15 questions on success with Jarrad Seng

The Rulebreakers Series: 15 questions with photographer, filmmaker and Rule Breaker, Jarred Seng.

Here’s 15 questions on success with Jarrad Seng – internationally recognised photographer, filmmaker and all-round legend.

In our Rulebreakers Series, we talk to some of the travel industry’s most prolific creators about how they got to where they are today, regardless of the ‘rules.’ We find out the one rule they always break and discuss everything from how they deal with haters and what they’ve learnt from failure to what success (really) means to them.

15 Questions on Success

 

With Jarrad Seng 

AKA @JarradSeng 

What’s the one rule you always break?

“I don’t follow any rules to begin with… My advice is to not play it safe. Don’t be afraid to play it crazy and be unapologetically yourself – even if it might seem risky, breaking the rules is what sets you apart.”

What was the one defining moment in your career where you realised that you were on your way to success? 

“I’m sure there were many, but there is one that was really recent. 

“There were a lot of competing jobs and clients, all happening at once, for next year during March. And, you know, I had to choose which job I had to take. 

“I said sorry to these two other big jobs, but this time, both of these jobs moved. They decided that rather than not have me, they would move their entire project so that I could be there. 

“That moment made me realise that I am now at the stage where I am an integral part of a client’s plan, not just an afterthought. So, that was a really proud moment for me.” 

Considered attending Digital Basecamp?

 

 

“My advice is to not play it safe… Be unapologetically yourself.”

 

 

 

 

What defines you as different from the other thousands of people out there trying to break into your field?

“I’d like to think that quality of work is in there somewhere, but that’s not what sets you apart.

“I think it is bringing a great attitude and a unique form of creativity that isn’t necessarily about the photography, but just bringing the energy, the openness and resourcefulness that helps the project in other ways. 

“Resourcefulness, I think that’s a really big one actually. Things will go wrong almost every single time, but it’s about how you pick up those pieces and still deliver the job (and still make it awesome). I think clients can see that they can rely on me to deliver.”

 

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making in your field?

“I think the biggest mistake any emerging photographer makes is trying to fast track their way to success. 

“I don’t think that’s a healthy way to build a career because you are meant to go through all the struggles and challenges and do all the things that suck but will make you better.

“I started off taking nightclub photos in dirty Perth clubs and family portraits – I just did everything because that’s what I had to do. I didn’t really enjoy it, but all those struggles and experiences really honed all my skills – photography and otherwise.

“Because of Instagram, people chase what’s popular and what’s trending and that’s not necessarily what will make you a better photographer.”

 

Considered attending Digital Basecamp?

What do you foresee as being the next big trend in your niche?

“I don’t really think about it that much anymore. I’m quite happy now, at this stage in my career to roll with it and see what happens. If something exciting looks like it’s emerging, then I look into it and try and see how it will benefit me and my work.

“For example, I did download TikTok… I only have one video up though. I tried to put up another two videos and they both got blocked by community guidelines (because I was naked in both of them. I wasn’t proper naked, but, you know). I just thought, ‘I guess TikTok is not for me’.”

Can you tell us about your most painful failure and the lessons you learned from it?

“The most painful failure was around four/five years ago – I was recording video, capturing the funniest moments from the tour and everyone was so excited about it because it was just such a fun video and a great collection of songs. 

“So I was working on that, and then I had a flight to South Africa and I was working on it on the plane and then I left the hard-drive on the plane. So the entire music video was lost and I tried really hard to get it back, but it was gone. 

“I lost the footage of that whole experience. It was a pretty heartbreaking failure. I guess it did teach me to take better care of things and to be more organised. 

“But, if you’re working in this industry, there are going to be mistakes – whether you like it or not. You have to expect that 1% of failure, because the way we work, we push it to the limit and sometimes we get some amazing results, but every now and then it doesn’t work out, and that’s okay.”

 

As you would know, not everyone is willing to buy into your vision and back you, how do you deal with people in your life who don’t support your vision?

“It’s really easy for me to cut out anybody that just isn’t onboard. So it’s never really been a problem for me. If you’re with me, you’re with me. If not, I don’t mind.  There are so many people, so many potential supporters and friends everywhere all around the world. 

“If anyone did drag me down, it’s just myself – everyone else is very supportive.”

 

“I think the biggest mistake any emerging photographer makes is trying to fast track their way to success.”

Success requires sacrifice. What have you had to sacrifice to get to where you are?

“There have definitely been sacrifices that I’ve made over the years. You know, there’s a lack of stability in this kind of job. I had to sacrifice stability in the sense of having a home base and a routine and having constant people in my life. 

“I have many friends and people I catch up with all around the world, it’s amazing how many people you meet when you travel for a living, but in terms of that core group, I do miss having that in my life.”

Has your success made you happy?

“In some ways, definitely. Success has meant that I get to travel the world. I’ve been to more places than I could ever imagine. 

“There’s also an ego side that makes me happy. The idea that a lot of people appreciate my work and know who I am. 

“It’s really hard to pinpoint what it would take for me to be completely happy because I am too ambitious and have too many ideas… there’s always going to be something else that I want to be doing.”

 

What’s your ultimate goal?

“There’s no end goal really. Broadly, I’d love to create more things and have more influence in a positive way. I’d love to leave a positive impact on the world. 

“I want to leave a legacy, a positive legacy that people remember and that people appreciate. I’d want it to outlast myself.”

 

What do you long for?

“Sleep. My sleep is so irregular with the hours I work – and it used to be easy, when I was 25 I would always invite people to come do things, like climb Table Mountain at midnight for a shoot and they would say ‘no sorry I need my eight hours’. I totally get it now.”

 

“I want to leave a legacy, a positive legacy that people remember and that people appreciate. I’d want it to outlast myself.”

What practices have you incorporated into your self-care routine to ensure you stay mentally and physically fit?

“I’m a bad one to look at for this. I say I don’t exercise, but the kind of work that we do is exercise – running around with bags, airport runs, hiking mountains for shots. There’s a base level of fitness that is forced upon me. 

“In an ideal world I would have more of a fitness routine and some time set aside for mindfulness and meditation that would, without a doubt, improve my life.”

How do you set up your day for success?

Firstly, I wake up and have five seconds to work out where I am in the world – and that’s about it. I don’t really have a specific morning routine. Everything is so different all the time, I think it’s one of those things that is pretty impossible to have with the work that I do.

“I can’t really set my day up, because I could be doing anything. I could be at the mercy of a tour schedule or going for an astro shot. I kind of just roll with it.”

What’s the most life-changing purchase you’ve made in the last year?

“I bought an apartment this year, which was something I had never really thought about or pictured in my life. It’s been drilled into me throughout my entire artistic career that I have chosen this path that is fun, and because of that I had to go away from this other path of financial stability and security. So I never thought that buying a place was in my future. 

“My offer was accepted straight away, so it probably meant it was too high, but I have no regrets about it because it changed my life. It’s totally changed my mindset and added some stability where there really isn’t any other stability in my life.

“It’s made me realise that if you work really hard and you keep your integrity, you can actually have it both ways. Not one or the other.”

 

What’s the one destination that you’ve visited that deeply changed you, and how?

“The first place I really travelled to was nepal and that was before photography. It was such a huge wake up call to me about how the world really is. 

“Like, the little bubble that I live in in Australia is not the real world, where you can have whatever you want and everything is freely available. So when I had this six weeks, living in Nepal with this family, it totally changed everything. It made me really want to start having a positive impact.

“I think that’s where it all started for me, because it was right in front of my face. It wasn’t a vague ideal to chase, anymore. It was and ‘oh wow – most of the world doesn’t have what I do at home. What can I do?’”

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your five-year-old self?

“Being weird is cool.”

 

Five Quick-Fire Questions.

 

Instagram or facebook?

“Instagram.”

Sunrise or sunset?

“I hate waking up, but sunrise is more special. So, sunrise.”

Five star hotel or five million stars from your tent?

“At this stage of my life, honestly, a five star hotel.”

Good coffee or good wine?

“Coffee.”

You’re getting on the world’s longest flight and you can only take three things. What are they?

“Noise cancelling headphones, my nintendo switch and nandos.”

 

All images in this post are courtesy of @JarradSeng.