JP Morgan grad & African photography
Check out Henry's story. After realising that the investment banking world wasn't for him he drove from London to Cape Town. He is now a freelance fine art photographer specialising in Africa, where he spends seven months of the year.
Working as a fine art photographer producing images of African wildlife, landscapes and culture. On average I spend around seven months a year in Kenya / Botswana (broken into approximately four different stints). Most of my time is spent shooting on location or travelling to a new location.
Wildlife shoots tend to consist of spending around five days at a time living in the bush, shooting from 6am to 6pm. Cultural shoots tend to involve spending anything from a few hours to a few days in a village or area, at first becoming familiar with the tribes, and then shooting them (with a camera not a gun). Landscape work tends to fill in between these shoots, and when travelling to and from them.
The remaining five months are spent in the UK, where I sort through the shots and then process them. Other works tends to revolve around marketing, website management, organization of exhibitions, general sales activities and planning future trips.
Previously I was on the JP Morgan graduate training programme. I spent a year working in the management of credit hybrids trades.
I have always been very interested in photography, particularly of African subjects. In addition to this I have spent my time living, working and travelling around Africa.
The actual idea of becoming a photographer of Africa on a professional basis had never been a long term dream, but more of a recent idea. It became the obvious choice of industry that would enable me to combine a hobby I had always been hugely in to, in a place that I love spending time; on a commercial basis.
There was no individual point which pushed me to make the career change, but more of a combination of factors, that when put together resulted in me making the move.
I did not enjoy my role at JPM, and having just got back from a year in Africa, I missed it very much and wanted to get back out there. I had various pictures from previous trips to Africa framed and mounted on my walls in London, and several people asked if they were for sale. I was not ready to settle down to 40 years behind a desk, while young and with no major commitments. And lastly, I was keen to get out and do something different!
I have been very into photography as a serious hobby for several years, which gave me a good technical and creative backing on which to build. I then spent four months at London College of Arts on a course designed to give you the various tools to set out in a career in professional photography.
I did large amount of research on my market (African Fine Art Photography). I spent a lot of time at looking at the few people who are operating in the market already, getting as much info as possible on their pricing / clients / supply chains / style / and other operations. I used this information to work what I thought was the best way in which to characterise these variables.
Worst things: The London Fine Art Photography Market is very much in its early stages; as a result there is not necessarily an established consumer base. In addition, the fact that so few people are doing, means that there is no obvious formula to get it all off the ground and make it work. It is slightly a case of going for it, and then constantly making adjustments to the way in which it works.
In addition to this, many people were highly critical of my decision to leave the graduate training programme of JPM, and could not see how it would be even remotely possible to make money from fine art photography.
Best things: Waking up seven months each year in the middle of the bush, and not having to get on a tube is pretty great.
If you are going to do something properly, don’t do it half-heartedly. In order to compete you need to be in the best places with the best kit – even if it's over your budget.
Take advice from people operating in the industry; you can learn more from them in a two hour meeting / couple of pints, than you would learn from a year of experience. Take all the advice you can get even if you don’t agree and then sift though it all and take a middle ground.