“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” – Oscar Wilde
In this series we shine a light on artists expressing their individuality, documenting what they love, working hard on their craft, and sharing it with the world.
Jay French is a Christchurch-based adventure photographer who specialises in mountainsides, gnarly bike trails and "before dawn to after sunset". He believes he's always been into photography, one way or another, but in the beginning didn't think of it as anything more than an appreciation for nice pictures.
"I took photography at high school but never really understood the technical part of it, or got into the study. I just loved the opportunity to go out exploring and capturing things with the camera, even if that usually meant skipping classes, because I was far more interested in the pursuit of collecting images. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come."
Jay had a corporate job in London, but his goal on moving home to New Zealand was to try starting his own business. "I was really into mountain biking, and my idea was I would come home and take small group bike tours to great MTB spots. I started an Instagram account to begin creating some brand recognition. To fill the account I began taking my camera with me to local races, and on biking trips, and began to take some pretty mediocre bike imagery. However I knew I needed some high-level imagery to help grow the brand."
“I got my hands on a Nikon D750 and then just started working a lot harder on my imagery. I'd always heard how hard it was to be a photographer, and that there was no longer any money in it, so just saw it as an opportunity to save some money on content, and a fun hobby. But after moving back, and beginning to set up the brand, some people reached out to see if they could buy some of my photos. I thought, 'This is fantastic, I'm getting a little bit of pocket money as I build my business …how handy.' This kept happening, people reaching out, asking if I would take images for them, or their brand, even going on trips to capture images.
"I had this one business mentor back in London who said, 'To be successful in a start-up you need to follow the money, even if it's not what you planned to do in the beginning — to do what people are willing to pay for'."
It was around about this time that Jay thought, "Well ... I guess I'm a photographer now".
"I think sometimes people romanticize the notion of being a 'photographer'. You seriously need to ask yourself, do I want to turn this into a job? It can mean ruining the things you started photography for. It's an amazing job, but it's still a job."
"You need to take a hard look at yourself and decide what you're willing to give up, how long you're willing to struggle for, and if you're the right kind of person to run a business like this. I think that for some people, having a day job that allows you to get the camera gear you want, take the trips you want and create amazing images, might be the right mix. You can do little jobs here and there, and sell prints, and only do the things you want, without the stress of having to make your living from it. You can create when you want and what you want."
"However, if you are one of those who thinks, 'I want to be a photographer, this will be my life,' then the best advice I can give you is, don't be a dick. Make sure you're someone people want to spend time with. Your ability to form relationships is more important than your technical ability with the camera."
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