Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saving your soul, Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi.

This essay has come about via a recent shoot I did for a client. No it wasn’t a glamorous wildlife shoot in a remote location. It was an interior shoot- and I thoroughly enjoyed it… if you think I’m mad, read on.

When deciding to become a professional wildlife photographer, many thoughts go through your head. It’s a life call: the romantic notion of shooting award winning wildlife images with National Geographic printing each and every of your stories quickly subsides into the reality that you are a small fish in a very large, shark infested pond. Its about that exact moment when it also dawns on you that things like admin, accounting, marketing, websites, bills, overheads, equipment and offices need to be maintained and paid. Precisely then you either you go back to your current day job, or you somehow (for some goodness knows what reason) neglect those challenges and head on blindly into the world…

A few months later you realise wildlife photography is not all about National Geographic with endless days of exotic wildlife; it’s like any day job- you have to pay the bills.
Its not embarrassing, Frans Lanting did it, Chase Jarvis did it, almost every photographer at some stage in their career has waited tables, photographed birthday parties, weddings, shoes (yes that was me…) or some other aspect of your career you just do not like to do. You do it cause it pays the bills.

Being in the bush a lot, I managed to get involved in photographing lodges. From a financial point of view, it was a good sideline in lean times; but more and more I realised that I actually enjoyed the work. So when I was approached by Sabi Sabi to photograph their Earth Lodge, (voted the 3rd best hotel in the world), I was somewhat interested, intrigued, and challenged.

It’s at times like these that questions arise in the depths of your soul about doing what you love and “selling out” to commercial photography. I studied my approach and realised that yes, I can label my self as a wildlife photographer, but in truth, I am a creative photographer. It took some time to realise, but give me a photographic challenge, and I will be there trying to solve it with some creative angles, light and sheer tenacity, regardless of the subject matter. And that is exactly what I did.

Guess what? I enjoyed it. I approached it like any wildlife subject I photograph. I researched my subject; I studied other works on the lodge and challenged myself to produce something new. It was a good shoot with hopefully excellent results. However, the crux of it all was that I had fun. I was creatively stimulated and I was creating images of worth. As a wildlife photographer I’m not sure I want a “name” as an interior photographer, but if I can shoot at locations that challenge me as this one did, then yes, I will be there, working the angles and playing with light until I get my shots. If any one ever said this was “selling your soul”, then I must have the worst job in the world…

The day it hurts me to work in these environments Ill be the first to say no more (I only photographed shoes once, before saying no more!). But until then, if it can supplement wildlife work and keep me out in the bush, then yep, I’ll be there.
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