This past weekend the RGB in South Kensington was all hustle and bustle with the first ever travel photography live! event, from Friday the 5th through Sunday the 7th of October. Part of the Travel Photographer of the Year competition, it was an insight in techniques and skills on how to take great photographs.
The Travel Photography of the Year awards was set up by Chris Coe, a well-established travel photographer himself. Chris was frustrated by what was considered good travel photography, and did something about it. Since its first round in 2003, it has grown incredibly both in the quality of the work as well as its international acclaim and most of the winning photographs are far from your blue-sky-palm-tree-on-the-beach images. The judges look for something more, a feeling and identity that invoke a strong desire to travel.
Wanting to expand the impact of the competition further, last year Chris and co ran a few day sessions with talks to see what people’s reactions would be, and consequently made it a full-on weekend festival this year for the first time. Action-packed with speaking sessions, one-on-one critiques and technical advice centres, it appealed to the amateur as well as the professional. “We tried to get something in it for everyone, and arrange the lectures according to peoples’ interests” says Chris.
The opening day on Friday consisted of two talks: one by Steve Bloom, which was a great insight into his past before during apartheid in South Africa (it was nice to see the early pictures of someone who has developed his talents as well as him). The second talk was by Nick Danziger, who spoke about his past trekking the Silk Route (and allowed me to conclude that he has some degree of crazy in him), and how this has shaped his current career as a press photographer. A very easy start to the weekend, two photographers at the top of their game did a great job to kick the festival off in true laid-back and inspirational style.
Saturday and Sunday were more active, with 2 talks running simultaneously throughout the day.
Some were by photographers such as Martin Hartley (polar expedition photographer), Chris Weston (wildlife photographer) and Eamonn McCabe (The Guardian photographer) which were generally about their own personal stories getting to where they are now. Other talks were held by people who make a living in photography from somewhere other than just behind the camera – Colin Finlay and Nick Meers, who have judged competitions for years, and Abi King, who makes a living mainly off her travel blog. These sessions were more interactive, giving advice on how to sell photography, what sells, and how to deal with social media. The atmosphere was very relaxed, no speaker taking offence to people entering/leaving (if you, like me, enter the wrong talk by accident), and the floor was open to all sorts of questions during and after the talks.
The thing that made this event stand out from several others, however, was the opportunity to book yourself in for a one-on-one critique session with a professional (you could choose people with specialisms) and have honest, constructive criticism on your photography. I booked myself in with a session with Colin Finlay, and despite finding it a little short I found it extremely refreshing to know what someone would buy, and what they wouldn’t. It is still just one person’s view in the end, but it is someone with more experience than your average critic.
Not all of the talks were quite what I’d hoped – some of them had more advice in the synopsis than the speakers actually gave, or just my personal photographic style didn’t coincide with the speakers’ style.
Trying to start a career in the photographic business, I went to this event with the idea to mingle – still today any creative subject is heavily reliant on making personal connections. In the process I realised two things: photography is the kind of art where the name means everything and the face nothing. If there is someone well known around, you need to know what they look like through extensive research. And, secondly, that other photographers aren’t always the people that you want to mingle with if you want your career to advance – they can give you technique or location advice, but they are struggling to make money themselves and will not be the ones to buy your photographs.
All in all it was a brilliant place to generate ideas – I got a lot of inspiration from the speakers. I met other photographers who were on a different career path, and had a chat what projects they were currently involved in. And I got some great ideas for how to market myself and just what I should be doing to get my photography as attractive as possible to buyers. Just for that breadth of knowledge, I would go again, no questions asked.
For a link to the website, look at: http://www.tpoty.com/courses/tpoty-festival