Photo Editor: Skye Senterfeit
Photographer: Sean Fennessy
Heidi: How did this job come about, did you pitch it to the magazine?
Sean: Whenever I hear from Skye Senterfeit, the photo editor at Travel + Leisure and Departures, it’s always a ‘pinch myself’ moment. When I saw Madagascar in the subject line of this email it was particularly exciting, although I’m ashamed to say that my knowledge of the country before this trip came exclusively from the animated kids movie.
How many days were you there; had you been to Madagascar before?
7 days. No I’d never been there before.
What was the overall directive from the magazine?
Despite the exotic destination, the direction from the magazine was surprisingly low-key. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Skye several times (starting with some assignments closer to home and then gradually moving further afield) so I think I’d built up some trust! However there was some dramatic emails in the lead up to the trip when news broke of an outbreak of The Plague. A last minute visit to my doctor and the prescription of some obscure antibiotics later, and I was good to go.
Did you have a shot list to fulfill?
Often on assignments like this, the writer has travelled in advance and has made a start on the story which can then be used to build a shot list. But in this case I was traveling with the writer so everything was a little unknown. The hardest thing about this particular assignment was the vast visual contrasts in what we were experiencing. From arid landscapes and poverty of local villages to a brand new $2500/night resort on a private island. To find a visual cohesion was the biggest challenge.
Are you editing as you shoot?
Yes absolutely, to make sure everything is backed up and also to ensure that I’m managing to shoot a good variety of images. I love working on travel stories because they are a great excuse to make a mix of details, landscapes, portraits and interiors. I’ve always preferred to work to a series rather than in single frames and I get pretty excited about the idea of crafting a narrative.
You have a broad range of work, is there a common thread you pull on for each category?
I’ve always been much more interested in subject matter and atmosphere rather than photographic techniques, and in a broad sense I hope that ties my work together. I’m always striving for a simplicity and clarity from an observational viewpoint.
How much of your work is local and how much is international brands asking you to shoot in AU?
Probably 50-50. It’s more convenient to work close to home but as a photographer I think it’s so important to constantly be presented with new environments. It’s the best way to stay motivated and inspired.