It’s been 13 years since I left my corporate job and embarked on a 10 year plan to become an international travel photographer.While my passion has always been to travel and condense as much human experience into my life as possible, photography became my new vehicle and, since then, I have dedicated myself to the craft. Ten years later, by most measures, it appears I arrived at that goal and today (somewhat remarkably I might add), I am generally busy throughout the year, I have published 12 books of my work and I own probably the largest travel and tourism photo library on the Asia Pacific region.
But now I’m getting restless and I’m asking myself “Is this it?” If, 10 years from now, I have amassed an even bigger library of travel photographs and souvenir publications, will I be able to look back and say I did everything I could to realise my potential and that I will leave behind a significant professional legacy?
Well, the answer – at least from where I’m sitting at the moment – is simply “no” and, as it’s the first day of a new year, I thought I’d begin work on another 10 year plan, starting with the following goal:
By 2024, I will be an internationally recognised photographer specialising in traditional indigenous culture.
This overarching statement for where I’ll be 10 years from now is built on a passion that’s emerged over the past several years as I’ve wandered the South Pacific. While I still enjoy the professional challenge of capturing promotional images, I am rarely more excited professionally than by the opportunity to photograph traditional culture (this was highlighted recently when I had the chance to photograph the land diving ritual on Pentecost Island given it ranked as the best three days of my career as a photographer). My hope is not merely to record what I see for posterity but to evolve my work to produce timeless, beautiful images which will generate pride among those I photograph and make their culture more accessible and appealing to those who know little about the subject.
If I was independently wealthy, I’d simply head off and do it right now but (oh-so-regrettably) I’m not, so I’m laying out my new 10 year goal for all to see, recognising that the Gods (and any other chance benefactor reading this, he adds) are hardly likely to assist me with this vision if I’m not prepared to “put it out there” and actively start working towards it.
As I am often heard to mutter though, a vision without a plan is just a dream so, here are some of the key initiatives to get the ball rolling.
Recognising there is little commercial interest in this subject (it’s not as if a photograph of traditional culture sits in every lounge room or that people are clamouring to buy books on the subject), I’ll need to look at ways to fund this new pursuit and have my work seen. Hence the movement towards more fine art rather than tourism photography. The plan is that I’ll remain a travel and tourism photographer for the next five years, however, I’ll begin to direct my energies towards developing a distinctive photographic style that will do greater justice to the subjects I photograph. I’ll create opportunities to travel more widely and spend more time photographing traditional rituals – possibly extending my tourism shoots in the countries I visit where I see potential to strengthen the portfolio. I’ll produce a dedicated book on the subject (I’ve started work on a serious coffee table book on Papua New Guinea which could expand into a wider book on the traditional cultures of Oceania. I’ll submit the mock-up I’m producing to international publishers Taschen which is better placed to market and distribute it worldwide.) With the book in hand, I’ll mount a series of photographic exhibitions and look to sell the book and a limited edition print series. All of the profits from sales will be channelled back into producing similar work and spreading the word more widely about the vulnerability of traditional culture and the need to record and protect it. I’ll also look to generate interest with museums and art galleries, government agencies and non-government organisations both in Australia and abroad.
Interestingly, having began this journey into the art/exhibition world a couple of months ago, it seems I’ll have to distance myself from my profile as a tourism photographer (I’m told the two cannot creditably co-exist) and re-invent myself as a “fine art” photographer. To this end, I’ll change the way I capture and process my pictures and the way I promote myself. I’ll create a dedicated web site showcasing the work and I’ll circulate the photographs to targeted international media to draw attention to the cause of disappearing traditional cultures.
So, there you have it – some broad brushstrokes to my vision for 2024, the details of which I’ll continue to percolate over the next fortnight or so before returning to work and probably driving everyone crazy with the idea.
While this pursuit is hardly likely to be lucrative (how many multi-millionaire cultural photographers do you see around the place?), it will certainly satisfy me and deliver a fine legacy in a body of work that will inform future generations of their origins and draw attention to the richness – and vulnerability – of some of the most amazing traditional cultures on earth today.
Next Entry: Publishing a serious coffee table book through print-on-demand specialists, Momento.