It's funny how things sometimes just happen. Last Spring I started listening to podcasts in earnest for the first time. By September I was producing one myself and here we are a year and thirty five interviews later. For anyone who may be curious about how and why it happened, here is my attempt at working that out for myself.
Once I began searching for photography podcasts as a listener, I couldn’t really find the one I imagined must surely be out there somewhere. “Someone ought to do this”, I thought, followed quickly by the realisation that maybe that someone should be me. I figured that I probably had the right skill set to at least not suck at it. So I let the idea percolate for a while to see if it would sod off. It wouldn’t. And that, in my experience, is usually a sign that one should pursue the damned idea.
I was attracted to the democracy and accessibility of podcasting. We live in a world in which the old barriers to entry are now virtually non-existent. In photography, podcasting, writing - all creative endeavours really - the gatekeepers have largely fallen away, replaced by a Punk Rock ethos in which all you really need is the desire and time to get off your butt and do it yourself. My problem was that since there was absolutely no chance of monetising the thing (initially, at least) I had better come up with some compelling reasons for doing it aside from income, otherwise why bother? I might as well use the significant amount of time it takes pursuing personal projects, volunteering in Oxfam, starting a business, writing a novel or watching Pornhub. So I was forced to think about the why.
I was a bit lost, both personally and professionally. I was depressed, frankly, and so had withdrawn from the world to some extent. I had allowed friendships to stagnate, acquaintences to fall by the wayside, my creative impulses to diminish, my love of photography to fade and most of my professional contacts to wither on the vine (the one thing you absolutely cannot afford to do as a freelancer). So a podcast could be a way to re-engage with the world, with my peers, with photographers I respected and admired, and to try and work out what they’d done right in their career and practice that I so obviously had not. It would hopefully also encourage me to re-engage with photography itself, to find inspiration for my own projects and to push through all the self criticism and negativity that is my default modus operandi. Finally, it would be something completely new, without the psychological baggage of photography, to which I could apply some of the lessons I had learned as a result of trying to figure out how and why I’d screwed up - lessons about doing the work, consistency, pushing back fear, persistence, being vulnerable, taking a chance, risking failure and criticism, diving in and working it out as you go. Then, having applied them to something new, I could hopefully begin to apply them to my photographic practice.
I also realised that in this DIY world of self-publishing photobooks by means of Kickstarter, the cultivation of a good-sized social network is a vital element in the fundraising equation. I had failed to understand that and could only gawp in envy at the friends and contemporaries who had slowly but surely built Facebook and Twitter followings in the thousands. I had about fifty Facebook friends and no Twitter account. You can’t get backing if nobody knows you exist. So it struck me that one effective way to build a network was to create something of value, free of charge, and put it out there whilst expecting absolutely nothing in return. That thing could be a blog, or simply the sharing of work. But in my case there was really wasn't any work to share. So a podcast it would be.
The million dollar question is "has it worked?", right? You know, it really has. I have re-engaged with the world, it has energised and inspired me to continue with my own personal projects, I have picked up a lot of invaluable advice (by cunningly pretending to ask for it on behalf of my listeners) and I have confirmed that, as I suspected, 95% of all photographers are facing exactly the same challenges. Above all, I have met a cross-section of brilliant, friendly, talented people who, because I get strangely attached to people very quickly, I now consider to be friends. So I still have no clue how I'm going to pay off my mortgage but it seems to me that what I have gained over the past twelve months is somehow more important than that.
Thanks to every single one of my past guests for graciously agreeing to chat, all the people who have supported the podcast from the outset if only by letting me know that they like it and get it, my all too exclusive cadre of 'patrons' (I think there are six of them) each of whom kicks in the cost of an over-priced Flat White every month, thus covering some of the tube fares, and, most of all, the loyal listeners who I hope have enjoyed and gained inspiration from these interviews. At the beginning, I pledged that if it wasn't 'working out' or if I wasn't enjoying it after a year I would simply knock it on the head. Well, I'm not sure whether it's working out or not, since I neglected to define what that meant, but I am enjoying it and far from being ready to quit I feel like I'm just getting started.