G’day! I’m Shaun Simpson, a nerdy photographer from Halifax, Nova Scotia – on the East Coast of Canada; my preferred pronouns are he/him. 🙂 I can be found @ShaunTheShooter on most platforms, or via my social links site at: http://shauntheshooter.ca/
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks! Quickly summarized, I’m just a hardcore geek with a camera. My fandoms generally include anything Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel or DC. I love reading comics – especially anything Tom Taylor writes – watching anime (BNHA, Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, Death Note, etc.), and I’m heavy into IRL science geekery as well.
When it comes to photography, I shoot just about everything from landscapes to portraits, although I’m probably most known for my fitness and cosplay photography.
Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about how your projects relate to the LGBTQ+ community?
For starters, I’m gay (demi/ace) and massively introverted, but photography has always given me an easy way to experience life from a more comfortable perspective. I love Pride events but being solo in the crowds was always a little anxiety inducing. As a photographer I could shoot the events from the sidelines, put the camera down when I wanted to be social, then I’d start shooting again when I needed to retreat. Since starting in photography I’ve shot numerous Pride events, drag performers and performances, and even worked on a few 2SLGBTQIA+ TV/films productions.
Growing up in a conservative small town, when I was coming out a comment I heard often was a variation of “Gay, why? Women are hot, guys are gross.” – so, when my photography started evolving from just shooting nature and landscapes, I made an effort to show that men, and masculine energy, could be beautiful, sensual, and artistic too.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot a few cosplays of characters representing the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as well; seeing this inclusive evolution of comic book storytelling has been ridiculously inspiring!
How would you describe your creative process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?
Being self-taught in photography and post-production, I took the long way around and trial-and-errored my way into developing a creative process and style.
I digitally develop the photographs in Lightroom, then I load them into Photoshop. I created a Photoshop Action that runs about 60 steps to prepare the image, then I start the retouching process, compositing backgrounds, and adding effects. I have a strict policy of not manipulating a model’s body, but everything else is fair game for my post-production work; my final shots rarely resemble the straight from camera look, even for portraits and headshots.
Work on shots for models/cosplayers tends to be inspired by the people I’m working with; the more I connect and vibe with them, the easier it is for me to focus my creative energy. I think of it the same way as when actors talk about feeding from the energy of a live audience. Some people give that muse-like energy that feeds my creativity – they end up in front of my camera as often as I can book them for a shoot.
When I’m having a creative block, I force myself into doing small steps. Loading the images in Photoshop, completing one simple step no matter how small – just adjusting the cropping and rotation, just fixing a costume imperfection, just selecting a background. Once I get that one step finished, if I don’t feel the creativity flowing, I give myself permission to call it quits for the night, then I try again tomorrow.
What’s something you haven’t done as a photographer that you’d like to do?
I’d love to be able to travel and take my best friend with me to do epic location shoots – from luxurious NYC Penthouses, black-sanded beaches in Iceland, castles in Europe, to ancient forests in Japan; the logistics would be complex, but the memories would last a lifetime.
I’d like to travel to comic conventions to shoot as well. There are so many talented cosplayers around the world that I’ve connected with over the years; it’d be great to finally get to collaborate on a shoot together.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
Chasing likes and follows, trying to be the best photographer in my genre – it’s a fun challenge, but it isn’t sustainable for me; algorithms change, one minute you’re on top, and the next you’re buried below a thousand posts. Those goals weren’t motivating, and the self-applied pressure to constantly grow my audience was just pushing me into hardcore burnout.
I eventually realized, even if I paid to promote a post, the only ‘like’ I watched for was from the person I created the image with; if that person liked the shot, then I’d be happy, and if they say my work has been helpful, in any way – it’s the best feeling. What really motivates and sustains me creatively, as cheesy as it sounds, is the time I get to spend creating art with my friends. Creating something with the potential to be more than just a simple photograph; creating something filled with meaning or value, that’s the goal.
Do you do most of your photography shoots in your area? Or do you travel some?
Mostly just shooting in my area these days. I’d love to travel more for both nature and cosplay/fitness photography, but so far that opportunity hasn’t been readily accessible; maybe someday!
Besides cosplayers, what other subject matter do you work with?
I love finding and capturing beauty in all its forms! I’ll happily shoot pretty much anything – from landscapes and wildlife, to fitness and fashion, and everything in between, with the exception of Weddings – too much pressure, I leave that to the pros.
Are there any new projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?
A lot of my studio work is dependent on model/cosplayer availability, which is always a bit of a moving target, but I do have a few fun new cosplay and creative shoots in the works; some new and familiar faces, stay tuned! 😉
Aside from photography, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Besides photography, and my day job in the IT world, my free time is mostly spent being a professional introvert. I had a little brain surgery mishap years ago that left me with a permanent CSF leak/headache, so I tend to spend a fair amount of my time chilling online, at home. You can usually find me in front of my computer playing in Photoshop, at the gym, and catching up on shows or talking about comics with my friends.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
People often make comments, assuming the best part of a photographer’s job is just getting to work with ‘hot’ models. Most everyone enjoys a bit of eye candy, but for me the best part of the job is the conversation that happens during the shoots. Photographer Annie Leibovitz was quoted saying “When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them.” – I find that relatable, I’m a thoroughbred introvert, so it’s sometimes hard to make new connections, but the camera helps with that. The camera creates a connection and also a safety barrier, but as cheesy as it sounds, after a really good shoot, when I put the camera down, I find I’m no longer talking to just a model or a client, but a new friend.
Finally, what LGBTQ crafters or creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
If you know my work, you almost certainly know my best friend, cosplayer and content creator extraordinaire, the iconic Michael Hamm (@Hammy73 & @Michael.Hamm.Cosplay on Insta). I’ve worked with Michael on dozens of fitness, fashion, and cosplay shoots over the past decade; check out his Patreon, where most of our work together lives at https://michaelhamm.ca/
Big shoutout to my nightly entertainment while editing photos, the phenomenal Twitch variety streamer Loganolio, and his wonderfully inclusive community. http://loganolio.com/
Highly recommend checking out the inspiring work of my friend Akshay Tyagi, a remarkably talented stylist, and co-creator of the new fashion label Happiness Within. http://happinesswithin.ca/
And things wouldn’t be complete without adding my dearest friend (and ex-), the ineffable James Neish to the list – creativity personified; a talented comic book artist, painter, and illustrator. http://jamesneish.com