mounting debt that is higher education, though. Instead, I’m proud because I feel more well rounded and better equipped to accomplish the things I want to pursue. Plus, I learned a lot about setting goals and pushing through until the end.
DDM: If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Shawn: Growing up, my best friend Quienton and I would often drive around St. Louis in his brand new Altima. It was incredibly nice at the time – leather seats, moonroof, premium stereo. We used to just ride around and listen to Drake’s Thank Me Later on repeat. It’s a classic in my mind. But every time the song Unforgettable would come on, it just felt right. It still does to this day. Actually, the next song on that album would hit a close second: Light Up.
DDM: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Please explain your choice.
Shawn: To be honest, I’ve always had a love affair with Chicago, Illinois. I can’t even explain it. Every time I visit Chicago, I feel at home. One of these days I’ll make it home.
DDM: If your creative works had an odor, what do you think they would smell like? Why?
Shawn: Honey. I guess I think about the impact of a hive on the production of honey. There’s so much that goes into it, and at the end, you end up with something simple, natural, and it’s just good. At least, that’s how I hope my work is perceived.
DDM: If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
Shawn: I’ve often pursued the ideas of commonalities and differences in my work. There are so many things that make us alike, and still so many things that make us different. I hope people realize that our strength is in our differences. None of us are perfect. We’re all just trying to make it to a common end. Let’s celebrate what we each offer to make things better for everyone.
DDM: How do want people to remember you?
Shawn: I hope to be remembered as someone who took on the hard questions with a willingness to always improve.
Thanks Shawn, as always It’s Been A Pleasure To Interview You.
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