Make Me Perfect

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", but the beholder's sight becomes distorted when they look at their own images. A photograph's sincerity is hard to face if the person that we see represented on it does not look like the image that we have of ourselves. To some, photography is supposed to "beautify" us, to make us look pretty. And nobody knows this better than the makers of those mobile apps that alter our features and exploit our self-confidence issues. What's the point in going through this beautification process if we end up looking nothing like ourselves?

Photo editing techniques are nothing new. And the concerns surrounding them, either. According to John Hannavy, in the 1850's not only did photographers groups like the Société Française de Photographie condemned retouching, but also there was an important debate on whether altering an image was deterring from its "veracity and sincerity". In spite of this, very early into the business of photography's history, photographers understood that people usually want an image where they look more attractive than they think they are (Susan Sontag, "On Photography", 1977). And photographers as early as late XIX century ran very successful portraiture businesses that employed in-house retouchers to make their clients look better.

As a photographer working in the XXI century I can't help but think that body image issues should be one of the biggest concerns in the photography industry today.  When I look at my subjects, I try to accurately capture the essence and the beauty that I see with my bare eyes. But, every now and then, I get people who are not happy with how they look and ask me to alter their photo by changing their features. And no matter how hard I try to make them see that they are beautiful and that those changes will make them look nothing like themselves, some of them still want me to go through with the alterations. To which I always say no. I made a promise to myself when I started out my career as a photographer that I would only retouch my portraits if they needed colour grading, temporary skin problems corrections, lighting enhancements, and clean-up or replacement of backgrounds or objects in the scene. Not just because I find it unethical to retouch any further, but because body image issues can lead to mental health problems and I don't want to inadvertently contribute to someone's body dysmorphia, a mental disorder that affects a person's perception of their own appearance and justifies the means to fix it.

However, I recently found myself breaking this promise when I allowed a very demanding person to make me alter their images beyond what I consider to be ethical. I felt very guilty and disgusted while doing it and I purposely changed as little as possible so that they would continue looking like themselves. But, in the end, after numerous exchanges where they kept on telling me that the features needed more enhancements, I was very relieved to hear that none of the changes that I had made were of their liking and that the photos wouldn't be used. No matter what I did, as long as they kept on looking like themselves, they were never going to be satisfied with my photos. The whole experience made me feel very bad about myself and about what I had gotten myself into. And the truth is that I don't blame this person in particular or any of the other persons who have asked me for these changes in the past. I feel sad for them. They are just the victims of the selfie culture and of the mobile cameras and apps with so-called beautifying features. It is very shameful how the creators of these apps are profiting from our vulnerabilities.

Let my post today be a renewal of my promise to myself to not engage in this sort of practice ever again.

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What Am I Leaving Behind?

I got my first digital camera in the year 2001, when I was 25. Until then I had been a shutter-bug also, but I had been shooting film. No fancy cameras, just a point and shoot, but enough to record the memories of my younger years. Now, at 42, I have started playing around with film again, this time not only with a more complex camera than the one that I used back in the days, but also with an actual knowledge of the craft. And somehow now I feel like I am finally understanding my profession.

Getting used to shooting with a film camera again was not a big deal for me in the sense that I had already used film cameras early in my life. Loading the film, advancing the film before each shot, even not being able to see the result of what I had shot for the lack of an LCD screen on the back of the camera were things that just felt natural to me. The real impact came when I took the film to the lab to have it developed and I heard those dreadful words: "come back in a week." A week?!?! I almost had a panic attack thinking that I was not going to be able to see the result of my work until after a whole week! But then, I decided to embrace the magical feeling of the experience full of expectations that lead to the moment when you finally get to see your creations for the first time. And my mind was blown away! This is how it felt! Before the 1-hour or the 24-hour developing services, we had to wait a week or two before we got to see the photos from our trip, our party or our family gatherings. And it was perfectly OK. Nobody died of impatience waiting for their photos to come back from the lab.

We live in a different world now. Everything is so immediate these days that we no longer have a sense of patience. If I click the shutter, I want to see my photo now. If I send an email promo, I want clients calling me as soon as I hit send. If I start my business today, I want to be successful tomorrow. If I meet someone and I like them, I want us to be best friends right away. We have lost our ability for waiting, it seems like nothing is worth looking forward to anymore. But film has reminded me of how beautiful the anticipation to see your work for the first time can be.

Another thing that shooting film has done for me is that it has gotten me into thinking about my work and what I'm leaving behind. Today, only a very small percentage of my work exists in print. The vast majority is stored in the form of digital files inside hard drives that backup to the cloud and create a copy that resides somewhere in the cyberspace. In other words, they don't actually exist in a physical form. Which means that in 500 years from now, if someone finds these hard drives and doesn't have access to our obsolete technology to be able to read what is inside of them they will never know of my existence or my work. We might not know who posed for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but at least we still have the painting. It's funny how we feel that we are so technologically advanced because we have managed to store millions of bytes of information in very small hard drives but if we expose them to time, to the elements or to obsolescence all this data is lost. However, after so many centuries we can still learn so much from fossils and from rudimentary tools that were left behind by the people who were here before us.

And all of this got me into thinking that maybe a return to film is a return to contaminating the environment. We accumulate our printed images, we kill trees for the paper, and we leave behind chemical residue from all the processing involved. But, all the digital technology that we use today needs a lot of power to function which has a massive impact on the planet, and it also leaves a greater footprint with the speed at which devices are discarded when they become obsolete. So, what do I prefer to leave behind? In all honesty, I prefer to leave behind art than just a piece of metal.

Rediscovering film has made me re-evaluate my career as a photographer: I feel more like a craftsman, like an artist. It is as if, by exploring the past, I am also exploring a different version of myself in the present. Quoting Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist: "Sometimes we have to travel a long way to find what is near."

Below you will find some of the images that I have shot on film over the last month. Photo credits:

  • Photo 1: George Robbins
  • Photo 2: Tana Benavides
  • Photo 3: Tim Godfrey
  • Photo 4: Arnau Siches
  • Photo 5: Mooeo Munkhtulga

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Having Your Website Reviewed

After almost 4 years of shooting non-stop and building my online portfolio with both client and personal work, yesterday I had my first website review ever. Having your work reviewed is a very intimidating process, specially if you are a creative. Our pieces are like our babies, and who likes to hear that they have got an ugly baby? Fortunately, it did not go as bad as I feared and I just had to make a few changes here and there.

My website was reviewed by Raffaela Lepanto, a Milan based Photo Editor and Photography Consultant, as part of the LCN programme at Four Corners. Her first thought was that I was showing too much in an attempt to tell the world everything that I was able to do. And don't we all? I think that as creatives we don't like to be put in a box and be the person who "only does this". But, as she cleverly pointed out, showing the best you can do implies that you can also do everything else. Besides, it is a well known rule in portfolio making that you must only show your best work. So why would your website be any different?

Then we talked about simplifying my menu. For the longest time I wasn't very comfortable with how my menu looked as it felt too crowded, but I just didn't know what to take out and what to keep. She was brutal in her assertion: make it boring. And so I did. I took out all the different menu options that pointed to my different styles of shoots and past client work that never made it to the homepage as I always felt that they weren't homepage worthy. So if I wasn't willing to put them in my homepage, did it make sense to keep them in the menu anyway? No.

Finally, the About and Contact section needed a bit of tweaking. Like not talking in the third person on my blurb or showing my email address besides my contact form. Little things that you don't think about when making your website because it is impossible to put yourself in your clients shoes and know what they look for when they visit your online portfolio.

In summary:

  • I should only show my best work and the type of work that I want to shoot.
  • I should keep the layout simple.
  • I have to make sure that my client knows what I offer and how to get a hold of me.

All in all it was a very rewarding experience because you always have the feeling that your online portfolio is not there yet, but having an expert actually tell you what works and what doesn't makes a big difference.

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Changing The World One Photo At A Time

I am really happy to announce that I am now part of PhotoAid Global, an organisation that offers professional photographic services to NGOs, charities, and good causes in order to inspire understanding and action through visual documentary on human and animal rights, and raise environmental awareness. PhotoAid Global is the brainchild of Vanessa Champion, a brilliant photographer and an even more beautiful soul who has travelled the world living exceptional experiences with the most extraordinary people while telling their stories with her camera.

Vanessa set up PhotoAid Global to help fuse the two sides that she sees all the time: NGOs and good causes who desperately need money and are always looking for volunteers and supporters but who have amazing assets in the people and on-the-ground knowledge and can broker travel and relationships; and photographers and business people who want to put something back and are at that point in their careers where they want to make a difference.

Her efforts have also inspired the creation of new chapters like the recently founded PhotoAid Greece, pioneered by photographer Giorgos Xirogiannis whose goal is to help and promote 'people who help people' across Greece and to spread the message that in the difficult times that we live only through solidarity to our fellow human beings our society can maintain its cohesion.

Please show them some love and support by following their social media channels:

PhotoAid Global: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

PhotoAid Greece: Facebook

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I Wish I Had Known... About Submissions!

This is the first post of a new series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I speak with Wayne Noir, fellow photographer and the Editor-In-Chief of London based Rion Magazine, about what is a submission based magazine and how can creatives get their work published:

1. First of all, tell us about RION Magazine

RION magazine is a creative platform that showcases the very best in creative talent from around the globe. These include photographers, MUA’s, stylists, designers and music artist. We are both online and in print, and in the future an app too!

2. What is your job at RION and what responsibilities does it entitle?

At RION, I am the Editor-In-Chief of both the online magazine and the print issues. My duties include the running of the magazine. I have to set themes, ensure that all the creatives get mentioned, scheduling post for online, social media and email marketing. The due diligence behind the business in making sure we comply with everything. 80% of my time is making sure these things are checked, doubled checked, ticked, filed, and backed up. It can be easy to make a mistake and once it's in print, it can't be taken back. I have to make sure that every article, editorial, image, social media post is non judgemental, not slanderous in any way or offensive. If anything is sent to us in terms of advertising, I need to ensure that we let our viewers know this. Which can change people's opinion of an article. I tend not to publish anything that relates to advertising, though it may be contradictory, as if it's the artist I'm publishing, and therefore, if the feature is about a designer, that can be seen as advertising.

3. Why are you submission based? Will this ever change? As in, will you ever consider hiring a crew to shoot for the magazine?

Purely for content really, when I started RION 2 years ago, it was a WordPress blog that I used on my phone. We've grown now to a worldwide readership. We are still very new and I think that we will stay submission based for the time being but I'm not ruling it out just yet. Although we don't have the budget to pay creatives at the moment, I’d love to, believe me. We continually support the growth of the creatives and the community. We don't just accept their work, publish it and that's it. No, we constantly support by following their social pages, engaging in their work, giving shout-outs, any job posts that we see we put out to our creative community; we offer professional advice in some cases, too. Any profits that we do make we give to charity. Our current issue, the NOIR issue, is for a charity called MIND, to help boost awareness for mental health.

4. Why would a creative be interested in having their work published?

To get recognised for their work and their creative skills, to try and boost on your own profiles alone can be very hard when you are starting out. When I started as a photographer, I knocked on all the modelling agency's doors until one agency agreed to test with me, from there on I got booked for more test shoots, then proper shoots and then OK! Magazine. Once I was published, and I had a publication on my CV, other magazines, modelling agencies, and models seemed to take me more seriously. You just need that break.

5. What sort of photography is RION interested in?

RION is a creative platform, anything creative and high fashion is what we love. I love black and white so that's always a winner for me.

6. How is your submission process?

All submissions can be sent to submissions@rionmagazine.com, whether you are a writer, a designer, photographer, MUA, musician or in the creative arts. We request that you name your feature, and send us low-res images. Once our creative team accepts your submission, you'd then be asked to send over 300DPI images via Dropbox or WeTransfer and we ask that you include ALL the credits with this and fill out our disclaimer form that we will send you. This is just to make sure that the original copyright owner agrees and accepts your submission (If it’s not the photographer who is submitting it). We then file your submission, the supporting document, and credit list, and then our graphic designer pulls this from our server and does his thing. This is why we ask: please, please do make sure that you credit everything and everyone. Once your submission has been accepted and moved onto the next stage, it cannot be changed.

7. How do you decide which photos to publish?

I look for something that is different. Something that shows emotion, passion and creativity. Anything black and white that is raw with attitude is always a winner with me. But it's not just about the style, the images need to capture the designs, the model and personality. Every member of the team has worked on that shoot so the images should reflect every creative who was involved

8. Who is allowed to submit? Only the photographer?

No, anyone can submit to RION, we only ask that the original copyright owner signs the relevant release form and accepts that they are happy for us to publish their work.

9. What are the common mistakes that creatives make when submitting their work?

There are quite a few actually:

  • Not naming the editorials. It's your work. We don't want to name it, It's your thought process, so name your editorials.
  • Bulk sending submissions, it's really hard once the graphic designer has your work and starts the design process only to be emailed to say that another magazine has published it already.
  • Not crediting the whole team. There is no "I" in team. Everyone needs to be credited. There is no limelight with RION. The light gets shined on every creative that has worked on the shoot.
  • Not sending the high-res images, they might look fine on the screen but in print they can be very pixelated and don't reflect the hard work that everyone has put in. We only want to show your very best work and you deserve that.
  • Lastly, changing their mind at the last minute and adding or taking away images or changing the credits.

10. Should creatives pay a magazine to have their work published?

Oh gosh no. This is a big “no, no” for us and a topic that we are very strongly against. No one should pay for their work to be published. Never!

11. Any other word of advice?

Enjoy what you do, it can be stressful, there will be times when things go wrong and not according to plan but that's where your creativity can really blossom. Enjoy the ride, keep your portfolio updated and engage with other creatives, established or not, we all started from the bottom. Everyone is equal.

12. When is the next issue?

The next issue will be in September 2017, any submissions can be sent to submissions@rionmagazine.com. The deadline for this is the end of June 2017.

Brilliant! Thank you so much Wayne for taking the time to share all this valuable information with me. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"!

Thank you, JC!


If you made it all the way here, thank you for reading! I hope you liked this post on my new series and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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We Are Not Alone

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This week I was presented with a very demanding project, something that I have never done before, and I have to admit that I was feeling really overwhelmed. So much so, that I got some sort of writer's block and couldn't even start writing the proposal. Thankfully my friend Ben, who's an amazing photographer and an even better person, gifted me with an hour (or two) of his time to answer all my questions and to remind me that freelancing doesn't mean 'isolation', it just means 'freedom'.

When you become a freelancer there is a big adaptation process because you go through a lot of changes in your life. Some of the changes are obvious, like gaining control over your life and the type of work that you do; or being your own boss, even though now every client is effectively like a boss; or not having a steady income and having to work hard for your money. But there are other changes that nobody warns you about: like the fact that you don't work until it's clocking-out time, you work until you accomplish; or that you are liable for more things and the feeling of not wanting to mess-up is bigger; or that you spend the majority of your time on your own. But to me, the most difficult change to adapt to has been not being able to turn and ask your co-worker a question when you don't have a clue of how to proceed in a certain situation.

That is why it is imperative that you build a support network to help you out in moments when your level of expertise is not enough to overcome an obstacle or even in times when you just need someone to talk to who can understand or celebrate what you are going through. Being part of a strong and embracing community is not only about having people to go out for drinks with, or networking with those who might be sending jobs your way. It is about surrounding yourself by people who will help you become a better professional and who know that by helping you grow the whole community grows as well.

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Sometimes You Need Darkness To Find Light

Photography does not exist without light. The word photography itself means "drawing with light". Learning to understand and control light is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring photographers. But photography does not exist without darkness either, for it is the absence of light that gives us the possibility to build an image. And in troubled times like the ones we are living this thought gives me hope. We have the opportunity to create a better future if we add the proper light to our current darkness.

As a photographer you start discovering the world through your viewfinder using the available light of the scene. Like a baby on their self-discovery phase, you are more concerned about the technicalities of the camera than in understanding the world around you. You take the surroundings as they are and really don't care about questioning their reason for being or wondering how you can affect them. But, once the baby has learnt how to use the different parts of their body, they now go on a quest for discovering the world that unravels itself in front of their eyes. So now you take your camera and photograph your surroundings and learn to tell the difference between shooting at night or day or in different weather conditions. And you realize that the available light is not always enough or is not coming from the right angle. So now you want to complement the light with more light or learn how to reshape it. And once you have finally understood where the light is coming from and why it behaves the way it does, now you go into a dark studio and start adding light to your subject from scratch. And you create your own world.

Similarly, our generation was born into a world that was shaped for us by our predecessors. They did all the fighting for the rights that we take for granted today. And for a few decades the illusion that we were living in a more open and inclusive world made us feel like the fight for these rights was over. So we just focused in ourselves and in our self-discovery. But by letting the guard down, our eyes were opened by those who don't believe in equality and peace and the world that unravelled in front of us is not the one that the previous generations fought so hard for. Like the aspiring photographer, it is our time to understand where the light that we were enjoying came from and to learn how to control it and reshape it so that we can shine some light back into this darkness. So that we can create a better world than the one that was left to us.

Sometimes you just need to go into full darkness to be able to find your light.

Photo credit: behind the scenes image by Ferran Vergés.

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Do - Err - Learn - Repeat - Succeed

Before becoming a photographer, my last proper job was at a fashion house in Barcelona. I worked there for many years and I have to admit that in a way that company was like a school to me. I learned so much from them and I grew both as a professional and as a human being. The people whom I met during those years changed my life forever. One of the biggest lessons that I learned on that job was from the CEO of the company himself. He once told me that working in an environment which tolerates mistakes invites people to take risks and innovate. And to me that was the secret of the company's success at the time. When you fear nothing, you become a doer.

I grew up in an environment that was very intolerant to mistakes. At school, there was always the competition to be the best: best of the class, best in sports, best friend... second best was not enough. And because I have always been terrible at sports and I wasn't very popular with classmates I opted for trying to be the best of the class, which rapidly proved to be harder than I expected. There were just too many other kids better than me in almost every field. Except for English and Poetry, in which I did very well... but was never the best. At home, like in many other homes, if things weren't done the way that they had to be done, there were always consequences. Mistakes were always reprimanded, there were never lessons to be learnt from erring.

All this culture of intolerance to errors affected my personal and professional life for many years to come. Whenever I did something, it had to be done to perfection. If not, the first one to punish myself was me. And believe me, I can be my worst enemy. And if I didn't foresee a positive outcome, I just wouldn't pursue the task. I was never the risk-taker, at least not in my professional life. It wasn't until I joined that company that I discovered the beauty in making mistakes. You do, you err, you learn, you repeat, you succeed.

In just a few years, my co-workers and I took that local brand with a very niche clientele from a 60-employees company with stores just nationwide to a multinational company operating a global brand with presence in 80 countries at that time. And to do that, you not only need committed people who believe in your project and who bleed the colours of your brand. You need people who aren't afraid of making mistakes. You need people who understand that erring and learning is the path to success. You need people who feel safe working in an environment where recovering from failing is more appreciated than never have failed at all.

Now that I am a freelancer I still try to do things to perfection from the beginning because erring can be more expensive when you are on your own. But I have learnt that if I want to get somewhere I have to take risks and I mustn't fear mistakes. There is no growth in playing it safe.

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Clients: Hard To Win, Easy To Loose

Over the last few months I have seen in social media a hideous trend where some businesses use "memes" to make fun of what they consider a terrible client. And I must admit, some of them are really funny and very relatable. But how would you feel if, for instance, your favourite shop posted on their social media an experience that they had with you and made fun of you as a customer? Would you ever go back to that shop again? No. So why are your clients less worthy of respect?

Don't bite the hand that feeds you. As businesses we depend on our clients for survival. Without them we wouldn't exist. And disrespecting clients, specially in tough situations, sends the wrong message to the rest of your current and potential customers. If you don't believe me, ask United Airlines. And I am not trying to be clichéd here and preach that "the client is always right" because I don't believe that either. Sometimes the client is wrong. But they deserve respect, and if you feel the need to tell them that they are mistaken, do it in a positive way where you both get something out of it. In the end, like it or not, we need them more than they need us: they can easily go somewhere else to look for the service that you offer and they will find it better, different, cheaper or just about the same but with a better customer experience.

If you find yourself catering for clients that continuously drive you insane, it's not their fault: it's yours. Maybe it's time to think about changing your strategy: try raising your prices to filter who can afford your services, or try changing target markets and attract a different type of client. But in the meantime, suck it up! At least you have clients! And if you don't want them, I am pretty sure that there is a long cue of businesses that would happily take them.

Remember: you are a business, but you are also a client. Don't treat your clients like you don't want your suppliers to treat you. Everyone deserves respect. It's basic human decency.

Photo credit: taken during one of the Freelancers Club's masterclasses.

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When I Spoke To Juergen Teller

Before deciding to move to London for good, I came to the city in early 2013 to see if I would like living here and if there was a chance for me to make it as a photographer. I remember going to an event organized by The Guardian where Sean O’Hagan interviewed Juergen Teller at the Royal Geographical Society. At the end of the event, Juergen was signing copies of his books and after asking me who shall he sign my copy to, he asked me what was I doing in London. And when I told him that I was trying to figure out whether to move here to become a photographer he said that there wasn't a better city in the world to be a photographer. He doesn't know it, but with those words he changed my life forever: by the end of that year I moved to London, and the following year I became a full-time photographer.

I have a profound admiration for Juergen Teller's work. I love the work of many photographers but there is just a rawness and a bluntness in his photography that makes it very honest. I have been asked in the past how come I mention him as one of my inspirations if my work doesn't look anything like his... but I think that one thing is admiring someone and a very different one is trying to copy them! I don't want to be him, I want to be me and shoot like me. I just like the way that he portrays people in a way that other photographers are scared of: showing people and their surroundings as they are, with their virtues and what are considered their flaws, because there is beauty in everyone.

We photographers, like many creatives, capture a three dimensional world in a two dimensional medium. And while many others try to represent that third dimension by using perspective and other visual techniques, I believe that this third dimension is actually the emotion that we awaken in whomever is looking at our work. Juergen Teller has often been called a provocateur. But where others see provocation, I see honesty. I see someone trying to create the image that has never been seen before. And I share that vision, I share his struggle. Paraphrasing Iris Apfel, there is just too much sameness in photography these days.

I hope that one day my words could affect anyone the way that his words affected me. Moving to London was one of the best decisions that I have ever taken in my life.

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The Illusion Of Safety

The phone rang. A woman's voice with a soft tone could be heard on the other side of the line: "Good afternoon, Mr. Candanedo, I am calling from XYZ. We noticed that you haven't renewed your policy with us and we were wondering if you had decided to go with a different insurance company? And if that is the case, we would be interested in knowing what could have we done to keep you as a client?". I gasped in panic: "Do you mean that I have been working all this time without being covered?!". Luckily, it was a misunderstanding and everything was in order. But, that two-minute phone conversation left me with a feeling of unease for the rest of the day. How can any photographer afford the risk of being uninsured?

In a world where nothing is as certain as death and taxes, accidents come at a very close second place. And because they are so unpredictable, not being prepared for them is a risk that you just can't take. Not if you are a photographer... or an MUA... or a Hair Stylist... or any other freelance creative for that matter. We often don't think about it but our jobs come with a huge responsibility: we work with people, equipment, chemicals in the form of make-up and hair styling products, we borrow and hire goods for which we are liable, and when something goes wrong it is definitely too late to think about what could have been done to mitigate the repercussions. And even if you don't like to be pessimistic attracting the "bad luck", there are certain types of jobs that you just won't be able to take if you are not insured.

Buying insurance can be a very intimidating task. And sometimes you are better off studying to be an astronaut than trying to understand the wording on your policy. But these are not valid excuses for not being insured. If you are a freelance creative and you come face to face with members of the public (including clients and contractors), if you visit clients and work on their premises, or if you work from home and clients come visit you, you need to be at least covered by a Public Liability Insurance. A Public Liability Insurance protects you and your business from injuries to other people or damage to property caused by you or anyone working for you. How much should you be covered for? It depends on the type of work that you do, but I have worked with clients or premises that required me to be covered for at least 5 million pounds.

What other types of coverage do you need? Again, it depends on the nature of your job. For the type of work that I do, my policy covers me for:

  • Employers’ Liability: In the UK, the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 requires that you have at least a minimum level of insurance cover for your employees. Who is considered an employee?
    • Permanent full and part-time staff
    • Volunteers
    • Trainees
    • Labour only subcontractors
    • Work experience placements
    • Interns
    • Temps
    • Apprentices
  • Owned and Hired Technical and Portable Equipment
  • Personal Accident

Having insurance will not prevent accidents from happening and they can give you a false sense of safety. You still need to create the safest environment possible for you and for the people around you. But when things go wrong, having insurance can make the difference between staying in business or not.

Photo credit: Andrzej Gruszka

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What Is My Contribution?

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Today is the last day of the tax year 2016-2017 in the UK, and at the moment you can find me surrounded by receipts and invoices trying to put all my previous year finances in order. It is a bit early, I know, but like most self-employed people I do my accounting on my own and I would rather do it now than wait until the very last minute. And also, knowing how much tax I am paying gives me a sense of how much I am contributing to my host country. Specially these days when immigrants seem to be considered a burden. But while doing this I cannot help but wonder if this is my real contribution. Can a human being's value be measured by how much they pay in taxes?

We are all just a number. It is a fact. And it kind of makes sense that it is this way otherwise it would be unmanageable for governments to create policy. But that is from the top down. From the bottom up, however, it is a completely different matter. We are all individuals, and the sum of our individualities creates communities. And the strength of a community cannot be measured by numbers; it can only be measured by its impact in society. So if we want to live in a loving, open and accepting society, we need to contribute individually to creating positive impacting communities.

Our contribution as individuals lies in the consequences of our everyday actions. If we are good to others, if we treat known and strangers with respect, if we support those who do good and condemn those who do bad, if we spread a message of love and acceptance instead of rage and hatred, in our homes, to our loved ones, to our neighbours, in our workplaces, we are contributing to creating the kind of society that we want to live in.

We all have in us the power to change our communities. The ones who do good but also the ones who do evil. So if we want to live in a loving and accepting society we must outnumber those who don't. It all starts with one: You. And if you count me, that makes us two. Enough to start a revolution. Because our real value, our real contribution is bigger than what the revenue services will ever be able to measure.

Photo credit: Dan Clarke.

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This Too Shall Pass

We are living in times of change. From every corner of the planet you hear news about big economical, political and social changes taking place every day that are altering the structures that we take for granted. Uncertainty seems to be the new normal whether you are on the promoting or the affected side of the change. But change in itself is not bad. In fact, it is what has kept us going as an evolving species and, quite frankly, we haven't done too bad. How we manage and adapt to the change, on the other hand, can be the difference between survival or extinction.

"This Too Shall Pass." There is a long lasting debate about the origin of this phrase. Religious people claim it their own quoting their sacred books even if it's not written anywhere in them. Non-religious people say it is part of a Persian Sufi poem, quoted by the likes of the English poet Edward Fitzgerald or the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. But, disregarding which side of the debate you pick, you can't deny that it is a phrase that is very humbling in times of pride and very encouraging in times of defeat. And no matter where in the world you are at and what circumstances you are living right now, they too shall pass. So it is the Now and what we do with the opportunities that present themselves to us that really matter. Adaptation to change is the key for our survival.

But in the adaptation process to this ever-evolving world one thing must remain constant: our human values. Because the promoters, the affected, the protagonists of these changes will always be us. And the only way to move forward and to avoid self-destruction is to keep a strong set of human values as our priority: we should never bargain with love, kindness, justice, peace, honesty, respect, loyalty or equality. No matter the price or the sacrifice, human values must never be negotiable.

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Why I Created A New Website

As photographers we are constantly told that we should focus on a niche and just call ourselves one thing: a Portraits Photographer, or a Food Photographer, or a Weddings Photographer, but never two or several types of photographer at the same time. And this makes sense, as it is easier for your target audience to relate to you. You can be the "Food Photographer" that they need instead of forcing them to try to understand where does your food photography end and where does your newborn photography begin. But as simple and as logic as this sounds, it is actually one of the hardest challenges that I have encountered so far.

For us photographers, the camera is just one of the many tools of our trade. Our equipment doesn't define us, you can be a great photographer whether you shoot with an iPhone or with a £50K Hasselblad camera. The real magic of our art form happens through our eyes and in our brains. And inside our brains we have a broad set of skills and an even broader array of tastes that make us enjoy shooting very different types of photography. We might not be good at all of them but that doesn't mean that we can't be good at several of them. So it is only normal that you can actually enjoy shooting weddings, fashion, newborns and landscapes and be able to make a living out of all of them.

The problem comes when your potential clients can't make up their minds to hire you because your portfolio confuses them with such a variety of photography types. You think that you look like a more skilful photographer if you show everything you do but they might think that you are all over the place. And this is what had started happening to me with my portfolio. I have clients in different sectors and trying to show all my work in one portfolio was becoming very confusing, even for myself.

That is the reason why as of now I have separated my portfolio into two different websites:

1. Grey Pistachio, the current one, will continue focusing on fashion and on my personal projects and blog.

2. Portraits By JC, the new one, will be dedicated to showcase my portraiture work.

This way I can show my potential clients who require portraits my new website (headshots, portraits, corporate, pregnancy) and only show my fashion work to my clients in the fashion industry. Obviously this is not set on stone and it can easily change or grow in the following years, but at this moment I find that it's easier for me to explain what I do depending on the person that is trying to hire me.

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When JC Spoke To HUF [Print]

"Like Diane Arbus famously said: 'I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.' And I would add that if I didn’t take photos there would be stories in my head that would never come to life." Grab issue 59 of HUF Magazine where I am featured in the creative profiling section along other creatives worth keeping an eye on. HUF's Editorial Manager Kurt Roth and I spoke about where I find inspiration, about my ambitions and about what makes a perfect image. You can buy the magazine here.

HUF Magazine is the creative magazine for the creative mind. Exclusive interviews with creative individuals around the world. Creativity is our core. Featuring the very best in talent and skill. Exploring the creative minds of actors, artists, designers, models, photographers, stylists, writers…and much much more. It’s a gateway for creatives, who deserve recognition of their work, whether they are amateur, student, semi-professional or professional.

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When JC Spoke To Rion [Print]

"These days, literally anyone can take a photo, but not everyone can be a photographer. Being a photographer requires a set of skills that are very underrated. We are business people, we are artists, we are project managers, we are producers, we are re-touchers... and sometimes we are even psychologists! Our eyes are trained to see beauty, even in the oddest of places and with the click of a button we have the ability to freeze time. How’s that for a super power?" Grab a copy of this month's issue of Rion Magazine where I was interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Wayne Noir.

RION Magazine is a London based bi-annual fashion magazine featuring the very best in creative talent and emerging creatives.

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When JC Spoke To Ilise [Podcast]

A couple of weeks ago I took part on Ilise Benun's podcast series "Experienced Newbies" where we had a very interesting conversation on career changes as an adult. We spoke about what it feels like when you start from scratch around your 40's, on how to take advantage and transfer skills from your previous industry and we came up with some good advices for starting creatives. Listen to the full podcast here.

Ilise Benun is a Business Expert for Creative Professionals and the author of 7 business books for the “creatively self-employed,” as well as a national speaker and founder of Marketing-Mentor.com. During her 25+ years in business, she has developed and delivered programming for creative professionals, notably as co-founder/host of the Creative Business / Design Entrepreneurship program of HOW Design Live and via her popular online course for CreativeLive.com, "Command the Fees You Deserve."

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This Is The Time To Create

We are at our most creative when we experience very happy or very disturbing events. We get inspired by love, by joy, by our achievements… but we also get inspired by pain, by suffering, by the struggle… Intense emotions spark our inner muse and we have no choice but to materialise what we are going through in the form of whichever medium we work with. We are sometimes the victims, other times the witnesses, but we are always the storytellers. And in times like the ones we are living it is our duty as creatives to spread the word on the issues that affect our community, our country or the human race.

Fashion week this season has been accused of getting too political and has been under fire for supposedly trying to profit from anti-Trumpism. But whomever is making these accusations is missing the point: being pro-equality, pro-diversity, pro-peace does not automatically make you anti-anyone. This cause is not about the Musevenis, the Farages, or the Trumps. This cause is bigger than all of us, it’s about 7 billion people sharing a planet. It’s about being pro-humanity.

So it is only normal that Fashion Design, like any other creative endeavour, uses the channels at its disposal to express concern for what our society is turning into. Because it is in times like these that we creatives must create. It is our calling and our duty to protest, to educate and to give voice to those who are not allowed to have one. So for me, that is not being “too political”. That is just being a good human being.

Photo credit: Rein presentation during London Fashion Week.

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See You At LFW AW17

London Fashion Week is around the corner and this year you will find me shooting the runway for Hellavagirl Couture and taking over Rion Magazine's Instagram account to bring you the looks in the shows, the showrooms and the streets throughout the whole event. So go give them both a follow on Instagram to stay up to date with everything fashion!

Helen Woollams founded Hellavagirl in 2011 and was awarded Britain's Top Designer 2016 for her innovative and creative design process, often cutting straight into cloth. Each piece is individually produced and hand finished in their UK based studio. Hellavagirl creates Couture collections twice a year as well as a Ready-To-Wear line and a bespoke dress service. 

RION Magazine is a London based bi-annual fashion magazine featuring the very best in creative talent and emerging creatives.

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On Being A Professional Photographer

A few days ago someone asked me what did I think takes for someone to make it as a professional photographer, especially nowadays when literally anyone with a smartphone is able to take pretty decent photos. And to me, the first misconception that every non-photographer has is trying to equate the craft of photography to the business of photography. You can take very good photos without understanding how photography works, but you can't make it as a professional photographer if you don't understand the business.

Uncle Pete might shoot the most beautiful photos during someone's wedding, or co-worker Martha might capture someone else's real essence with her smartphone for their LinkedIn profile, sometimes they might even know how to retouch them themselves for that extra kick and someone might even argue that they do a better job than most professional photographers out there. But the keywords here are the "might" and the "sometimes" because being a professional photographer means that what you deliver has to be consistent with what your client needs, it means that the client can rely that you are not only going to be on time and deliver on time but that you are also going to in fact deliver, it means that every time that they hire you they will get the same quality and reliability that they got before.

Being a professional photographer means that the days that you are not photographing for your clients you are either meeting with clients or looking for new clients, or working on personal projects, or working on your self-promotion, or working on your accounting, or working on other administrative tasks. Professional photography means having to get and take care of photography equipment, computer, external drives, backup servers, website, domain name, business email, insurance... and the list goes on.

Working as a professional photographer means dealing with people, because people are at the core of the business in the form of clients, subjects or peers, and if this fact is ever ignored then the business is doomed to fail. Being a professional photographer means that we don't sell photos, we sell expertise, we sell solutions, we sell the ability to awaken emotions, we sell the feeling that someone gets when they see themselves or their products in images, we don't sell just a digital file or a printed piece of paper.

And finally, to finish answering the question I think that to make it as a professional photographer you have to understand that it is a job, and like with any other job you should get paid for it to cover your expenses and hopefully earn some money. Because professional photography is a career, it's a long-term endeavour to fulfil your passion.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrzej Gruszka

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