York will soon seem even more picturesque.
Freelance visual artist Sean Tucker has recently made the move from London to our very own city.
With more than 15 years of experience, Sean has previously worked in product, food, portrait, and headshot photography as well as creating promotional films.
But for the past four years he has worked for himself, creating a ‘visual scrapbook’ on Instagram and a YouTube channel to inspire other creatives by teaching photography tips and tricks but also videos on how to deal with creative block or creative jealousy.
Sean is also set to release a book, titled The Meaning in the Making, which interweaves personal stories and advice to all aspiring creatives to help inject meaning into their work. It will be published 10 August 2021, and is available to pre-order now.
For more information about Sean Tucker and his work, please visit his website here.
Q&A with Sean Tucker
What prompted the move to York?
To get out of London, really. I’ve worked there for about ten years now. It was important to be there at the start to get a bit more work opportunities coming in, because at the time my job was doing portrait photography, and most of that was happening in London. But I always had in mind to get out when I could. I’m not a big city person. So I was quite keen to be able to move on. And then probably the last few years, I was looking around the country for some where to move and call home that was more peaceful and less frantic.
Why was it that you chose York specifically? Do you have any connection to York?
Not really. I’ve always loved York as a city to visit. I’ve visited a number of times, for different reasons. I’ve loved the history of it, it’s always been really attractive to me, and the size as well. I didn’t realise before looking into it that York is actually quite a small city, and that really appealed to me because I wanted to move somewhere where I could travel quite easily, because my job means I need to travel quite a bit. But it was also a slower pace, and somewhere that was a bit more peaceful.
What’s it been like to photograph the city?
The nice thing about York as a street photographer is that everywhere is walkable. I can do laps of the city centre all day. I feel like you get to know it better, you get a bit more intimacy with it. You’re not running between hugely different areas in a city like London, you’re focusing on something with a bit more purpose. York’s got a flavour all of its own because of the way it preserves its history, which I love, it gives it character when you’re taking photographs in a space like that.
What are your favourite parts of the city?
I’m brand new, but I’ve already got a little Sunday morning tradition of going and grabbing a coffee and sitting on the riverbank opposite the rowing clubs and watching the boats go, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing so far. I’ve loved the Museum Gardens as well. I think the obvious place everyone goes is the Minster and round the streets there. I’ve got a feeling that those are the shots that are most popular, all the postcard shots. I let myself take those shots early on because they’re good shots to take, that’s why they’re taken. But I think the key for me over the next while will be trying to find the stuff that people walk past and don’t notice and try and try and take photographs of those things. Little side streets that people don’t think of as visually interesting, but find a way to photograph them in a way that is.
York is a very cultural city – what do you hope to add to it?
I can’t talk as an expert, but it seems to be somewhere that values artistic expression. There’s lots of stores where people are selling their work, I’ve seen people painting out on the street and lots of photographers walking around. It’s lovely to see so many people doing lots of very varied and creative things.
I’m not suggesting I could offer anything to that, I think I’d just like to be a part of it. I’d be happy with that. Maybe over time, there’s something I can do. I thought about perhaps starting a regular photography group. I’m happy to just be a part of it and see what [York] can teach me first.
You have a very large following on Instagram and YouTube – what’s that like?
It’s odd because it doesn’t feel real a lot of the time. You put videos out into the world and then they get these big numbers, or you put photos on Instagram and they get thousands of likes – but it’s an arbitrary number, it’s not a real thing. There are people behind it, but it can feel very abstract.
The only time it feels real is when you meet real people on the other end of it. So if I’m walking around and someone stops me and says ‘Hey I watch your channel’ and wants to have a quick chat about it, that’s when it feels good because then there’s another human being on the end of it. Or if I go and visit a new city, for example, and I do a meet up and people come out and you get to hang out with those people, then it’s really great because you can hear their real stories and how they’re actually receiving what you’re putting out into the world, and it suddenly comes home to you what you’re doing.
I think what a lot of people don’t realise about doing what I do – what lots of other people do – when you’ve got these bigger audiences, you’re just stuck in a room making a video on your own, that you then sit and edit on your own, and you hit post to YouTube on your own and you watch numbers attached to it, but they’re very artificial and random. It can even feel quite lonely in a way until you meet those real people on the other end which is where it becomes real. I’m very grateful I get to do it, and I’m grateful that people are interested in it.
Who are some of your inspirations?
I really love photographers like Fan Ho, Ray Metzker and Trent Parke, photographers who play with light and shadow in really interesting ways. Those are people who’ve definitely influenced the way that I take a lot of the photographs I do, at least the ones that go on to Instagram. Then on the portrait photography side people like Steve McCurry, and Joey L.
In terms of filmmakers, I don’t take a lot of influence from from other YouTubers, but I definitely take a lot of influence from cinema and cinematographers. So cinematographers like Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki and Conrad Hall. I’m not a shadow of what they are but it helps watching their films because it gives me ideas and more interesting shots when I’m filming.
In terms of the stuff that I talk about, I do like reading a lot of things on psychology and spirituality and philosophy that kind of get me thinking about what it’s like to be a human being and where it’s difficult and how we do life a bit better. So reading things in that vein is definitely an inspiration in terms of coming up with this stuff to talk about or working out where I want to go next.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I’ve got a couple of longer term photography projects, which I’m hopefully going to be starting in the next few months. What I really want to get into is just digging down on one subject for a couple of years, and then maybe put that into a gallery or create a book out of that. Where I’m moving is towards the North York Moors (Kirkbymoorside) and it’s a stunning area for historical buildings that have been left to fall into different states of disarray and decay. I think there’s something really interesting about digging into those spaces.
History really interests me, because I think we learn a lot about ourselves by learning where we came from. So to explore it with a camera will be really interesting. It will help me tell a visual story about what we’ve left behind, but it might make us think about where we are today.
Tell us more about your upcoming book ‘The Meaning in the Making’.
It’s the philosophy I use for my own life as a creative person. The book is written for anybody who makes anything, so you might be a musician, or a dancer, or an actor, or a painter, or a photographer, or a filmmaker, or a writer. It’s trying to look at how do we do that well. Firstly thinking about why human beings are driven to make things in the first place. What’s the point of it all? And then thinking about how do we define our own voice as someone who makes things.
How do we build our work with the message that we want to put out into the world? How do we deal with our own motivation and making sure we stay inspired? So it’s about how do we build more meaning into the things that we make. I think just creating something is fine on its own, but I think we feel much more satisfied when we’re deliberate about putting as much meaning into that thing that we’re making as possible.
And finally, what do you love most about photography?
I love it because it teaches me to pay attention. Moving to York is a great example – I might have moved here without photography and just walked about a bit aimlessly, gone to the tourist attractions and done what everyone else does. But I think because I’m a photographer it forces me to dive down alleys that people don’t walk around or get outside the city walls and walk around some of the neighbourhoods and see what they have to offer, places that people don’t visit very much. Because I’m trying to look for the unusual it teaches me to pay visual attention to spaces.
I think it’s a great way to explore new places if you do it with a camera. You’ll often see people complaining that everyone’s got their phone up but I think that they’re missing something in that as well. I agree that most people are living through their phones a little bit, but if they’re doing it with purpose, as a photographer, I think there is a good side to it. If you’re really working at it and trying to actually make something out of what you’re doing, then you really have to watch the people that are moving through the space, you have to watch what the light and shadow is doing in a space and how that moves, you’re paying attention to what the light does at different times of the day. All that is giving you a real feel for a space that is almost a more heightened awareness. So for me that’s why I love it, it means that that life doesn’t pass me by as much.