My neighbour Sean – photographer of the Bay

Photo Sean O'Shea

Photo Sean O’Shea

Phillip Frazer

Sean O’Shea is a cheerful bloke, can be serious too. He takes photographs, mostly of the sea, the surf, and the humans and animals who interact there. Through social media, these photos are viewed and loved by countless people around the world. But to be honest, Sean doesn’t look like he belongs to the surfer community, nor the glamour photographer set. That’s because Sean’s neither. He’s an artist.

Up until five years ago Sean painted intriguing canvases of semi-abstract images – people, animals, buildings, landscapes – and was making a good living from his art, living in the Byron industrial estate with his partner Tracey.

Then, in 2012, Sean got a good (but not fancy) camera to take shots of his paintings before they were sent overseas. One morning he went to Tallow Beach and saw dolphins threading their way through the waves beyond the break, so he strode into the surf to get a closer look, camera in hand. A bloke in a wetsuit was sitting on his board looking toward the dolphins, and Sean was just a few metres behind when, suddenly, a dolphin launched itself out of a wave. Right there.

He’s looking directly into the eyes of a dolphin who’s looking directly into his eyes. This very large animal is airborne flying toward him as he stands in water up to his chest, both arms aloft, one holding the camera, and Sean snaps a picture of the flying dolphin and the surfer. A picture that changed his life.

That’s when Sean had an epiphany. He understood at this moment that the vast natural world, of creatures and plants of the land, sea and sky, constitutes a profoundly other world than the one we live in when we go to the supermarket to buy milk or sit in a car texting arrangements for lunch. As the dolphin slid again into the sea, he knew this would be the world he would inhabit, in the Bay, taking photos, making videos, because he wants to share this wonder with the rest of us.

Story continues below photos

The photo – Sean’s first – was going viral online, so he sent it to a few newspapers, and although The Echo didn’t print it, the Daily Telegraph did, on page 3. They even gave it a terrific caption – it began ‘It’s the quintessential image of freedom and joy’, which is not a line you often see in the Murdoch tabloids – and that, folks, is how Sean O’Shea began his career as the photographer of the Bay.

Now I know this bloke pretty well because he and Tracey are our neighbours here on Coorabell Ridge. Recently we ganged up and convinced Sean that, despite the millions of people around the world who’ve been wowed by his photographs on Facebook or Instagram, we need a big beautiful book to show his work off at its best, in a more permanent form. He and Tracey have started designing and planning, and next Sunday May 21, their site will launch a crowdfunding drive to get the book on the road.

Check out his amazing photos at SeanOSheaArt. He still uses a modest camera, sometimes in a plastic bag when he’s swimming out in the Bay, and a tripod held together with gaffer tape. Every day he drives off in his 2003 Camry, to stream sunrise and sunset live from the beach.

Sometimes artists need help monetising their talent, just a bit, right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers.