We had the good fortune of connecting with Sean Muse and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sean, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Pursuing a creative career was an idea that I’ve had in mind since I was about 15 years old. I had bought myself my first DSLR camera with the money I was making at my first job at Dominos and I had quickly realized that taking photos was something I held so much sentiment towards. I would document my family vacations, take photos of friends throughout high school, and capture the trips I would frequently take to Disneyland. Photography became the root of my core memories with those I loved and it drove my curiosity on who I was as an individual. Photography gave me structure and pushed my boundaries to get better and kept a drive within me to stay persistent.
Trying to pursue this creative career was definitely challenging. I was having hard time for years trying to find the right people who valued this passion of mine and the right resources to help me develop my passion into a professional career. This avenue is anything but linear. I knew going into this creative field that there would be challenges different from getting a college degree and applying for positions, because figuring our the first steps to begin this path was like a needle in a haystack. Needless to say, it was a needle that I was excited, hopeful, and anxious to find.
For the longest time, I did not know how to challenge myself nor surround myself with people who challenged me. The only thing I did know was how much this creative outlet gave me a sense of purpose and sparked a fire within me that nothing else has. By being able to showcase my talents in an artistic manner has made me even more confident in my identity and my self worth. I was tired of tying value through subjective assignments for professors and through the amount of iced lattes I can sell as a barista. I knew I couldn’t let my fear of the unknown hinder me from starting something that has brought me so much fulfillment.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I finally decided to make a shift in the right direction at the beginning of 2021, when quarantine regulations were still in full effect. I never felt so detached from the world as I experienced no drive, purpose, nor passion. I knew nothing would change unless I decided to make it change. I did plan to start my career before the pandemic struck but I decided to put it on the shelf from the fear of putting myself and my family at risk of catching the virus. Once vaccines began to roll out and regulations started to lift, I told myself to seize the opportunity and take the risk on pursuing my creative career full time. Life at the time felt like anything could change at the blink of an eye with how paralyzing the pandemic was, and continues to be.
My photography journey took off tremendously once I met my mentor, Nailah. She has shown me how inspirational and powerful one person can be in completely changing someones life for the better. One of my most proud moments was being able to assist Nailah for a photoshoot that would be displayed on one of the world’s largest LED displays, located on the Las Vegas Strip. I got the news while I was on a night out in West Hollywood with a good friend of mine. I remember being in such a bad headspace at that time, even contemplating if I should pause my career that day and return to my old job. Later that night I get a call from from Nailah asking if I could join her for a Las Vegas work trip and I overwhelmingly agreed. The next day I was an assistant for a 7 model shoot for Pinay Magazine, a publication for Filipino female empowerment.
This project meant so much to me not only because of its scale, but because of the support for people of color. For every shoot, I aim to collaborate and take photos of P.O.C. in order to provide more representation in the media. I experience the effects of the absence of representation first hand and also see it for my peers. Having friends that are not only ethnic minorities, but also trans, non binary, and queer, I strive to uplift the people around me to fulfill their longing of being portrayed in the media.
One of the quickest things I learned during my career was that we should not solely stick to a certain avenue of work all the time. What I mean by this is that there are going to be a vast amount of opportunities. If I decline a project that doesn’t make me feel too excited or creative, I could possibly be closing a door that could lead to an opportunity that I am actually looking for. Wether it be ego, entitlement, or pride, people shy away from certain gigs that can really turn into networking gateways. Yes it is important to know your worth and which projects to work on, but one shouldn’t complain about a lack of opportunities if they are the one closing their doors.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That is one the best things about living in L.A. , there is so much to explore and create some memorable moments. If I had to take a visiting friend out to lunch, I’d most likely go to Café Gratitude or Urth Caffé. They both have an atmosphere and menu that will make you feel like you’re living a, “main character in L.A.” chronicle. If I haven’t gotten a matcha latte yet, then I would take my friend out to Coffee and Plants, a beautiful coffee shop that is co-owned by Leona Lewis! Everything there is plant based and nestled in a small area behind Old Town Pasadena. Its amazing floral decor provides a great spot to relax and enjoy any kind of latte with a friend. Finally, my most favorite place to visit to end my friends trip with a bang is Precinct, right in the heart of Downtown. Located on the corner of Broadway and 4th, Precinct sits in the same block as the Grand Central Market. It’s small door and even smaller signage are easy to miss as the entirety of the venue is on the second floor, offering a cute city view from its balcony. This club never disappoints with its lineup always being stacked with the best performers around. Because it is in Downtown, this club attracts the most enticing people. I have never left Precinct without new connections regarding work, a new friend, or even an amazing story to tell.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The main person who I believe deserves credit in my story is my mentor, Nailah Barcelona. Nailah and I ran into each other very briefly after a magazine shoot that I was assisting in. She was actually looking for an assistant at the time and gave me a date to stop by and help her out. After sharing my interest to grow more as a photographer, Nailah was quick to take me under her wing.
She has been able to show me the most unconditional love and support towards my creative career. Nailah saw potential within me that I never recognized and she understood how refine my skills. She is able to fully understand the hurdles I face as she has faced them herself. It really means so much to me that our bond and encouragement goes beyond the workplace. Nailah has been there for me and my career through thick and thin, even my family appreciates the importance she has on my life.