Daniel Shea

AGE: 26
BORN: Washington, D.C.
RESIDES: Chicago
EDUCATION: Maryland Institute College of Art
CLIENTS: The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, Chicago, Dwell, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED
AWARDS: TEAM Artist Residency; Board of Trustees and Navona Grants, University of Illinois at Chicago; ACRE Residency; Harold Arts Residency
EXHIBITIONS: ACRE Gallery, Chicago; Berea College, Berea, Kentucky; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Asia Society, Beijing; Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, Oregon
KEY LESSONS LEARNED: "Understand how to manage your art and editorial work like a business. I had a decent college education, but it was art school and I learned virtually nothing about the practical things that constitute trying to live as an artist. So I had to read books on business, research this stuff, ask questions from older, more experienced friends. Managing your 'business' and learning task management ultimately mean more time and headspace for you to think about your creative practice."

Daniel Shea's "Coal Work," a long-term investigation of the coal industry in the Appalachian region, grew out of a simple curiosity about where electricity came from. He first photographed mountaintop removal and modern coal mining in West Virginia as an undergraduate student in 2007, and later photographed in Southeast Ohio, an area dense with coal-fired power plants. In addition to receiving recognition for the work in the form of exhibitions and press, Shea developed an interest in "exploring post-industrial ruin and entropic states," which he says "will drive my practice for many years to come."

Currently completing a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Shea has also built an editorial career that helps him support his art practice. "Lately I've been developing really good relationships with certain clients and they're asking for more input on the layout and direction, and having me pitch ideas," says Shea, who visits New York City a couple of times a year to show his book and meet with clients.

While it may not sound glamorous, discipline has played a huge part in Shea's career thus far. "My most important priority is my practice and making new work and developing as an artist," Shea says. He also values a tight-knit group of photographer peers, who are friends but who also offer honest critiques, and exchange ideas, advice and contacts. "I never take that for granted," Shea notes.

Shea works in other media, and has begun combining photography, sculpture and collage in his projects. While photographing post-industrial sites in Illinois, for instance, Shea has picked up materials to use in sculptural works. "Sometimes the stuff that I'm photographing has material qualities that are more interesting than the photograph that represents them," he says. "I never want the form to take the hand of the content and lead the way, I always want it to be the other way around."
—Conor Risch