Author Archive

Taking it Further

Posted: March 11th, 2015

[by Sean Kernan] If this week’s bloggers have about 20 years of experience each, that’s 100 years of know-how right there, so I can’t wait to see what the others say. It should go well beyond “tips,” and I’m bound to learn something. Here’s what I’ve got: It is no secret that the writers and [...]

Opening a New Door

Posted: December 10th, 2014

[by Sean Kernan] At first, photography was not a career for me. It was a way out of a job that had stopped being creative (in theater, of all places), and a way into a universe that was larger than anything I’d ever suspected was there. Up to that point I’d spent my life first [...]

Francis Bacon Disrupts His Plans

Posted: June 13th, 2014

[by Sean Kernan] Failure! When the topic was announced, it was oversubscribed at once and they had to add a week to accommodate the would-be writers. As I write this, my guess is that most of us will voice variations on the idea that what looks like failure isn’t necessarily failure at all, that it [...]

Find The Voice You Already Have.

Posted: August 29th, 2013

[by Sean Kernan] Most photographers clutch when they are told they have to write something–the dreaded Artist’s Statement, for example–but time and again I have shown them that they can do it, using an incredibly simple exercise. What they learn is that it’s not a matter of writing but of seeing. Here’s the assignment as [...]

Think Inside the Box

Posted: February 20th, 2013

[by Sean Kernan] Spend your days making work to fit your client’s visions? That’s how we do our business, but it’s not how we started. Most of us began by simply looking around, seeing what was out there and making pictures out of it. No clients to second guess. It’s not so easy in the [...]

Get Real!

Posted: November 29th, 2011

[by Sean Kernan] When I look at photographers’ websites they are mostly built on the stuff they do for clients…you know, the stuff we all do. And there are lots of reasons to set things  up that way. But often there’s a page called Personal Work, or something like that, shyly tucked away.  And I [...]


Posted: August 8th, 2011

[by Sean Kernan] The young Piet Mondrian was painting over some older canvases he had done. “Why are you doing that?” A friend asked. “Those are perfectly good paintings.” “I’m not trying to make paintings,” Mondrian replied, “I’m trying to find things out.” We all began by making photographs for no other reason than to [...]

Summer Reading

Posted: June 27th, 2011

[by Sean Kernan] A great way to get inspired and to exercise your imaginative vision is to slip outside photography altogether. Which is why I recently disappeared into Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry short stories for a few weeks. I lived in the grind and the confusion and the human-ness of partisan warfare. The experience raised [...]

Show What You Want to Do

Posted: May 16th, 2011

[by Sean Kernan] Over the course of my career the strongest work I’ve ever done was what I did for myself, particularly in the beginning. I’d be wandering around with a camera in my hand and nothing on my mind (a crucial component) when suddenly I’d see…something! Unexpected, surprising, often a bit alarming. It just [...]

Going Forward from SB3

Posted: April 25th, 2011

- thoughts on the train to O’Hare [by Sean Kernan] Only after Chicago did it occur to me how easy it was to get people  to warm to the subject of my presentation. I mean, how hard could it be to get creative people to stand up and participate in creativity seminars? It was like [...]

Expanding Your Thinking

Posted: December 22nd, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] The reasons to do it are obvious. The best way expand your thinking is to just do something. I suggest going to Paris. Not that you’ll think more there. You might even think less, but your thoughts will all be new, fresh. With the micro-gravities (shopping, picking up the cleaning, all that [...]

Don’t Stop Creating

Posted: November 18th, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] Assisting is a step toward being a photographer, a way of learning how things are done, how they work. That’s all very important, but you really need to keep your creative work going. That’s what will really make  you a photographer. That’s where you learn what no one can teach you. That’s [...]

Expand Your Thinking

Posted: August 3rd, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] The reasons to do it are obvious. The best way expand your thinking is to just do something. I suggest going to Paris. Not that you’ll think more there. You might even think less, but your thoughts will all be new, fresh. With the micro-gravities (shopping, picking up the cleaning, all that [...]

Liber Liberum Aperit (one book opens another)

Posted: July 2nd, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] I’ve been riding a long slow curve from the activity of making photographs through the question of why I pursue it so hard, visiting the question of how we create, and winding up (for now) at the question of why we create in life-size our versions of how everything should be, using [...]


Posted: April 27th, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] If you’re not busy enough with work and also too busy trying to find some, try this: volunteer. Take some of that time and give it away. Be a Big Brother or Sister, coach a kid’s team, mentor a child. take your charming dog to a nursing home every week. There are [...]

TEGWAR anyone?

Posted: March 30th, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] Remember this game? It stands for The Exciting Game Without Any Rules, and it’s a card game that is played by a number of sharps and one patsy. The way it works is that a few basic poker-like rules are put out and the game starts. At some point the patsy thinks [...]

Robert Frank Tweeting?

Posted: February 8th, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] Living in this blizzard of Tweets, I have to remind myself that doing really creative work requires a certain amount of silence, even boredom. There has to be space in which things can occur, and if you are constantly talking about what you are doing, you can’t really listen, at least not [...]

Mozart in the Barn

Posted: January 4th, 2010

[by Sean Kernan] I’m just back from doing a creativity seminar for photographers and art directors at General Mills. In gathering my thoughts for it, I considered how the kind of eye-opening and thought-provoking work I do with people might really be justified in business terms. Of course, I think the value is obvious, and [...]

What If ?

Posted: November 4th, 2009

[by Sean Kernan] In your wildest dreams, what would you do, you stopped take pictures, starting today,? What would you do your thoughts didn’t have to express as photos, or even be visible? What if they could be verbal or sonic, or could just streak through consciousness like shooting stars, like those peak experiences we’ve [...]

The Executive

Posted: October 13th, 2009

[by Sean Kernan] Someone once said that executive portraiture is basically a still life problem. Still, crabby execs do things like turning up for their portraits early while you’re still setting up and insisting that you shoot right away because they have a meeting. On one annual report shoot an angry VP of Something-Or-Other walked [...]


Posted: September 16th, 2009

[By Sean Kernan] When I was 23 I did a film script for Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It was easy. I just sat down with the words, and watched the visuals that unreeled in my mind. Then I wrote them down. (Getting it produced was another matter, and ultimately I did not, [...]

The Best Starting Point for Your Website

Posted: August 10th, 2009

I decided to do my first website partly because my studio manager at the time was getting a bit bored, and I thought doing it might engage him. So I said, “Let’s do a website.” He said, “Great! …What’s a website?” And I said, “I don’t know.” Back then no one really knew. There was no [...]

This Week We Focus on Creativity

Posted: July 13th, 2009

Stop me if you have heard this before. When I write  about photographing I sometimes feel that I’m repeating the same thing over in slightly different ways. But then maybe there’s only one thing to say. And it’s something along the lines of, “Everything is everything.” So after writing my last post (Taking Pictures for [...]

Taking Pictures for No Reason at All

Posted: June 29th, 2009

That’s how I started in photography. I think it’s how we all start. There’s no client, no place what we do has to fit in. If we have a project at all, it is vague, and if in the course of things a strong picture emerges that doesn’t seem to fit…we changed the project! But [...]