Is there such a thing as a Lucky Break in this world ? Is there one in the Photography industry ? Personally I don’t think there is, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get anywhere in life these days. The kids that go on X Factor for instant fame, have to work hard at their singing or be born with a gift from the start but if they do get spotted, they then have to work twice as hard to make it work. Hundreds of hours of singing lessons and a crazy work schedule and at any time it could all be over.
I started in Photography the moment my parents gave me a camera as a small boy and from that moment onwards I wanted to be the next David Bailey! I was driven from an early age with a thirst for knowledge and the gift of Dyslexia. I was terrible at School but found my release in Photography and soon became addicted.
I was taught back then that hard work and dedication is the way you get anywhere in life. As I grew up I got into a few different sports including swimming for Kent and won quite a few Powerlifting Competitions winning the British Bench Press at 82.5 Kilo class with a 260kilo bench press. I was no stranger to hard work, I was in the gym seven days a week training with the British Power Lifting Coach Ron Reeves.
One of the most important lessons I learned from an early age was, waiting for luck will hold you back, it will eat you up and spit you out.
Luck has no effect on how successful you are or how healthy or happy you are or how you feel every day when you wake up in the morning.
You have to start taking credit for the opportunities you create for yourself and not sit around waiting for your share of luck to walk in the room, drop out of someones pocket and land in your lap or rub off on you from someone you think is being lucky.
One of the most damaging aspects of the “lucky break” mentally is that it gives credit to un unseen force. If you give credit to luck you set yourself up to fail every time.
If you going to consider your life a series of lucky or unlucky breaks that you have no influence over, you are not giving yourself the credit you deserve for your own hard work or failings.
As you work towards your goals each day, week, month and year remember it’s you in charge of your success or failures! You alone, no one else, it’s up to you to work as hard as you can to reach your goals. No one else will rescue you from the hard work that stands between you and achieving what you want.
Commit to hard work in your life, there are no shortcuts and you will always reach your end goal.
So, how did I get to work with Fujifilm UK as an X Photographer ! Was it a lucky break ?
No, it was hard work and dedication and a lot of research.
I was shooting with Nikon for over 40 years and as Mike Shore once said, “Matt had been knocking at Nikon’s door for a long time with no luck” not quite true about the luck Mike, however I was knocking on Nikon’s door along with Warren Miller. Warren and I had some friendly banter about who could be in N Photo Magazine the most. We were both Photography Addicts and managed to get our images picked for Magazine features almost monthly. I had written for a few magazines and was selling a lot of Stock Photography at the time and doing very well in-fact so good for me, it had become my main income.
I was having a few issues with my camera gear and getting fed up with the weight and faults that kept preventing me from doing my work. I was actively looking for a smaller camera system that would suit my needs and at the time there wasn’t much about. I looked at Sony they made great camera bodies but their lenses were not up to Nikon Pro glass Standard. The same time I was looking for a new camera system I started to look into the Fujifilm System. Two names kept coming up, Kevin Mullins and Zak Aries. I read a few blogs about Fujifilm Cameras and not one said anything to tempt me, so I carried on in my search. That was around 2012 when I was also frustrated with black and white digital processing and had started thinking about a project ‘A Year Of Black and White’.
I could talk about Projects all day but will come back to that at some time in the future.
I started talking on Social Media about my project and I had quite a lot of interest from Magazines who had seen my work on Instagram and Flicker. As the project evolved they showed more interest. This was also the year I noticed that my work started to stand out and people were starting to get interested in my Gig Photography and Street images. As I worked through my Black & White project I had discovered my digital black and white style and this was also getting me noticed.
Surprisingly if I bought a new bag or piece of kit people would want to know all about what I was buying and using. I was becoming an influencer without knowing it. Becoming an influencer was adding value to my brand and making me interesting to Retailers and Brands. I bought a ‘Next Canvas Bag’ and spoke about it on facebook. I turned up to a music event that weekend and so many people actually had the same bag ! Being a bit slow on the uptake I said to the first person with one “these bags are great, how long have you had yours ?” The girl replied, “I got it after you put it on facebook” ! I then realised that my Photography was getting me noticed by not just the brands and magazines but also lots of people were looking at what I was doing. It’s a very strange experience at first. I had been taking pictures all my life and now people were starting to notice my work ! I understood this had value but at the time was also a little embarrassed so from that moment decided to be very careful what I spoke about on Social Media.
I started out with a camera in 1971 and in 2012/2013 people were starting to look at my work. I didn’t really notice this happening, but now that it had it was time for me to make some decisions. You could say this is where the hard work started all over again.
I was about a quarter of the way in to my Black & white project and I had bought a Fujifilm X100 second hand from eBay and started to use it more and more. I was shooting at the time with two Nikon D3s bodies, a D200 and a set of Pro lenses. Suddenly this little X100 was becoming my daily choice.
I was researching Zak Arias and realised he was making a name for himself in America with these little cameras and in the UK apart from Kevin Mullins there were no real people of interest to me using the X Series. I studied the X Series and how Zak was working his magic and it reminded me of all the years with my Nikon FM2.
As interest in my work was growing from Magazines and Publishers, at the same time I was being asked to talk at clubs and societies about my black and white work. I had been saying No to these groups because I wanted to follow Steve McCurry’s mantra and not ever teach or talk but to just spend every day perfecting my craft as a Photographer.
I did not have the confidence or belief in my work and still don’t to an extent. I am my worst critique and always will be, it was Jane that gave me the confidence to drive forward and her alone that gave me the strength to believe in myself.
In 2012 I gave in and did my very first Photography Club talk and trust me every fear I had about it going wrong came true ! On the way there I had the worst anxiety I have ever had in my life! I pushed on and on setting up, the projector did not work and my laptop wouldn’t work with the new projector they had found! Fighting the urge to walk out, I had to make a quick new powerpoint on the spot because the show had to go on! Trust me for someone with very bad IBS this was not the best day of my life ! They loved the talk by the way. They all said they were shocked by my passion and drive and that I was the best speaker they had ever had. After that night, on the way home in the car I said never again, EVER, will I do that! I did however do many more talks and started teaching Photography soon after. This one night had just set me up for the future in more ways than one – I had got over my fear of public speaking.
I was about to shoot Liverpool International Music Festival and I was on holiday in Wales and my Nikon Gear was playing up again. I popped into Cambrian Photography in North Wales to get it all sent back to Nikon for repair. In the cabinet they had an XPro1 and the 35mm and 60mm lenses so after speaking to Sarah I decided to give them a try and after the Liverpool Music Festival I was hooked on Fujifilm Cameras!
Soon after LIMF, I took a trip to Venice with just the XPro1 and the 18-55mm, 35mm and 60mm lenses. I was so impressed with the Fujifilm glass and sensors I sold all my Nikon gear and moved over to Fujifilm.
I was shooting with Fujifilm now for all my work and loving it at the same time. I was finding more and more time for my Street Photography and my following was growing. I have always had lots of facebook groups and at one time had 29,000 people on the old MySpace because of my shooting with ‘DontStayIn.com’ back in the day of the Free Party Scene. I had quite a big Social Media following, about 1 million on Google+ and 5000 on facebook. This was all very distracting and I made the drastic decision to have a massive Cull, this was very refreshing. I wanted to focus more on my Photography and enjoyed being outside in the real world with real people so I started doing Street Photography Workshops and Photowalks as this was what I wanted to do and where my passion was.
I decided to set up a another facebook group for people who loved Fujifilm and one night came up with the name Fujiholics. This had a rocky start as some people have to be negative and can’t just be nice to each other on Social Media. The group was heavily controlled by myself and the Admin Team to prevent trouble and give real passionate people a place to share their love of the Fujifilm brand. The cull ruffled a few feathers but those people had nothing to contribute.
The Fujifilm UK Team found the group and suddenly Fujifilm Team members from around the world joined the group and had made it very exclusive. I then opened the group up to retail and trade by invitation only. The group is still exclusively Fujifilm Addicts with a slow growth and has not had any negativity or arguments for over two years. I did play around with other Fujiholics groups but mainly due to trolls they failed. Running a few Social Media groups can be exhausting and a 24/7 job, trust me it’s no walk in the park. To this day though the Fujiholics closed group is still one of the best groups on facebook and has a small but loyal following.
Around this time through Cambrian Photography I had met Richard Wan and some of the other members of the Fujifilm Team. They had noticed my Social Media presence and it was not long before I was asked to do a workshop for Fujifilm in London. I turned this down as it was shooting a model in a shop and this was not my thing.
I knew I could do Photowalks and talk about Street Photography and that was the gap in the UK market for Fujifilm. As a poor mans Zak Arias at the time I was not sure they would go for it as I was in the middle of my Windows Street project.
So when Richard asked me again about a year later to do something I said why don’t we do some photowalks and some weekend meet ups to get people outside using their cameras ? Richard agreed and I started to do more and more for Fujifilm. Eventually I was asked to talk at The Photography Show in Birmingham for Fujifilm. At that point I was so glad I had done my time in the trenches talking at the Clubs etc as it was a great grounding for TPS !
Prior to TPS I was asked if I would like to be an X Photographer and I was very happy to say yes. I had changed from Nikon to Fujifilm for the love of the brand and I also had met so many of the Fujifilm Team, I was proud to be able to represent the Fujifilm brand around the UK and the world.
I was warned at the start that this would attract some really negative people, haters and trolls. I had already picked up a few over the years as I have always been one to say it how it is, if people don’t like what I have to say then so be it.
I had spoken to quite a few of the other X Photographers and they had their fair share of haters as well so I was prepared. I have found over the years these people have an enormous amount to say behind your back but not one can ever face you in the street.
I also do feel quite sorry for quite a few as they obviously have something missing in there lives if all they have to do all day is worry about someone else ! I have noticed over the years though that on Social Media I get less and less negativity. I have changed the way I work I guess so I hardly get any new Trolls. I have now started to grow my YouTube so expect a few more.
So, no Lucky Break with Fujifilm UK it was a matter of pitching the right ideas, it was all just part of a journey. Being able to come up with great quality images to show off the X Series for Fujifilm as a brand and have the drive to stand up on stage and talk to thousands of people and be able to work harder than I have ever worked in my life. I travel all over the UK and walking up to 20 miles a day on Photowalks, talking to people for up to 12 hours a day about my passion for photography. The best part is I am doing what I love.
Being an influencer before I worked with Fujifilm helped but so did the fact I already had my work out there in magazines and books. You can’t be an influencer without a following and you have to work hard at building that following. I lost quite a few people over the years because I was brand specific, but hope to change that over the coming years.
I left Fujifilm as an X Photographer in January 2018 as many of you might know and this was part of my original plan. When I started out teaching and talking I was only ever going to do it for 5 years and then stop. I have so much more I want to do with my photography and feel I can’t do this tied to a brand. I still love the Fujifilm Brand and the whole Fujifilm Team and some have become friends for life.
I am fully aware if I talk about a product on YouTube or Social Media my viewing figures sky rocket but the future is not about that.
I want to focus on my own work, I want to talk about photography and not the gear and start making really interesting content for my YouTube videos and PodCasts. I want to work on projects that have been neglected over the last five years, work on Exhibitions and Photography Shows and put my passion back into making the image not on the gear.
There are no shortcuts in this game it’s a lifetime’s journey and you really do get out what you put in ! Wait for it to happen or get out there and make it happen you choose ….