Another Country; Photo Ops From The Next Frontier
With a lot of my business coming from stock images, I travel at least six months of the year to take pictures related to travel, leisure, health, lifestyles, and business. Along with a lot of other stock and travel photographers, I've realized that the next frontiers for photographs are India and China. They are the emerging markets, and more and more photographs from those countries will be needed to advertise and promote every imaginable product and service. I've recently been involved in forming stock agency ventures in both countries, and so far this year (I'm writing this in early March), I've been to India three times for two- and three-week shooting visits. I'll be going back in a month or so. While on these trips I made some notes--mostly mental, some written--so I'd have something to tell you about how I approached the job. In no particular order, here's what I gleaned from those voyages:
Readers aren't going to be faced with taking pictures on this kind of intense level (man, I hope not!), but to get the business started I need to contribute a pretty solid collection of photos. I made the job a little more manageable by concentrating on themes, ideas that narrow things down a little, like sophisticated young people, India's next generation of leaders in business and society. Narrowing down is a good idea for any type of travel photography.
My initial trip this year was the first time I'd been to India in seven years. I was taken by surprise by the growth of the middle class. Growth obviously indicates the kind of photographs that will be most important for me. I saw people in brand-name blue jeans and designer sunglasses sharing the streets with women in saris and men in turbans. There were Vespa-like scooters winding around rickshaw taxis. I know what I have to pursue on future trips.
My work on these first trips is pretty much choreographed. My first step in the new marketing venture was to partner up. I have an Indian partner who gives me the support system I need; helps me develop shot lists, does research, enlists a crew, and casts models. I can't overemphasize how important this is to me. The partnership helps take care of a lot of the business of the venture and, most important, frees me up, as much as possible, to concentrate on taking pictures.
Not A Tourist Today
I'm photographing a different India than a tourist or a journalist would. Most people see the enticing travel image, or the photojournalist's view of social, political, economic issues. I need to go in another direction, away from the exotic, the investigative, and toward the everyday life of the people, the natural lifestyle of the middle class in India today.
I've realized that 75 percent of the people in the world are people of color; only 25 percent are white, yet in stock, and maybe even travel photos, the balance goes the other way. I spend most of my time shooting people of color--in Asia, Mexico, East and Far East, now India and China--because my clients say they've got enough white people doing things. They say, "Let's now see Indians buying a car or a dishwasher." I'm in business; that's the market.