When hard work pays off

rabari01

A couple of months ago I got an email from an editor of British Geographical magazine telling me that my submission for a photo story on the Rabari (which I had actually submitted a year ago) was to  be printed in the October issue of the magazine. A few days ago, when I returned from another trip to a remote part of Vanuatu I also received the news that they’d be using my image on the cover. Good news, I say, but let me share a little story that might be useful for some of you interested in having a career (if there’s such a thing) in travel photography.

In 2007 I travelled around West India along with my wife (then girlfriend) Tanya and my close Gujarati Indian friend Hardik. Our journey lasted for almost half a year. The aim of the journey was to photograph some of the last of the traditional Rabari people – the nomadic shepherds who have roamed the area for almost an entire millennia.

That particular journey was one of the most gruelling and challenging journeys of my life (ok, so I am not that old, but still). It was so difficult partly because it was the first serious project of my photographic career, partly because I had a motorcycle accident half way through and was very limited in movement for over a month, partly because the consequence of my limited movement made the project drag into the ridiculously hot months of West Indian summer (it got to 45C every single day) and finally it was difficult because the traditional Rabari were not all that easy to find, a lot of our time was spent on “field research”, arriving at certain destinations and having to ride (a motorcycle) hundreds of kilometers in some other direction because what we were looking for wasn’t there. I literally put blood, sweat and tears into that project, in fact so did Tanya and Hardik.

The project was funded by my previous print sales, cash from a wedding shoot that I’d done, some unemployment money I was able to save, as well as money I’d earned by working a few months in a photographic store just before the trip. Those were the days of struggle that undoubtedly all of us in the photographic profession go through at some stage (and I can only pray that I won’t have to go through them again).

The sole idea that I had for the images after the project would be finished was to have an exhibition. I was naive, thinking that an exhibition in Sydney could lift my status from a photographic nobody to somebody who could at least get an opportunity to keep making money doing what he loves. Perhaps I’d make a whole bunch of cash through print sales or somebody would notice my talents and hire me to shoot something, I thought. The outcome of the exhibition was a bit of a mixed bag. It was very successful in the sense that a lot of people came through the doors and saw my work, I even got some small critical appraise. However, it was a total failure as far as solving my financial problems – I sold three prints and one specially made album, which cost almost as much to produce as I sold it for. The cost of the exhibition and printing far outweighed the income I generated. I didn’t get a photographic job nor was I commissioned to shoot anything as a result of the exhibition either and so, by the end I felt a little doomed, like I was destined to go back to work in that photo store and to shoot weddings (no offence to those who do it professionally, it’s just not my thing).

Being fairly optimistic (and still naive), I didn’t let those thoughts pull me down for too long though. I realized that I was still at the very beginning of my journey and I had done something important – I laid a foundation for something good.  Photographically it was very important that I had created a body of work that I could be proud of. I have always been and still am a firm believer in that for a photographer (especially at the start the journey) the goal of creating strong work should precede anything else. In the beginning a photographer should work for his photos and as the photographer’s career progresses the photos start working for him/her. This was the case with the Rabari project and the latest publication in Britain’s Geographical magazine serves as a nice reminder of this belief that I have.

The publication comes over three years after the project was finished and there were numerous others in between. While the exhibition didn’t help me achieve what I wanted, the result or lack of it gave me a good kick up the backside. I understood that my work wasn’t done and began to contact numerous magazines and entered into various competitions. The most notable of the results was me winning Australia’s Capture Magazine’s competition for best young photographer of the year for a selection of images from the project ( I got a $2000 camera as a result and sold it on eBay to help fund more future travels). Besides that I won a few other, smaller competitions for select single images and was published in quite a few photographic magazines (through which I sold more prints), one of which was the magazine where Kym, the enthusiast photographer who ended up going on my workshop in India (which I really enjoyed) found me. I have also licensed a number of the images from the series for various uses. All in all I have been rewarded quite well for my work, the rewards weren’t instant, but they certainly came.

And so, what’s the lesson here? There are a few of them, the  first is that rewards do not always come in the shape or form that one  expects them to. The exhibition, which I had put so much hopes into was nice in some ways, but the bigger rewards as far as exposure to a wider audience and income came from places I hadn’t even really thought of. The next lesson is that creating a project or a  series of images which can be used for various purposes seems to be the way to go these days. Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket, it’s not like you shoot something for a big magazine, have your big pay-day and off you go on a spending spree, I have personally only heard of those days from some old-timers.

Above all that I have already mentioned though, I have written this blog post to remind and to encourage those talented photographers who might be a little discouraged with the way things are turning out for them or even feel totally lost at the moment.  Remember the part about hard work. Remember also that creating truly worthwhile photography is what really matters at the end of the day. Remember that you might not be rewarded instantly, as I wasn’t,  but if you believe that your work is worth something, keep fighting for it, get it in front of editors, you don’t need any special connections or contacts for this, I simply sent emails and submissions to names I’d found on the internet or in magazines on the newsstands.

If you have put in the work, if you have something of value, you will eventually meet positive results – that’s the bottom line and that’s the main point that I hope comes across from what I’ve typed here.

Ok, that’s about enough of that. The magazine goes on sale in October, probably only in the UK (though I may be wrong). Below are some screen grabs from the preview PDF which I was sent.  I’m still in Vanuatu, but I am near the internet, so expect more posts and photos in the coming days.

rabari02 rabari03 rabari04rabari05

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27 Responses to “When hard work pays off”

  1. Nico Says:

    Thank you Mitchel for sharing your story, you fill my heart with hopes and I am sure not only mine.

    Hard work pays off always, we need to be patience and strong-minded, in whatever field we love.

    Thanks again.

  2. Tyler Says:

    Thanks for sharing all this. I love to read behind-the-scenes stories like this from other photographers because they help me put things into perspective. I agree 100% about the hard work – my problem is finding things to photograph. We have 2 little girls and I can’t just up and travel for 6 months so, I feel as though a lot of my hard work is spent simply trying to find things to photograph.

  3. Dharmesh @ db Fotografy Says:

    Mitchell,
    After looking at your images and reading your post I only realize that there is very tough competition out there. Knowing the culture and seen your images from India (I am from India too) I was amazed how people miss to capture the colorful personalities of the Rabaris.

    Your post serves a good reminder to all the photog who are starting out.

    Thanks for posting.
    Dharmesh

  4. Mihalis Tsoukalos Says:

    Wonderful images and wonderful story!
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Danuta Says:

    Hello!
    I got here by accident but I couldn’t stop to read your blog! It’s interesting, uplifting and humorous:) I am not aiming to be travell photographer (although I love travelling) – I see myself more in a studio,but your experience gives me lots of tips for my future career as well as gives me some hope!:)
    Thanks,

    P.S. Hope to read more and more from you!

  6. Mitchell Says:

    Thanks for the comments, folks. I’m glad to have been of use to some.

    @Tyler – Perhaps traveling for a long time is not your thing for the moment, but there are plenty of shorter trips that you can do. Travel with the kids, there are lots of children friendly countries, involve them. I am not really that knowledgeable on travel with children, but when I have some myself, that’s what I plan to do.

  7. Radek Kozak Says:

    Very inspiring Mitchell, thanks for sharing this with us ! You really get my hopes up on the future…i’ll try as You stick with what i do love best – taking pictures – the rest will follow i hope

  8. John Says:

    Really liked your post Mitchell and agree with Radek; inspiring. Some food for thought here. 🙂

  9. Kathleen Says:

    Congratulations on the British Geographic article, Mitchell.

    In our times of instant gratification it’s refreshing to read your thoughts on hard work and waiting for rewards which may not arrive in the guise we first imagined.

    Looking forward to seeing your work on Vanuatu.

  10. Roberto Gomez Says:

    Congrats Mitch love those shots and a well deserved front cover shot.

  11. mejie Says:

    Mitchell…breathtaking photos! Capturing every single photo coupled with your thoughts just really amazes me. Wonderfully done and well written!!! Congratulations and I hope to grab a copy of the Geographical October 2010 issue here in Asia.

  12. Matt Welsh Says:

    A very inspiring story and your recognition is most well deserved. Congratulations!

  13. Jan Shim Says:

    As a international assignment photographer and ‘tourism ambassador’ of my journeys abroad, I’m inspired by your work as India in my list of must-visit destinations.

    I document my travels here http://shimworld.wordpress.com/photography/travel/ including two official visits to Singapore and Malaysia (blog posts of which are still works in progress) through invitation by Singapore Tourism Board and Tourism Malaysia, respectively. I would love to be a part of the Incredible India tourism campaign given the opportunity.

  14. Serge Van Cauwenbergh Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, very inspirational!

  15. neha Says:

    Fantastic images! Am glad they found such a great showcase.

    Thanks for sharing your experience too. It’ll serve as inspiration to many.

  16. When Hard Work Pays Off.. | India Travel Blog Says:

    […] is a story of a tough journey he went through. Read the full story on Mitchell’s blog. Subscribe to India Travel Blog |  Email This Post | Leave a […]

  17. cyclopseven Says:

    congratulation man…..finally hard work pays off.

  18. Bruce Says:

    great story, but also, great pictures.
    Look forward to the magazine comming out, and getting hold of a copy!

  19. Sankara Subramanian C Says:

    This is a brilliantly written article. It is really touching as it is written straight from the heart. I am very happy for your success. The pictures are fantastic too.

  20. Another Must Have Resource from Mitchell Kanashkevich : DigiSolutions Says:

    […] can head over to Mitchell’s blog for an insightful post entitled “When hard work pays off” where he talks about what it took to capture the images in the magazine and shares the twists […]

  21. Shohbit Gupta Says:

    Thanks for giving a piece of what you have created and what you experienced. I’ll surely want to read the magazine if I get a hold of it in USA.

    Creating a story about your experience is amazing and I would want to learn from your style. The pictures that you made are amzing and have a story in them, thats an art which not many people have.

    I would surely want to have an oppoerunity to read about your experience in clicking those wonderful pictures, a brief on the gear that you used and your thought process while you were clicking them. It will surely inspire and give learning to budding hobbyist/professionals like myself.

    Great work and Congratulations on your achievements and all the best for opportunities coming your way…

    Regards

  22. Lola Says:

    This is fantastic news Mitchell! Will be sure to send your news around the Matador Network.

  23. Julie Says:

    Congratulations, Mitchell! And thanks for sharing the backstory; I always find that as interesting as the success story!

  24. Matador contributor lands photography spread (and cover) in Geographical magazine Says:

    […] his post, When Hard Work Pays Off, Mitchell shares the backstory that culminated to this […]

  25. Yes, I AM Cheap. « Kelvin Cheong Photography, Melbourne, Australia Says:

    […] thing going for me is that I *can be cheap, as I have a full time job that pays the bills. I quote Mitchell Kanashkevich on being a professional photographer: “In the beginning a photographer should work for his […]

  26. photito Says:

    Your honesty and hands on experience shine through in this post! I am a travel photographer myself, and can totally relate. I wish you all the best of luck with your future projects – may the force be with you! xx

  27. unspottedbeauty.com Says:

    I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing issues with your website. It seems like some of the written text in your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This may be a issue with my web browser because I’ve had this
    happen before. Cheers

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