Im März des vergangenen Jahres wurden alle Jobs von Tobin Jones innerhalb eines Tages abgesagt. Rückblickend hat er in den Monaten danach etwa die Hälfte seines sonst üblichen Jahresvolumens fotografiert, hat an freien Strecken gearbeitet und macht sich Gedanken darüber, wie auch in Zukunft mit der Fotografie Geld verdient werden kann – über all das hat er mit den #FacesOfPhotography gesprochen:
Tobin, how are you?
As I’m sure has been the case for freelance photographers its been a fairly tough year, but all things considered I can’t complain too much. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to ride most of the pandemic out in Kenya, where the restrictions have been considerably less draconian that in Europe. As a result I’ve still been able to photograph, though probably at only about 50 percent capacity of what I’m used to.
What is the current pandemic situation in Kenya?
Kenya has been faring reasonably well. The country enforced wearing masks very early and, although it never went into a full lockdown, a curfew and restrictions on bars and restaurants has helped to stem the pandemic to a certain degree. We are in our third wave now, however, which feels like it may be a lot worse than the first two. There’s a lot more anecdotal evidence of people catching Covid and I believe the hospitals are just about at capacity. There’s no telling whether we’re at our peak already, or if there’s more to come, so at this point we’re all just keeping our fingers crossed that the rate of infection starts to decrease soon.
What have you experienced professionally in the last weeks and months?
Professionally the last twelve months have definitely been difficult. I remember in March last year having about four different clients all cancel jobs on the same day and then having virtually no work for the next four months. Things did pick up towards the end of the year however, so to a certain extent I was able to still photograph quite a bit – albeit in a much shorter time frame.
How did you get into photography and what does it mean to you?
I first started photographing right after I graduated from high school and took a year off before university to travel. I really took to the medium and about half way through the year got the idea that perhaps this was something I could one day make a living doing. As a person I think I’ve always been attracted to pursuits that are both technical and artistic, which is a line I think photography straddles quite well. I like the idea in photography that you’re not quite creating something out of nothing, but rather using your camera to interpret what’s already there. It gives you confines in which to work in, kind of like an architect gets when having to build something to work in a specific location or site, rather than just a blank canvas an artist gets on which they have to create something wholly new.
Did you have time, capacity and leisure to work on free projects?
A little. I have to admit, I think I became the quintessential lockdown cliche. I started running, then took up baking, adopted a dog, made kombucha, and enrolled in an online course. The only thing I think I didn’t do was try making sourdough bread! I did work on some personal photography projects as well though. One of these has been a series of typologies on everyday homemade objects I’ve found while working in Africa – flip flops made out of tyres, footballs made out of plastic bags, and knives welded together out of scrap metal. Its been really fun working on something more conceptual and also something that doesn’t require I interact as much with actual people.
What is your personal photographic wish for the future?
I think the pandemic has really shown most photographers and a lot of other creatives how vulnerable their industries are. Photography has been suffering for a while now and I think the industry really needs a sea change when it comes to how it monetizes itself. I can’t claim to have the answer to this, but personally its really made me think about how to diversify and expand my revenue streams – going from depending on clients for commissions to looking how I may be able to sell my photographs through stock footage services, selling my photography as fine art, and keeping an eye out for any new technological innovations (e.g. NTFs) that I may one day be able to use as a way to make money.
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