Andrew Gibson: creating a career and pursuing goals in photography
This guest post is written by Andrew Gibson, still in the early stages of his career, yet an accomplished photographer and writer and the author of the Magical Places Fine Art Online Photography Magazine. A number of prophotolife readers have requested more information about photographers’ career paths, and Andrew discusses his pursuits and career with us here, from his first publication to future goals to what he feels are the keys to professional success. His blog also has a number of interviews with successful photographers posted, where they share their insights in a similar manner.
Travel and documentary photography are my focus, with a leaning towards fine art. I like visiting strange and out of the way places, documenting the landscapes and lives of local people. It’s always exciting to visit a new place thousands of miles from home, often imagining that I’m the first European to visit. It’s not the case but I like to think so.
I’ve travelled to South America several times independently and have many photos from the continent, particularly Argentina where most of my time has been spent. I plan to return one day and would like to also document the way of life of the indigenous people of northwest Argentina, Bolivia and southern Peru.
My ultimate goal is to make a living traveling, taking photos, writing articles and selling my photography to stock libraries, magazines and as Fine Art prints. At the moment I’m supporting myself by selling photos and articles to photography magazines, and would ideally like to develop this into a staff writing position on a photography magazine. I feel it’s important to experience the publishing world first hand in order to pursue my larger goals.
Using Magical Places Fine Art to promote his work
My website, Magical Places Fine Art, was created as a showcase and marketing vehicle for my writing and photos. This approach has proven effective, leading to the publication of my first feature article, in an English photography magazine called Practical Photography (a pdf of the article may be downloaded here).
I was invited to write the article by one of the editors after sending in a few black and white photos for publication. One of the photos was from Bolivia and the editor liked it, so I gave him the link to this blog entry detailing the trip. From this experience I learnt quite accidentally how my blog can promote my work.
The blog has also taken on a larger dimension and has developed into a valuable photographic resource. A feature I’m particularly proud of are my interviews with photographers, most of them professionals earning their living in challenging fields like travel, stock and photojournalism.
Another goal is to write and publish photography books, including coffee table photo books. Two authors I admire that have made great careers of combining writing and photography are Michael Freeman and Lee Frost. The interesting thing is that today, with the internet and self publishing websites like Blurb, it’s possible to create and sell your own books. It sounds like a way to have fun, even if you never hit the big time.
On achieving goals
I believe that nearly anyone can learn the technical fundamentals of photography and there’s a wealth of excellent written teaching material available. A good eye for a photo is something harder to develop and depends on natural talent.
So what separates the successful professional from wannabees and aspiring pros? I think it’s a combination of hard work, keen business sense, drive, and determination to succeed. All of these things are part of the professional photographer’s mindset. It’s this mindset, and their approach to the business of photography, that I want to learn from. The interviews are a great excuse to ask a stranger about photography and business. I’ve also made some friends that I keep in touch with.
What does it take to succeed in the world of photography? I’m probably not the best person to ask as I’m just starting out. But I can see that talent and ability are necessary because a freelance photographer’s work needs to be of the highest standard. Persistence is vital because it’s a tough marketplace with lots of competition. With persistence comes luck. If you keep sending in your work it will eventually land on the desk of someone who’s looking for what you’re offering at that time.
A good business sense is vital; attention to detail, client care, keeping accounts, planning, cashflow. All the things any business owner has to take care of.
Photos above, from top to bottom:
Iruya, provincia de Salta. Children play around for the camera. Iruya is the village where the recent Guiness Tipping ad was filmed (read about it here).
Gaucho, San Antonio de Areco. Gauchos are the cowboys of South America. Their traditional way of dressing can be seen in this photo.
The Salinas Grandes. A giant salt pan high in the Andes. Workers extract the salt from the pan.
La Boca, Buenos Aires. This neighbourhood is famous for it’s colourfully painted houses, the football (soccer) team Boca Juniors and for being the birthplace of the tango.
Toreo de la Vincha, Casabindo. A traditional bullfighting ceremony that takes place every year in the Andes. The aim isn’t to kill the bull but to snatch a headband from between it’s horns.