Today, I’m launching something brand new. But first, let me preface everything with a statement. Instagram is the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to photography. Here’s why…
I’ve been creating content for my YouTube channel for 5 years now and I’ve been on Instagram since day 2 back in October 2010. Throughout the whole time posting content online, it’s always come from a place of passion. Making the content I’d personally want to see.
As this community has grown — and what a fine community you all are: patient, constructive and supportive — I’ve had a further responsibility to continue to make content that respects you too. There has however, been a gold rush in content creation over the last couple of years. So many people are creating accounts with the main intention to get as many followers as possible… 🤦🏻♂️
The power of platforms
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s incredible what platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have done for getting people inspired to be creative. I owe a lot to these platforms for the position I’m in today. I started publishing my work off the back of incredible inspiration from so many other creators I was watching at the time. I also use these platforms as a daily source of inspiration to improve my own work and to connect with other creators all over the world.
The acceleration of the technology and platforms that allowed this to happen is phenomenal. This is what I mean when I say Instagram has been the best thing that’s ever happened to photography.
But… the worst thing it’s done for photography, is drive the value down, and create this “influencer” industry. I’m specifically calling out Instagram here as it’s where it’s most rife.
“Influencer” by the way, is a terrible word. It focuses on the end outcome as a value, rather than the original input of creativity. It also sounds too similar to influenza and is probably just as contagious.
The current state of advertising
We’re in a weird place with marketing and advertising currently. I’ve seen first hand, an industry mould itself into a confusing cesspit of fraudsters, making it increasingly more difficult to find the genuine creators. I’m constantly seeing people promoting products they’ve personally never used before, to fake audiences that most of the time don’t really exist. All in a greedy agenda of claiming as much for free as possible.
People have either lost their head in the reason why they started creating content. Or they’ve started creating, for the wrong reasons entirely.
Let's celebrate true creators
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been talking offline about the responsibilities we have to maintain the art in our heart. Now it’s time to take this conversation online.
I want to celebrate the passion of creators doing it for themselves. I want people to feel connected via their art for each other. I want people to make things for the right reasons and not for the numbers.
That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t work with brands, or on a commercial level, it just means we need to maintain perspective, priorities and aspirations. As an industry, we should better focus our efforts in commercialising for the right reasons, in respectful ways.
Walt Disney famously said “we don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.” It’s a shift in perspective, but an important one.
There are a thousand “no’s” to every “yes” when it comes to content opportunities for my channels. I take pride in planning and preparing the trips and content we produce, and where possible, funding it independently. If brands or businesses are ever involved, it’s through personal preference and genuine respect for all of you guys, the businesses I may work with, and of course, my own integrity.
This ethos is what keeps my passion for travel and content creation alive. Going to the destinations I personally and genuinely want to explore, rather than just taking press trip after press trip, because the allure of something for free, is too big to let go of, whether I truly want to make that content or not. Sure, these trips are fun, but they’re still work.
I’m not in the business of “going on holiday”.
I’m tired of seeing fake creators buying followers, accepting branded trips and deals, with no regard for what it’s doing to media industries, or the perspectives of their true audience members who may be deceived by their actions. Some of these “creators” are even doing all this for free, in exchange for a free trip. Giving away all image rights in the process. It’s driving down the value of photographers trying to make a living from their talent. Someone will always do it for free and seemingly to an “audience” too.
Even the faker creators will someday realise the burn they’ve created themselves. When it comes to upgrading camera equipment, or paying for insurance and they realise they’ve not generated a revenue, but instead hopped around on free accommodation for months and months. It has to be called out and I can no longer remain a quiet bystander to it, as that leaves me partly responsible for its existence.
You may be feeling completely out of the loop on all this, but I assure you, as someone within the industry, this is a fast-developing problem that I’ve been pent-up about for the last couple of years. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to articulate it to a wider audience, and I’m still navigating it.
I've been working on something...
With all this being said and without letting the negativity get in the way of me; I’ve been working on something. You may have noticed a few teasers in some previous vlogs. I’m making a start on some merchandise that celebrates the true creator. I’m starting things small, as a bit of an experiment, with a limited run of a t-shirt design. It’s a design I originally created for myself, but I realised there maybe other people out there who’d also like to take part and wear the art in the heart with pride.
I’ve actually had this design made for well over a year, but never prioritised the production of it. I actually have Elly to thank, for pushing me to finally do it. I guess she got tired of constantly hearing me talk about the art in the heart, and became desperate to see it!
I’ve got multiple more ideas for future designs and merchandise, but I’m using this as an opportunity to wage interest and public appeal. Either way, I’m gonna be making things, because these are items I’d personally like to wear! Consider this first batch a bit of an experiment to see what the vibe is.
By releasing these t-shirts publicly, it opens it up the opportunity for you to support the content I put out and reinvest in future work, directly and genuinely. Between you and me.
Premium, yet responsible
The t-shirts are Stanley Stella 100% organic cotton and have a premium feel to them. Stanley Stella has specifically been chosen as they focus on sustainable production and ethical workers rights and conditions, with no sacrifice in quality. This of course comes with a higher production cost, but that’s a reality of doing things considerately.
I hate the idea of just slapping a logo on a cheap t-shirt, purely for the sake of it. Likewise, just because there’s huge space on a t-shirt, doesn’t mean the whole thing has to be covered.
The designs are screen printed on the front and back in options of white, navy or black, in long or short sleeve variations. My personal favourite is the long sleeve navy. The short sleeve t-shirt is a regular comfortable fit, not quite oversized, but relaxed. The long sleeve t-shirt is an athletic fit, slightly slimming, but not tight-fitting by any means. For reference, I wear a large size and I’m 183cm, weighing around 73kg (6ft and 160lbs).
Everpress 21-day print campaign
The printing, production and all order logistics will be handled by a company called Everpress. They’re based in London, as am I, so it makes it easier to keep track of things, but they do ship internationally, so don’t worry about where you’re from.
The printing works as a 21-day campaign basis. Orders are placed over the next 3 weeks and then the t-shirts are made to order and shipped afterwards. The t-shirts are available to order today, with final orders closing on May 3rd. I’m cautious not to call them limited edition, but it is a limited print-run that may never happen again, so get ’em while they’re hot!
Further to the sales of these t-shirts, I’d like to take the opportunity to donate 12% of the profits to charities funding research and support for mental health issues. Schizophrenia is something myself and Elly personally struggle with, among someone very close to our hearts. We’d like to encourage greater support towards tackling it. Thank you for your donations.
Keeping the Art in the Heart
Join me in making a statement to the world that creativity and passion should be at the core of what we do. Rather than fake authenticity or false agenda. I appreciate you taking the time to read some of my thoughts here on the blog and I look forward to seeing these t-shirts out in the wild — thanks for the passion!
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