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In our latest podcast, we speak with photographer, Tomasz Trzebiatowski. Tomasz did something that almost everyone would advise him not to do. In this tough environment for publishing, he launched a new photography magazine called FRAMES off the back of building a successful online community of amazing photographers who share and discuss their work.
He followed his passion and he manifested his dream into reality with persistence, belief, hard work, and ingenuity. At theprintspace we are always encouraging you to build relationships and community with the people who appreciate and follow your work. This discussion with Tomasz is full of great advice on how to do exactly that.
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Stuart: Okay. I’ve got Tomasz Trzebiatowski with me here today and he’s the founder of FRAMES magazine as well as the FRAMES community, which exists on Facebook and other places as well. So thanks for joining me, Tomasz and I’d just like to start by asking you, how did you come to the point where you wanted to start a magazine?
It seems to go a little bit against the grain, although it’s an incredibly successful and beautiful publication but I’m sure everybody told you, you were mad to attempt it. So can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the industry and then what led you up to the point of creating the magazine and the community?
Tomasz: Of course! First of all, thank you so much for inviting me on your podcast. Pleasure to be here. So the entire story it’s how many hours do we have? I have to start somewhere, right? I’m an educated musician so I have actually studied classical piano playing and I’m still actively playing and also working a part-time job at the college of music here in Lucerne, Switzerland.
But at some point in my life, photography came along and then developed into a second passion. So you have the music which is still there and then I discovered photography. It was also a process. My father was into it as an enthusiast and I remember him developing films in our bathroom and so on and so forth. This was somewhere there, but it was still not in those early years when I really caught the bag. I was helping him out and so on and so forth but it was not like I was really into it. And then several years later, it was the year 2000, I moved. I come originally from Poland and then because of my musical studies I moved to Switzerland for my postgraduate degree, and it was here in Switzerland, the year 2000, where I went really deeper into photography, started exploring it and became really passionate about it.
It’s like a train of small events. I went on a crazy trip. It was also a musical trip actually, but it was a cruise to Antarctica, in which I was basically employed there as a pianist. I was playing there for guests and so on but then it was this trip where I thought it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have a camera with me travelling to Antarctica. And that’s where it started. That’s how I got into photography and I started exploring, learning, editing, and we know the drill, right. All possible parts of being a photographer. So I became a photographer myself, now slowly going into it even more professionally, so to speak. I started photographing musicians. I had three years when I did some weddings as a photographer, believe it or not.
I tried several different things, several different brands of cameras, types of cameras and so on and so forth. Then at some point I discovered the Fujifilm X series and I really liked them. My first camera of Fujifilm was the X100S and I really fell in love with the system. And this was then in turn the stepping stone for my publishing endeavours because I got so impressed with the Fujifilm system that I started blogging about it. I started a community of Fujifilm users, an international community on my Facebook groups, all of those things we do on the internet and one thing led to another and I ended up publishing a monthly digital called FujiLove magazine, a magazine for Fujifilm enthusiasts and Fujifilm users. This magazine still exists till this day. Today we just released the 80th edition of FujiLove magazine. It’s a monthly digital publication.
These were the beginnings which have continued until today and working on this digital magazine and looking at so many different images, photographs, connecting with different artists and being a photographer myself, I always felt somewhere inside me that: okay, digital is great. We are living in a digital age and so on, but I was every now and then experiencing something special when looking at photographs on paper, of course, getting in touch with photography, books, magazines, prints, exhibitions and somewhere along the way this idea of actually creating something myself, something valuable and beautiful on paper, was also planted somewhere in the back of my head. Probably we’ll talk about it later.
Some kind of entrepreneurial part of my brain started saving those ideas and it needed some time until now, when the COVID pandemic started where I decided, okay, enough thinking, enough visualising, let’s do it! And I decided to create a printed physical photography magazine which is now called FRAMES and we are now eight editions into it. The dreams, the ideas became reality and now we also have a beautiful community. So it’s a paper printed magazine, but we also have a digital platform around it as well, where the members can log in and consume all possible kinds of content. You are familiar with the platform.
Stuart: Absolutely, it’s a fantastic community. And so it started with the magazine or did it start with the online community?
Tomasz: That’s also a very special story and I dunno what angle you’re going to take on this conversation. I think we are talking about inspiring other people who may possibly have some ideas and to maybe convert their passion into business.
Stuart: I think what’s really interesting about what you’ve done is that when I look at the FRAMES community. So often these online communities, they don’t really work for some reason cuz they just descend into negativity or maybe the loudest voices are not indicative of the entire community, but of the people who end up dominating the conversation. And yet FRAMES I see is really different in the sense that it’s a community that’s just got amazing work. Amazing inspiration for photographers and yet it is a really positive place, which is rare for online communities. So I’m just wondering how that came about? How does it maintain that?
Tomasz: It’s a difficult but at the same time an easy question to answer and I don’t wanna brag about myself here, let’s make that clear. But at the same time, I have to say one thing, when it comes to communities, the same was happening and still is happening in the FujiLove community and in the FRAMES community – I’m busy. I’m working on all of those things, organising content, creating the magazine. Basically there is much work but I have never given up on myself being present in those communities, in those Facebook groups. I’m sending out my personal newsletters there. I think I’m a positive guy. I enjoy it and we can also talk about how I even managed without any kind of entrepreneurial knowledge or I dunno, business schools behind me, to even start something like this, or how did it happen?
But yeah, as fun as it may sound, I think some part of my personality plays a role in keeping these communities friendly, connected and active. There is something about similar kinds of minds and people sticking to each other. Let’s take an example, a FRAMES Facebook group, I would have to have a look, but probably. I don’t even know now, is it 20,000 or 12,000 members, but it’s a huge group of people. Right? Of course we have those singular instances when some negativity or some difference in individuals appears. We have some mechanism in place when people apply to join the group. You can set up a set of questions. We are trying at the gates, so to speak, of the group to make sure that decent, nice people are joining us. But of course, with thousands of people, you can’t really control it. Without meeting them personally, first of all, you can’t really control it. So of course it happens.
I think there are two elements to what makes this community nice. One is I’m trying to be there, trying to maintain this atmosphere, posting myself, engaging people and having good, nice chats with them, nice conversations and so on. The second element is, of course, some kind of curation and moderation and when somebody crosses the line, he will be removed from the group basically. And it has to be something really bad then it’s absolutely clear. There are certain ways we behave or we should behave when interacting with each other and when something bad happens, it’s not always the easiest thing to do, but I think it’s also important in the end. In the beginning it was difficult for me: removing people from the group because it’s also a negative act by itself. We have to remove you from the group, it sounds. But at some point I also learned, too much is too much. And then some somebody being really negative doesn’t belong here to our group and in order to protect it too, to keep it that nice and that friendly.
Stuart: Yeah, I completely agree. With that many people it can easily go in a direction that it’s not intended to go in, but from what I see of a group, there’s a tremendous amount of respect for the group itself, amongst people. So it becomes like self moderating to a certain degree. And then of course you are there too, as a constant presence.
From what I’m hearing, the community started and then the magazine came from that. Do you think that having the magazine helps in creating a real sense of community, cuz you have this beautiful curated set of work that’s sprung up from the group and, in that sense, it reminds you when you look at it of what a great place a group is because you actually can see all the work and you get that inspiration from so many different photographers as a result of them coming together in this way.
Tomasz: Yeah, I think so. You’re absolutely right here. And it was also when I was initially thinking about the entire concept of the magazine itself and how it would exactly fit into the entire FRAMES universe and community. Maybe I’ll just explain very quickly.
As you already mentioned, when you look at FRAMES magazine, the print publication, in each edition you will see a set of small portfolios, photography portfolios or series, both from very acclaimed famous names. We had Steve McCurry, Michael Kenna and Elliott Erwitt in the magazines already. But next to those extremely famous guys, you will find people from our Facebook community whose work is placed next to each other. All of it might be amazing. You can have somebody who started photographing five months ago and is creating amazing work, absolutely visually striking things which work equally great and impress you on the same level as work of Erwitt.
So that was the idea to A) show people that everybody’s able to create amazing work and there are so many people doing it and B) exactly how you say involving the community in the production of the magazine. People started supporting and cheering for each other in the group and when somebody appears in the actual printed edition, it’s like a small celebration in the group and it makes this group stronger and stronger. People know each other, talking about each other’s work, encouraging each other, and then comes the magazine with a few of them being featured and the group is celebrating it and really people are supporting being happy for each other. That’s of course the nicest part. That’s just the community part, right? Becoming friends and knowing each other.
I could talk forever in circles but you can already see it’s also something which actually fuels my entrepreneurial part of this whole FRAMES world. I enjoy it myself. I enjoy being there with those people and this is what gives me, in turn, energy to produce all those things. And I think this circle really closes itself very nicely.
Stuart: It’s nice. Fascinating. Promise of the internet, isn’t it, that you can get recognized for your work based on its quality and not just your name and not just your reputation and the people and the connections you’ve built up, which was the sort of pre-internet world, particularly in ecommerce or in selling prints or getting commissions being represented by gallery etc. These were all things in the pre-internet world that you had to have an agent, it was about your name as much as your work to a certain extent. And I think what the internet has enabled through social media is for people to connect directly with the people who like what they’re doing and without that sense of having to go through these gatekeepers to get there. And as much as social media is divided and for good reason, in some cases it’s also brought that opportunity, hasn’t it, to really rise up just based on the quality of what you’re producing.
Tomasz: Absolutely. I tackle this whole crowd of art, this whole issue from a different angle. I’m a curator here but I’m also actively looking for people who produce excellent work and I contact them and offer them to be printed in a magazine, next to a photographer who is famous and has been working for decades, on the next page. And it’s already had two instances. It starts working. This makes me the most happy. Then it starts working in an opposite direction, FRAMES slowly starts becoming recognized by certain people in the industry. We had two instances where we printed work of an “unknown” photographer. She is now getting an exhibition in her local area because of the fact that we discovered her work. So it can work in another direction.
I just see myself as a person who finds those unknown and new talents, artists that didn’t have contacts. They’re not even called professional photographers. I hate this term and we can talk about it. They are photographers. This does not matter. They produce beautiful work, excellent work. And it helps two people to actually make some contacts or somebody discovers them through them, who’s running a gallery and so on and so forth. So it’s just brilliant. I love it because it helps showcase their work in next places and even more people then discover those photographers. So it’s fascinating dynamics.
Stuart: It is. It’s fascinating because technology has allowed this to happen and it’s increased the diversity of what you can see out there. If it’s music or the products you buy, or the art you are looking at, the photography you’re looking at, there is just a massively increasing volume, but a diversity of things because you can reach people directly. And I think that FRAMES is a really interesting project. I see from the magazines that it has that diversity of imagery that was so used to seeing magazines pre-2000 where you get to expect a certain type of work in it.
Tomasz: If I could just quickly interrupt you, you know, so this was another aspect of those bullet points I had before even starting to create anything here. Just my ideas for the magazine were exactly what you’re saying. Putting in one publication, one magazine work of an entire variety of different genres, types, mediums, and so on. I really believe in one thing, also being a photographer myself. Personally, I like shooting street, maybe some kind of black and white abstracts, let’s say, right. So this is what I enjoy photographing the most myself. But I absolutely love and always loved looking at all possible other kinds of photography, product photography might be one of them, landscape, portraiture. And I really believe in the idea of being inspired and discovering things, visual ideas in completely different kinds of images, which then in turn, actually influence and inspire your own photography in whatever genre you might be working in. And this was also one of the very clear ideas for me.
I wanted to have all possible genres of photography in this magazine of course on a really inspiring visual level. And people seem to be really enjoying it because very often we tend to get stuck in our smaller worlds, smaller circles or landscape photographers don’t look at the work of another landscape photographer. It can be so refreshing when you suddenly look at, I dunno exactly, product photography, but you find something about light shapes, lines, whatever it might be that gives you a kick in maybe a slightly different direction in your landscape photography. It’s just fascinating to me. This was also one of the ideas of what FRAMES was going to be.
Stuart: Yeah. That cross pollination is really important to creating a unique style in your own work is to take those influences from a lot of different places. Just changing the track slightly, how has it worked from a business side of things? Was it really hard to get this going?
Tomasz: Sometimes I get asked those kinds of questions and they are the most difficult for me because of how I function or always have functioned. Maybe I should not be talking about it, but I didn’t have any business plans or anything printed in my Excel files or so on. And the same was with FujiLove in the very beginning. With me, everything starts with an idea, with actually a very honest personal excitement about an idea. It was in those two cases and usually it starts in my case with an idea of creating a community, of gathering people around something and enjoying this time together on a long timeline so being there altogether in this. This is exactly what happened also with FRAMES. Of course, I had an idea because it happened when FujiLove was going so I had this idea for a photography magazine. Now, how do you start? Sure at some point I sat for three hours and calculated roughly if it makes sense from a financial point of view. I looked for printing offers, layout designers, so on and so forth costs and then possibly pricing of the magazine. It should not be losing money, this is clear, right? But in my case, it’s actually never this predominant thought and this predominant concern.
I start with building the community, start inspiring each other, inspiring people. In the case of FRAMES, actually the very first element of this entire FRAMES universe was a newsletter. So I got an idea and it’s still running. It’s my personal weekly newsletter. It’s called FRAMESLETTER. It was the first thing which I started doing here. It is a weekly photography newsletter and I tried to promote it a little bit here and there using my existing communities, photography circles, using online social media, social platforms a little bit to spread the word. This newsletter has been going for almost two years already. I was sending it out for almost two years before I announced the idea of the magazine.
So when you asked me about this business perspective, think: passion translates into successful business. Your genuine passion will make your business ideas happen. I’m a true believer in this. Sure, I am not saying there’s no obstacles. At some point I had to start working on this magazine and of course I had to look for printers, distribution, shipping companies. It’s not like everything is easy. It needs time and effort. There are thousands of hours behind it but if I would not have this passion for creating this, I would be just dead today and would be just devastated and even frustrated. And it would not be there. I’m absolutely convinced.
Stuart: I think that’s obviously one of the negatives of what’s happened with social media over the years is that it’s really eating into the traditional media and magazine. So it’s brought benefits with it as we’ve already spoken about, but also a lot of great publications have disappeared. And it’s really interesting to see a new one spring up, but born out of this almost, it’s a new prototype for creating a magazine because it’s really about the community and it comes from the community and the magazine is born out of that. And that’s really interesting to see.
I think it’s really important for people to find a sustainable future for publishing because it’s got real value when you see something. It’s great seeing stuff online, but you swipe past it and it’s out of mind. Whereas when you have a magazine, you can pick it up. You can go back to it. You can be inspired by the work in it over a longer period of time.
Tomasz: I think one of the things is exactly the fact that it’s a physical magazine and of course it’s a niche thing. It’s not mainstream media. It’s not a huge thing. It’s like I need my circle of people who appreciate and are equally excited about the similar things that I am about great photography on paper. You mentioned the magazines which disappeared. I often hear the stories. In most cases, I don’t know all the details, but I can imagine maybe those magazines which were disappearing and didn’t survive were probably the parts of bigger corporations to a large extent, maybe. So there were probably huge overhead costs everywhere and it was just not sustainable at some point. Of course FRAMES it’s just me as layout designer, proofread, and a friend of mine who’s helping with social media. That’s basically it. It’s not a team of 25 people and seven editors. It’s a new way of publishing, maybe even making business in general, right?
In your case even running theprintspace, you are there. It’s probably much about you being there really personally, you know, pouring your soul into it. You are in touch with your own business and you are also in touch with your customers, right? Probably very often personally. And this is of course a huge publication of 25 years ago. I don’t think any of the readers were meeting the publisher or the editor in person. This is huge. Then there are less costs. It’s a smaller circle of people working on it, but it also needs that I don’t need millions of readers. It would be nice, just kidding, but I don’t need hundreds of thousands of subscribers to do what I love doing. To keep enjoying this community, to be proud of producing a beautiful publication and just having this smaller circle of people who enjoy it and it’s fine and it’s sustainable, then it’s not blown out of proportions. It would be then not possible for me to run it with such a small team.
Stuart: Absolutely. I think it’s great and I love the magazine. I think when you have something in print and obviously we imprint ourselves and in a different way with art prints on the wall. I think there’s a real difference, when you are on social media, you could look at people’s reels, you can see great work that people are doing, but when you have something in front of you and you look at it every day for five years, or you have a magazine that you go back every few weeks for a few years, it affects you. These images affect you in a much deeper way. They have a much deeper effect on the way you think, and maybe your own work as well. And I think that’s something that’s really important with print of any kind that we’ve lost slightly.
Tomasz: Absolutely. I think the first huge difference is that when you have a photograph on paper, in your hands, it will not be three seconds or four seconds. It will automatically be a little longer during this first encounter anyway because it’s just a slower process than scrolling. Sometimes we even miss images which are actually valuable because I think the habit of scrolling is already there so we actually scroll too fast and some I’m pretty sure we sometimes miss images that we would actually find valuable because we don’t give them enough chance, enough seconds or whatever it might be to try to maybe look at them a bit closer. But if you have them in your hands, on paper, you automatically spend more time on them. And it’s bigger on the magazine and so on. And you start looking more in detail, spending more time trying to understand and especially if the image starts speaking to you, like you said, you keep coming to it. Oh, it was good. Let’s have a look once more. You really start getting acquainted with this image.
We don’t do it often I think with an Instagram feed, when we look for an image, which we saw a week ago. I do now but I’m an editor of a magazine so my work is different. I’m of course choosing the images for the magazine so I really do my best to give each of the photographers I meet online, give their work a proper look, of course. In this role I know I’m not your average consumer so it’s a slightly different process. But you are completely right here, the photograph on paper, it’s a completely different relation than having the image on our mobile phone screen.
Stuart: Absolutely. And I think people value that. And I think people are coming back to that as well. We had the emergence of social media and this was the new thing. This was the new way of consuming content, but I think we’re balancing a little bit between the two now and people wanting to actually have a deeper relationship with some images.
Just something you touched on about looking at images for the magazine, how do you choose what goes in there? What’s the process?
Tomasz: I have a few different processes in place because like I mentioned before, I try to have big names in each of the editions. So this is of course a different way and we already know about those photographers so I’m reaching out to people sometimes directly, sometimes through somebody who knows somebody, of course, and trying to get those names into the magazine. So this is one thing but the community itself, we have an extremely active community. This is almost like the heart of the community right now. This is the Facebook group. I am in this group daily. This is my main process of curating and searching for images, which could potentially be featured in the magazine.
We also have monthly digital companions, which are accompanying the domain magazine. I am personally in the group daily and some people really don’t believe me. I keep getting messages asking me if this is really true. I look at every single image being posted in the group. It is still doable. I probably need an hour on average, daily. But I look at every single image in the group and there’s even something invented sometime ago. If I like a particular image, I give it my editors applause. It also became a thing in the group of people enjoying this. A special thing. So this is the main process of me evaluating, curating, choosing images for the magazine. Still doable, as I said, because if the group would grow 5x let’s see. And I was already thinking how I would approach it in the future, but it’s still the way I really do it.
I manually browse through all images being shared and there is so much amazing work. My main problem these days is that in the printed magazine, which is quarterly, we have seven artists being featured. So we have a place for seven portfolios in the magazine, but there are like hundreds of excellent photographers in the group. So my list to be featured is becoming longer and longer, but it’s not sustainable unless we switch to weekly, I think. But yeah, there are worse problems. There is enough great work really to choose from. And this is also encouraging and amazing. There are so many people producing amazing photographic work these days of different kinds.
Stuart: And the quality in the group is fantastic and diverse. So for photographers these days, it’s been a major shift, hasn’t it, over the last 15 years in the way they make their careers along that road. There’s been a lot of negativity around the industry or fatalism, I would say in terms of people saying, oh, being a photographer is a kind of thankless task. I think things like FRAMES emerging and showing a business model that actually is sustainable is really important for the community.
What’s your viewpoint on the life and the prospects of a professional photographer now and going forward in the next 10-15 years? How do they have to adapt? And is it still a sustainable career?
Tomasz: I strongly believe it is. Of course things change. We went through this huge digital revolution where, like we say, everybody can be a photographer suddenly. And so many people take pictures. So many more people tried selling their images for being published, getting jobs and so on. Most probably the entire market became oversaturated in a way, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I think that the amount of people creating exceptional work, very good work, doesn’t mean that for sure. Millions of photographs, more being taken, but in some paradoxical way, I think in this huge sea of images being created on a daily basis, if you produce really good work, it’ll almost stand out more clearly. We scroll so we’re looking at thousands of images and then suddenly one is sticking out in an extremely positive way. In some way this person is getting even more attention and I think his or her skills will be taken even more seriously then.
The need for photography is definitely there. We are living with all technological revolution and digital times. Images are needed everywhere. Of course there are even more of them being needed, right, for thousands of different reasons. I have the feeling this ratio is okay. And of course, I’m also talking to many photographers. You probably as well. I don’t know what your impressions are, but I am seeing people, even the people from the FRAMES community, they’re really working on different kinds of things. And some of them are making their living, at least partially making their living in really different ways. The more creative you are not only with your photography, but also with the ways it can be presented and where it can be presented.
I came up with a printed photography magazine again when most of the people thought they were already dead. I can at least partially start supporting my living, my family with this thing today. And it’s not even about my photographer. So I think when you are coming with your own very special creative skills, honest skills, honest on new angles, on the imagery, and then combine it with open-minded ideas on how to present them, which people to talk to, which people to convince. Back to the same thing we talked about. If you have this passion and you want them to be seen, you will find your way and you will also make a living if you really want to make a living from your photography. I think it’s doable.
Stuart: Totally. We, for example, decided in 2014 to start building tools for photographers to sell art online and for us to automatically fulfil the sales and we saw when we first released this in 2015, we saw some photographers just jump on this straight away, because they were already talking through social media, to their people who were enjoying their work and they had this kind of strong connection. It was a two-way conversation between them and their followers and the people looking at their images and enjoying them. And it was just a really natural step for them to say, I’m just gonna sell prints directly to these people. And then we had other people who were other photographers saying, no, I want to go find a gallery and do it in that way.
I think the thinking has to shift now. And honestly, we see so many people make a completely sustainable and more than sustainable living from selling prints directly to their audience and that’s a completely new way of sustaining yourself as an artist, as a photographer.
Tomasz: I have one analogy, which I often give as an example. I started listening to LP records again. They were obviously at home when I was a child. But we went through the CD era. We went through the MP3 era and Spotify and Apple Music and everything, which is great. Those LPs you see back there, I started collecting and listening seven months ago. So look, we went through all of that and for whatever reason might be, and it’s some kind of emotional reason in me, somewhere for whatever the reason might be, I started buying. So the average consumer customer of the music industry, I started buying records again. I bought a record player. And so after the wave of the pure digital era and everything being on our hard drives, those record stores and companies producing LPs, their business curves and revenues are going up again.
Same thing with photography on paper and printing is a little bit behind because the CDs were a bit earlier I think even the digital cameras. People will start missing. So people who knew it before will start missing this thing and start buying and listening and looking at photography books and photographs on paper and on the walls again. So the curve will start going up. The problem is the young people who don’t know it. And I realise that sometimes I meet a photographer, a young person. Since he or she was born, there were only digital cameras, iPhones. He never held a book in his hands and then I showed them the magazine. They’re into photography, obviously but they’re just digital. I showed them the magazine. They’re like, wow, this is beautiful. I have never even thought about printing my images, I have to print my images. And so the young generations, we have to show it to them. Older generations like us Stuart, we will start missing. That’s the mechanism. So I’m not so worried to be honest.
Stuart: Absolutely. And I think with music, that’s a great example because when streaming came along and even iTunes, but then streaming, there was this sense that, okay, this is definitely the death of the music industry. And now I don’t think it’s ever been healthier. A lot of bands are touring a lot more, doing way more festivals, and there’s that kind of desire to connect in more of a physical way with the music. You can say the same thing for film, right? Video recorders. In fact, the film industry tried to actually ban them cuz they said, look, this is gonna kill cinema. Going to the cinema, going with friends, it’s a social experience. Afterwards you talk about it. And so I think that you’ll see it in every other technological change where there’s been the digital. experience, and there’s still the desire for that physical experience.
If we’re talking about photography, in print, or actually having a show, having an exhibition, an art fair or a workshop where you can actually come together and you can actually talk about the work. Are there any plans for FRAMES to do any sort of physical events?
Tomasz: Yeah, absolutely. After 2-3 years of existence of FRAMES online community and the magazine being there in the centre, of course, because it’s exactly what you mentioned. We also had the pandemic now so things during those 2-3 years were a bit more difficult but what happened in our online community. People already know each other, recognize each other from online. Some of them even have Facebook, Instagram, and they have profile pictures. So we know the faces even, but this need of meeting in person is there. And yeah, as we speak, I am actually preparing a photographer membership club within the FRAMES community, which will be exactly this. It’ll be this next step in connecting those who really are so eager to meet each other, exchange prints, talk about it, and meet with other more famous photographers in person on location. So we are thinking about setting up a couple of events, maybe in major cities, meetings, meetups, and also working together on group exhibitions. This is a natural process and I hope it’ll be happening soon.
Stuart: I think that there’s a really good lesson in all of this for photographers in developing your career, because I do come across photographers who say, okay, I’m just gonna do exhibitions or some photographers say, I’m just gonna use social media to promote myself. But I think that what I see from a lot of the successful artists is that they’re looking to create a community around their work. People who are passionate about their work in the same way you’ve created a community around photography and art photography in general. And you use all these mediums. You use email newsletters, you use social media, you interact on social media, it’s a two way conversation. You have exhibitions where you meet and you develop that community in a different way, in a physical way.
You can see it even with photographers and artists on Patreon, where people actually want to be part of that photographer’s career progression. They want to help. They want to be part of a community. They want to feel like they have contributed to the development of the artist, and then they own a piece of the work. Maybe they have it on their wall. They can talk about how they’ve had this two-way interaction over a period of time and they feel a deeper relationship with the work as a result of it. And I think there’s a really good message for photographers, even as individuals, to create a community around what they do and people who are passionate about what they do.
Tomasz: Yeah, absolutely. We, as humans, are the kind of species where we need each other. We want to meet. We want to bench ideas, want to talk. We want to discover each other. And I think the internet is great. There’s no question about it, because it helps us on those first steps of connecting all around the globe, making connections and friends, but in the end meeting those people in person who you started with online, it’s such a beautiful moment. I experienced it. I remember back when we were running some events with FujiLove. So with the Fujifilm photographers, we knew each other from the group, from our forums and so on. And then came this first event. It happened: that’s you, John, that’s you, I remember you from the profile picture and then you start talking about photography in person.
These are the most amazing moments, the most beautiful moments. I’m so happy it’s also happening around the magazine. And I’m really impatiently waiting for this first in person on location meeting where some of those people will give each other a hug. And when they start talking about your newest camera and your newest book or whatever it might be, another level of passion kicks in those moments.
Stuart: Absolutely. So to round off the podcast, I always ask, what advice would you give to a photographer who’s starting out today or wants to leave the job they’re in and pursue their passion full time. What advice would you give them to develop a sustainable career?
Tomasz: Based on what everyone heard here through this hour, first of all, when it comes to your photography itself, I would say absolutely follow your instincts and passion and intuition when it comes to what kind of images you wanna make, what resonates with you, with yourself. We often get afraid of those initial stages of our career to get criticised or to even show the work. You have to show the work. If it’s something you are really happy with, start showing it. And believe in it. Talk to people about it, show it, share your passion. Don’t hide it. Then nothing will happen if you do that. So this is the first step. And if you really believe in your work, your services, whatever it might be, and you start talking about it with this passion, it will come across and it’s contagious and you will find, like I found, like you found, or like all of those who found, you will also find your circle of clients, customers, admirers. It’ll just happen.
There are millions of people. Take those steps, just go out, talk about it, show the work and whatever it might be in whatever genre. I don’t have better advice because this is what I did and what worked to the extent that I am happy with. You don’t need millions of customers. Depending on what you’re doing, maybe you need a hundred people and you are fine. Maybe you need 500 people and maybe you need 2000 people and you are fine. It will take some time, a year to five, when you’re starting now from scratch, but it’ll happen. But only if you believe in your own work. Also work on developing it, getting better, showing it, talking to people about it and telling them, what do you wanna achieve? It’s the important step we are so often so afraid of.
I was this way and I also had to learn it, to tell other people what we wanna achieve. You will be surprised how many people will support you on your way, in your business, when you actually tell them. I wanna have a photography magazine, I talk to a couple of people and my dream is to have a photography magazine. I received bits and pieces of help in different regards, which helped me achieve this goal. So don’t be afraid, share your vision, share your passion, your dreams, and it’ll happen. I’m convinced. The thing is that only 1% of people maybe do it. So be in this 1% or let’s make it 2%, then there is even more of us being happy in the future.
Stuart: That’s brilliant advice. I’ve experienced that myself. People are so willing to want to help if you just tell them what you’re trying to achieve and convey that passion.
Tomasz: And one last thing I wanna add: as a photographer, make sure you talk to non photographers. We can talk as much as we want to other photographers, but those won’t necessarily be the ones buying our prints. They wanna sell their prints. So make sure you talk to people. If you are creating fine art prints, talk to people with houses and apartments. I had a period and I’m still doing it now a bit less, but being a musician myself, I used to photograph musicians naturally. I wanted to photograph them playing. I was doing some portraits of them. So they were not photographers. They were musicians. Most of them did not have anything to do with photography, but I started showing them. I love to photograph the concert. I would love to take some pictures of you rehearsing. Suddenly within two years, I was getting emails asking me for, could you come and photograph our ensemble? Could you cover this festival? It just happens. Really? Believe me, it happens. You just have to go out and talk to people. And show them your work.
Stuart: That’s great advice. I think that’s great advice for offline and online. The power of social media is actually to have a two way conversation with people who like your work and to develop that relationship with them. If you really love someone’s work and you comment on that and they comment back to you, that feels really great to actually have a conversation with the person who made the work. I was speaking to someone else on another episode of this podcast, and people buy into you as much as they buy into your work. If they can have that conversation, if they can have that little moment where you can explain why you shot this and what the idea was, and you can have that connection, that’s really the power of social media.
Tomasz: We all have great, often big dreams and we tend to compare ourselves to those very often who are somewhere much away on the whole career path. And it puts us down. I will never achieve this. I will never be Steve McCurry or Michael Kenna or whoever it might be. Start locally. Like he also started somewhere. He was not immediately a National Geographic prime time photographer. So for example, let’s say I dream about being the most famous classical music photographer in the world. I have to start with my local band or my local chamber music ensemble in my little town. Don’t skip those necessary steps. Start locally.
Naturally I started here. I’m in Switzerland. Something happened here after a few months, somebody called Zurich. But you have to start somewhere and people have to start talking about your work and knowing that you are doing it in the first place.
Stuart: Thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you and I’ve learned a lot and I wish you the very best of luck with the continuation and the growth of the community.
Tomasz: Yeah. Thank you so much, Stuart.