Michael McCraw chose Daniel Shea to be interviewed. I was already familiar with Daniel’s work, and I actually asked a couple of questions in an interview with Daniel a couple of years ago on a now defunct blog I worked on with Nathan Ward. I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview him again, and see how Daniel’s body of work has developed and changed since two years ago.
Daniel Shea is an artist based in New York City and Chicago working primarily in the mediums of photography, installation and sculpture. He recently received an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His first monograph, Blisner, Ill., was released in conjunction with a long-term residency at Columbia College Chicago and a book release at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. He has exhibited recently at The DePaul Art Museum, The Museo de Arte Acarigua-Araure, Venezuela, MDW Art Fair, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Asia Society in Beijing, and LVL3 Gallery, among others. He makes work, teaches as an adjunct faculty at MICA, and does commissions for editorial clients.
"I like Daniel’s work for a few reasons. It’s consistently good. Very good. And he’s not the type of person to just stick to what he is comfortable with. He’s always experimenting. He could have made work similar to his coal series forever and been a very successful photographer, but he’s always pushing himself. I think his work now shares some aspects to what he was doing, but it’s expanded and more interesting." - Michael McCraw
Bite & Burrow: Could you give a brief biography including age, location and a random fact or thought about your life?
Daniel Shea: Daniel Shea, 28, NYC/Chicago. But how does it seem?
BB: When and how did you decide that you wanted to pursue an education and a career in photography?
DS: I’ve always wanted to be an “artist,” so the past 10 years has been a combination of doing the prescribed route (a BFA and then an MFA) and figuring out my own way to have a sustaining career as an artist. The “how” has always the tricky part. I try to make life decisions that will put me in a position to spend the most amount of time and available resources on projects I want to work on.
BB: Overall how was your experience with higher education in art? Did you ever have any frustrations, or did you find it mostly beneficial?
DS: I had an amazing MFA experience. I decided to go back to school because I was ready to have the time and space to dedicate to an art practice and because I wanted to work with the professors and UIC. There are some frustrations - even though my program is cheap relative to other schools, I still had to spend a lot of money. And it becomes tiresome sometimes to be put through the grad school wringer (a relentless attack on every decision you make), but ultimately it was totally worth it and I really only have positive things to say about it.
BB: Sometimes you post what you are listening to while working on your studio blog. What have you been listening to lately?
DS: Lately it’s been the Sacred Bones Records catalog, Inquisition, Incantation and Morrissey. And T. Swift.
BB: You released a book, Blisner, Ill., a couple of months ago. It was designed by Morgan Brill, had text by John Friel and the binding was done by April Wilkins. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted these people to be involved with the making of the book? How was working with this group of people?
DS: I knew the book would be a collaboration with the people involved in various steps. The book is deliberately an object of intense labor, because in a sense, it contains a history of that kind of physical work and production. I chose to work with people that are friends and whose ideas and practices I respect. I also wanted to work with people who would bring new ideas and interpretations to the table.
BB: You photograph strangers often for your personal and editorial work. Do you have any wild stories that you could share about trying to photograph someone?
DS: When I first started photographing strangers I was incredibly anxious about it. One of the first strangers I met in West Virginia when I was working on an early coal project was a man named Pickles. He took me into his home and showed me his knives that had been used to kill people, according to him. His brother owned a bag of illegal assault weapons. On my first back-mountain exploring trip with Pickles in his truck he drove me onto an active mine site, minutes after almost flipping the car to drive up a steep mountainside. We quickly drove off the mine site and heard the ridge being blasted only 2 minutes later. I am always looking for people like that to hang out with.
Bite & Burrow’s next interview will be with an artist of Daniel’s choice. Like the Bite & Burrow Facebook page to see updates and follow to see future interviews.