Posts Tagged ‘published work’

When hard work pays off

September 20, 2010

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

Into the Light: Amateur Photographer Magazine

September 17, 2009

APmag

This month there is a 6 page feature on my work in the “Amateur Photographer” – possibly the longest running photographic publication in the world. The article is called “Into the light” (as you can see above), fitting, considering the recent release of my eBook.

apmag1

I’m excited about this one. The interviewer was great and really tried to get to the essence of what I do from a practical perspective. As a result the feature is a “to-the-point” look at my photography and at how I shoot. I hope they send me a copy, it’s still kinda exciting to see my work in print. The magazine (weekly publication) is available in the UK and Australia, and perhaps in other  English speaking countries.

My website was finally included and there’s even a very quick plug for my eBooks. If you’re a reader of my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a few frustrating experiences with people forgetting to include my website into the magazines, so I’m real glad about everything working out just as I had hoped.

Speaking of the eBooks, I want to thank everyone who bought them over the past couple of weeks and a special thanks to everyone who spread the word about them. The response was even better than the first time. The income will give me the freedom to move around and shoot the subjects that interest me, and that’s all a photographer can ask for.

Right now my wife and I are at her sister’s apartment in Northern Belarus. We’ve stopped here on the way to Braslav – an area which is supposed to have some fascinating traditional (relatively) villages. I’m really glad to get away from Minsk! It takes only a couple of weeks of being in the city to remember why it felt depressing, even when I was a 10-year-old. The overwhelming, oppressing communist architecture and city planning might be fascinating over a short visit, but not if you have to live amongst all that crap. It feels like everything was planned to make the individual feel insignificant. You walk for hundreds of meters from one shop to the next, the streets are wide enough to fit a football field, but at the same time, the apartments in which people live are tiny and stacked on top of each other over 9 stories and more. In short I have no love for Minsk.

On the way to Novopolotsk (where Tanya’s sister lives) I saw the romantic, beautiful side of Belarus – green meadows, stacks of hay, forests and villages. This is what I came here for and this is what I finally have a chance to shoot.

Well, that’s all for now. Tomorrow I’m off to Braslav, I pray to the “photography Gods” to give me what I seek.

The silly little things that come back to bite you in the …

July 9, 2009

digitalphotomag

The image above is from a spread of my photos in the “Gallery” section of “Digital Photo” magazine. The issue should be out in the UK in a week or two.

That’s great and all, but here’s a short story with an important point.

The pay for being featured in this particular section of the magazine, is not significant, it’s better than what most magazines will give for something similar, but it’s insignificant nevertheless. My main motivation for sending images in was not the money, but the exposure. “Digital Photo” is one of the most widely read photography magazines in the UK and probably Australia. It’s a great platform for spreading the word about what I do to thousands of people.

Ideally this is what I would want to happen – readers see my images, they like them, they go to my website and see what else I do. Hopefully someone wants to buy a print, someone else might be interested in a workshop and a few others may want to buy the ebook tutorial. Good idea. Well, not so fast. Why? Because the website URL is not there! Why is it not there? Good question.

When submitting images to “Digital Photo” you have to provide all your contact details, as well as a website URL, if you have one. All that info goes to someone, though I am not exactly sure to whom. I thought that since I had provided the URL of my website it would automatically be included, along with my images. Incorrect!

My initial reaction was a good amount of cursing, out loud. That’s my reaction to many things that frustrate me or make me angry, but once I get that out of my system, 🙂 I take a deep breath, relax and analyze – what went wrong? The answer is simple – I assumed without actually communicating what was important to me, without verifying anything. I assumed wrong. Good opportunity wasted, lesson learned.

Editors have a lot of stuff on their hands and including my website info into a publication is likely not on their “to do list”, especially not if they haven’t been requested and reminded. Even when they are requested and reminded, things can and will go wrong and in that case the editor in question should have a good kick up the butt. Not the case here, instead, what I thought was common sense, a silly, little insignificant thing, came to bite me in the place where the uncooperative editor should be kicked.

The lesson is one that applies to anything in life – if something is important to you, go after it, let the relevant people know, remind them and remind them again. Sure you there’s a chance that you may come across as annoying, but I’d rather come across as annoying and have an opportunity to maximize the return from my efforts than be a nice, complacent fellow who gets almost nothing for his hard work. Simple as that. Don’t do what I did. 🙂

Back home and Capture Magazine

March 11, 2009

capture-coverIt’s a bit late, but I thought I’d post it anyway. I’ve won “Exposed” a competition in the Australian “Capture” Magazine for young photographers with less than 3 years experience in the industry (when I entered I had less than 3 years experience). You had to send in a portfolio of images and I sent my “Rabari” series. The whole series can be seen here: http://rabari.mitchellkphotos.com/
They did two speards of my work, one of the Rabari photos last year and another this month with a little write up on what I do, oh and they used my image on the cover (above), although they rotated it and cropped it, it’s still kinda nice to see your photograph on the cover of your country’s major photographic magazine.  “Capture” is out now, it’s the March/April issue.
I’ve been home for about a week. I don’t get a “reverse cultural shock” when I come home after a long trip these days. I guess I’ve been through this whole thing enough times. It sure does feel nice to sleep in a comfy bed, with no traffic noise or insanely loud music outside.
I’ll be in Sydney for a few months, a lot of stuff to sort out. But, I figure it’s only a matter of a month or two before I get the urge to get out somewhere again.
I guess the blog may start focusing less on travel, since there will not be any and more on photography – the technical side, the practical side and the work of other photographers who I admire.