Bio: Shaun Menary, a brilliant local photographer, captures images with his camera not only beautifully, but in such a way that the image forces you into an experience with itself. Graduating from Sam Houston University with a degree in photography, Shaun and his best friend Aaron Cave started a t-shirt company, Randomshirts.com, which furthered his creative knowledge in graphic design, web development, and photography. Shaun also plays drums in the band Sleeperstar. We were excited to showcase Shaun in this month’s Artist’s Profiles and hope that you’ll enjoy the rich, deep and fun conversation below as much as we did. (photo)
AHD: How and when did you start doing photography - what drew you to it?
SM: I've always been drawn to imagery and photos. All of my life, when I walk into a bookstore, I’ve always gone straight to the art book section. I think photography just always made sense to me; to capture the imagery around you and share the way you saw the world with other people. I got my first taste of photography when I was on a mission trip in Mexico in 2001 with an organization called Mission Discovery. We took youth group kids across from Texas into Mexico everyday that summer and built houses for people who needed new ones. It is a fantastic ministry and the days were filled with precious, life changing moments for everyone involved. One of these weeks a friend who I worked with let me borrow his nice film camera. It was my first experience with a camera that could do crazy things… like zoom and focus, ha. I was hooked. I finally had a tool to capture life the way I wanted. Eventually I saved up, got my own camera, and sooner or later changed my major to photography and am now shooting full time.
AHD: Is there a particular photographer who has inspired you?
SM: I'd say Jeremy Cowart was a big inspiration to me when I was intentionally finding myself as an artist. I'm drawn to the way he approaches his lighting and the technical aspect of photography as well as the imagery he captures. He has really been able to use his status as a high profile photographer to be able to work on so many different humanitarian projects that are incredibly inspiring and making a huge impact, i.e. Help Portrait, Haiti coverage. Cowart really actively presses new ways to use his gifts to help those in need, and I think we should all be striving towards this end.
AHD: How do you balance your photography business and being in a band?
SM: First of all, I have nothing to complain about ever; I get to do both of my all time favorite passions for a living. But that being said, balancing the two can be very difficult since both are very demanding jobs and require a lot of time and effort. When I'm on the road it requires a lot of discipline, a lot of waking up really early and working on photo stuff from my laptop in the hotel lobby before the day starts as well as a lot of time spent emailing and fielding phone calls from the back of the van. I think it's all worth it though. I definitely thrive on multiple outlets of creativity. I feel like creativity with photography spurs on creativity in music, and vise versa. Having only one creative outlet would actually probably make me a less creative person. So, at the end of the day even though it is hard and it takes a lot of discipline to run both businesses, I think it's almost necessary for me as an artist.
AHD: For you, what is the purpose of photography?
SM: I want to capture the world around me. I want to capture moments in people's lives and in the world. Whether that's a moment on a random city street or a soft glance from a bride at her new husband on their wedding day, I want any moment I capture and any story I tell to be authentic. I just want to be true to who I am and the story I'm capturing.
AHD: When you are taking pictures, whether at a wedding or of a landscape, what are you trying to capture in the photo?
SM: Again, I'm really trying to capture true, authentic moments and tell that story through a beautiful image. I want to show the beauty in God's creation and in the people He's created.
AHD: Do you think that a beautiful photo can lead someone to a fuller understanding of truth?
SM: I think God can use anything He wants to change a person's heart. I think images can be amazingly powerful. I think Cowart's Haiti portrait series is a great example of this. He captures people in the midst of one of the worst tragedies in the past 10 years who are standing there holding one word that describes what they feel at the time. One image from this series in particular moves me every time I see it; an image of a bride and groom, who've just been married, standing in front of a ruined building holding one phrase: "Love Conquers All". It's an amazing look at what really matters in this world and moves anyone who sees it to ask themselves that question in their own heart.
AHD: On your website, in one of the wedding albums, there is a picture of a groom being prayed over, all of the groomsmen and ushers are laying their hands on him. It evoked a sense a sacredness in me - there was something profound in the way that scene was captured. In view of this, do you use your photography as a means of expression for your faith?
SM: Faith is huge part of my life and I think that naturally comes out in my photography. I tend to gravitate towards stories that express who God is and shows Him moving in the world. One reason I LOVE shooting weddings is because of what marriage is and why the Lord gave it to us. I think that if He allows me to capture an authentic moment when He is moving then there is no limit to what He can do with that.
AHD: Do you have any big projects planned in the near future?
SM: It's going to be a crazy busy year with photography and band touring, so my main project on the horizon is to not drown in it all! Ha. Aside from that I really am trying to do a lot more personal projects and collaborative projects with other artists this year. It's so hard as a self-employed artist to make time for your own art and own passions because there is always work to be done. But, sometimes you just have to make the time.