Too Many Thoughts Remain Unwritten

Today I was going to write about photography, but the recent events in Charlottesville have prompted me to write about Human Rights instead. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression", but in the case of hate speech, it always feels like this article contradicts the main purpose of this declaration to offer rights "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." If we are promoting and encouraging equality, why are we protecting discrimination as well?

There has been a historically long debate about whether hate speech should be free speech. And I understand that there will always be parts of society that will have an opinion that is completely opposite to mine. But one thing is raising an opinion, and another thing is inciting violence with what you say. Because words can kill. And words have killed. And no matter how many people try to deny past and present slavery, past and present genocides, past and present horrors against humanity, they have taken place. And if we don't do something about it they will continue taking place.

The solution at this point in history might not lie in prohibiting this sort of speech, as those who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of our human rights declaration would also take advantage of possible hate speech rulings to silence those who think different to them. But there are things that we can do right now to plant the seed of kindness, tolerance and inclusion for the generations to come:

  • Speak out. Use your freedom of opinion and express your thoughts. Condemn hatred, bigotry and discrimination of any kind. Talk to your relatives, to your friends, write about equality on social media and blogs. Even if it feels to your acquaintances that you have an annoying agenda, this is a matter of life and death. This is a time when our words can save lives. I found a very useful guide on how to speak your mind when confronted with hate speech on this link.
  • Elect better representatives. As clichéd as this sounds, we have in our voting hands the power to let our leaders know that we won't condone any form of support for hatred. And because they should work for us, for that is the reason why we elected them, we must demand of them to improve our education systems and invest in programs to promote equality in our schools.
  • Be kind. This might be the most important one. Lead by example, be kind and accepting of others and hold yourself to the highest standards of equality and inclusion. If we try to perform an act of kindness as often as we can we will all be contributing to spreading this message to the world. Every small action counts.

In the meantime, I refuse to remain silent about attacks against humanity. And even though the aim of this blog is to talk about business and marketing in the creative industries, every single word written in my posts is a part of who I am and how I think. And I feel that it is my duty to use my words to try to make this world a better place for every person and it is my human right to not let my thoughts remain unwritten.

Portrait by: Wayne Noir.

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Why Do We Take Photos?

Lately I have found myself coaching people on how to improve their photography skills and take better photos. And one of the things that I emphasize the most is that when we take a photo we need to understand what is the subject of our image to be able to convey a message about it. Sometimes the subject is very clear: a person, a building, a landscape, a dish; but other times we create images about experiences, about feelings, about moods, and then it is difficult for the viewer to understand what the photo is about. And even if it is difficult for ourselves to explain what an image that we took is about, there was a reason why we felt the need to capture it. The answer to the question "what is the subject of my image?" lies in the answer to another question: "why am I taking this photo?"

In this day and age when photography has been so democratized, I would say that the majority of people take photos to show others the experiences that they are living or the places where they go, some sort of visual journal of their lives. Other people, on the other hand, take photos in a less self-involved manner and more like witnesses of the world that surrounds them, like "a tourist in other people's realities" (Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977). But there are also people like me, photographers who get hired to take a photo of a person, a product or an idea for commercial purposes. No matter which type of photography you do, there is always a reason why you are taking an image. There is always a subject in mind.

The challenge relies on how to transmit the message to the viewer, how to make them understand what our photo is about. And for me the first step is understanding ourselves what the subject of our photo is. In my experience, this idea that might sound so obvious is not so obvious at all. Today's technology lets us take an infinite amount of photos for a very low cost which means that we end up clicking away every time that we want to capture something. Amateurs and professionals alike, with the "think less, shoot more" strategy we take a massive amount of images in the hope to be able to rescue at least a few good ones. And even if admittedly there are some instances when there is no time to think for too long because time is precious, most of the times stopping for a second to think about why we are taking an image translates into a better photo.

Do you want to improve your photography? Stop what you are doing and look around. Do you see any photos? Are you able to tell what the subject is? Now do this with your own photos. Is the subject as clear as you thought it would be when you took them?

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Waiting For The Bus To Come

Those who know me know that I enjoy cooking. More than enjoy, I would say that it is a hobby of mine. Spending hours in the kitchen taking individual ingredients, transforming them, and creating something that you can share with others is for me one of the biggest pleasures in life. But, apart from being a pleasure, it has also been a school. It has taught me patience and it has given me the ability to blindly wait for long periods of time to be rewarded with the outcome of my efforts. We all desperately need to learn how to cook.

It is funny that what I do for a living and what I like doing in my spare time are both related to the pass of time. Berenice Abbott wrote in her book 'The World of Atget': "(...) the photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes past." As photographers, we capture present time moments and turn them into memories from the past. But, as someone who enjoys cooking, the pleasure relies in imagining how a dish would taste in the future and then build with present ingredients towards that.

Carmen Herrera said in the documentary on her life: "If you wait for the bus, the bus will come." She had to wait until she was almost a 100 years old to be recognized for her art. But she never stopped painting. Not even when she was told at some point in her life that she would never make it in the art world because she was a woman. Talk about perseverance. Yet nowadays we are not willing to wait for anything in our lives: we buy pre-cooked food instead of cooking it ourselves, instant messaging has replaced almost all of our communications, we want immediate success without doing the effort.

If you have a goal in life you must have the patience and perseverance to attain it, but also the vision to make it sustainable in time. Immediate success often comes with immediate failure. Our business community is so consumed in going from zero to profit in the least amount of time possible that no one seems to be focusing on how to survive after success. In my opinion, it is better to arrive slowly but to have a solid foundation that will keep us going for long.

Don't rush into things, not even when you feel that everyone else is ahead of you. Everything happens at the right time. You can't have 40 years of experience if you haven't lived for 40 years. The same way that you can't make a delicious homemade meal if you don't spend a few hours in the kitchen.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Fashion Journalism!

This is the third post of my 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 Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist, Copywriter and founder of The Fashion Debates, about what fashion journalism is all about:

1. I met you through the Fashion Debates but you are also a copywriter, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and a fashion journalist. Who is Olivia Pinnock?

Oh I ask myself that all the time! I trained as a journalist and I do still really believe I’m a writer at heart but I’m very fortunate that I’m able to channel all of my skills and passions into many different areas.

2. What exactly is Fashion Journalism? Is it related to Fashion Critique?

Yes, all fashion critics are journalists, though not all journalists are critics! Fashion journalism is the reporting of news and trends related to what we wear. This can be interviewing designers, writing catwalk show reports, announcing changes to key staff in fashion companies, forecasting trends for the coming season, reporting sales figures for brands, and many more things! Fashion criticism is deeper analysis of these things. It could be putting a fashion collection into context and offering thought on whether it is a successful or unsuccessful. It could also explore why certain trends are popular right now, or what changes in the industry mean for business.   

3. How do you become a Fashion Journalist? Is it a separate career from journalism?

There’s not one path to go down. I studied Journalism at university and built up a portfolio of fashion writing to specialise and I believe that my training in traditional journalism skills has been very helpful. However, some people study fashion journalism and other people don’t study at all, they just train themselves through experience. I didn’t know I wanted to work in fashion when I studied so it was the right route for me.   

4. What is the role of the fashion journalist today in this day and age where a photo posted on social media is worth a thousand words?

Well we all know that what is posted on social media is not necessarily factual never mind good quality. While it can be even harder to stand out amongst all the noise on social media and the internet, I think we need top quality, trustworthy journalism in all fields more than ever.   

5. With great writing comes great responsibility. Do you think that a fashion journalist should actually know about fabrics, pattern cutting, design, and the basics of the fashion industry to be able to do their job?

Absolutely! You would expect a political reporter to understand how government works, you would expect a war reporter to understand the history of the conflict, you would expect a football reporter to know the rules of the game, so you must educate yourself as a fashion journalist to understand every aspect of the industry and its history.

The module I teach at London Met is called Fashion Branding & Journalism but as part of our classes I give them quizzes on current fashion news, names of fabrics, shoe styles, important figures in the industry, etc. We also take a trip to a factory to see how clothes are made. I feel very strongly that this is something that is very important and yet often missing from fashion journalism education.  

6. I know that you are also a copywriter. For the rest of us: what is copy?

It is any writing that is done for a brand, and therefore has a commercial purpose. It’s a very broad term that covers anything from product descriptions, to press releases, to advertising slogans, to e-newsletters and social media posts, to company information on a website or catalogue.  

7. Is it right to think that sometimes the copy on the cover of magazines or in advertisement is trying to exploit our insecurities?

Of course it is. It’s not necessarily so obviously at the forefront of editors and advertising executives’ minds when they write them but it is a very long-standing technique in order to get people to buy things and it’s very effective. However, we are now much wiser to this and there is quite a backlash to the negative impact the constant bombardment of messages that tell us we are not good enough unless we buy things to solve all our problems has. This is very slowly heralding a new age of advertising and media.  

8. How about fashion brands? How honest is their message? What can we do as consumers?

Well, that really depends on the brand! I think we should always be aware that any brand’s ultimate purpose is to sell and make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Of course, sometimes they cross a line and we have an awful lot of power as consumers to boycott brands we disagree with and to hold the brand’s we do like to a higher standard when they miss the mark by using our voice. It’s important to think critically and always be aware of the motives behind the things you see, read, and watch, and while brands can have an amazing impact on raising awareness or money for certain issues, don’t expect them to be saints. Expect them to be companies who need to make money in order to survive.

9. What are the Fashion Debates and when and where do they take place?

The Fashion Debates is a series of panel discussion events in London which explore ethical issues facing the fashion industry. Our past topics have included sweatshop labour, environmental pollution, racism, the health of models, and unpaid internships and work. And there’s many more to come! You can find out when the next one is coming up on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, or on our Facebook page and there’s also a newsletter sign up form on our website.  
10. How can people from outside London take part on the debates?

We stream all our debates live on Facebook, make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page! And by sharing your ethical fashion style every Wednesday with our hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearEthical.

Amazing! Thank you so much Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining with such care what Fashion Journalism is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!

If you haven't read the previous post of this series, you can check it out here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Creativity And Ego Don't Mix


A couple of nights ago I went out for drinks with a group of photographer friends to catch up and to share our projects. At some point in the conversation we started talking about inflated egos and we all agreed that something that we value in other people is humbleness. So why is it then that if so many people appreciate a humble person you find so much arrogance in our industry today?

I went jogging with another friend this morning and out of the blue they told me about how much they like humble people. I thought to myself: "is this a coincidence or is everyone trying to tell me something?". Thankfully, they continued talking and explained an anecdote that prompted that statement. So many people talking about humbleness seems to me like a reaction to the times that we are living. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about people wanting "Truth", and with this series of conversations that I have been having lately I realise that we are all just getting a bit fed-up with all the falseness and the arrogance that surrounds us.

There is a documentaries series that I watch on Netflix called the "Chef's Table", where different chefs from around the world talk about their craft and their path. One of the episodes was on Jeong Kwan, a monk and a cook from South Korea, and during the interview she said: "Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly." I couldn't agree more. I too believe that people with inflated egos are usually trying to hide something: they either feel insecure about their work or they feel like they don't have a clue about what they are doing or what is expected of them. So they react in this arrogant way to avoid other people from finding out. And the thing with creativity is that when you have your mind full of insecurities about you or your work, full of jealousy for the success of others, or even full of paranoia that everyone else is trying to steal your clients or copy your work, your creativity doesn't have a space to flourish.

Besides, being in constant fear and self-doubt has to be exhausting and no matter how much you try to pretend everyone else around you can tell. Well, almost everyone. There is a part of the population that enjoys a diva. But from these conversations I can see that the majority of people feel rejection towards arrogance and you don't want to be the creative that no one wants to work with. Not your clients, not your peers, not even your own team.

Self-confidence and humbleness for me go together. When you know where you are standing, and what your value is, there is no need to pretend. Everyone around you will see it. And if they don't, maybe it's time to reconsider your target.

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The ‘Norm’ Is Not What Others Say It Is

We have been made believe that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, that lobster is the mother of all seafood and that only fit people get laid. But, what happens if you can't afford to go to Paris, or you don't like lobster, or you have never set foot in a gym? Does that mean that you will never find love? Does that mean that you don't know how to eat well? Or, even worse, does that mean that you will never get laid? Not quite. But popular culture is full of these myths and society forces these aspirations on us in order to feel fulfilled. Could it be that as human beings we need these false aspirations as an excuse to explain why our lives are not the way that others expect them to be?

I have fallen in love in Barcelona several times; and before that, in Panama City many more. And at the time those cities where the most romantic cities in the world to me. And if you really want to know, my favourite seafood is octopus, and with my 'dadbod' I don't have a problem in the three-letter-word department. Like my dad says all the time: "the best wine in the world is the one that you like the most". Consequently, the most romantic city in the world is the one where you are at your most romantic. Period.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do certain things the way society tells you or otherwise your life will never be fulfilled. Live your life to the fullest but in your own way and not paying attention to these silly social conventions. We have become a race of 'followers' with the so-called 'influencers' leading the pack. Individuality and free will are not praised enough. 'Millennials' should be like this, Generation 'Xers' should be like that. We receive these inputs so much that we end up assimilating them and becoming that way. To be honest, the 'coolest' people that I know are not remotely similar to what society considers to be 'cool'.

What is the 'norm' for others doesn't have to be the 'norm' for you and that is perfectly fine. Be exceptional, be the only one of your kind.

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The New Trend Is Truth

Last June, The Global Language Monitor announced that the Top Trending Global English Word for 2017 was 'Truth'. Not 'meme', not 'god', not an animal nor the name of a celebrity, but 'Truth'. People just want the truth. In a world with so much falseness, could it be that being real is all you need to stand out?

Truth. Such a strong word, for words themselves are very powerful; mightier than the sword, has been said. Used with good intentions they can move us, unite us, incite love, support and confidence; used with the wrong intentions, they can manipulate us, lead to hatred, destruction, and war. But, sometimes, we are not aware of the consequences of our words. We throw them unwittingly without stopping for a second to think if they are hurting others, or even ourselves. And nowhere is this more obvious than in social media these days. The internet age has made us feel as if everything was ephemeral, short living. We post something today and a few minutes later is not in our timelines anymore, it is gone, forever. Or so we think. But, it is not. It is just hidden, waiting patiently somewhere in the depths of an internet server to come bite us back. When I was growing up I was always told: "The spoken word can't be taken back." Replace "spoken" with "posted" and it is our reality today.

Therefore, we must be very careful with what we say online, specially in our businesses accounts. Our brands can be easily tainted by the wrong use of words, and the trust from our clients, present or future, might not be that easy to gain back. Before we post anything we must always ask ourselves: Is this true? Do I have proof? Does this represent me or my brand? Does this hurt anyone, including myself? Is this disrespectful to others, even the ones who are not like me? Think about the words that you like being told to you. Think about how it feels when someone tells you that they love you, that they support you, that you mean the world to them. Think about how you like it when people are honest with you, when they tell you the truth. Other people, including your clients, would appreciate that feeling as well.

Use your communication channels (voice, social media, email, online, print) being true to yourself and your branding but with respect, empathy, tolerance and transparency. Your clients, and your peers as well, might have different opinions or backgrounds than yours and just because they do business with you that does not mean that they see life the same way that you do. If you show them respect and truth they will more than likely show you their trust.

All the love or all the hatred in the world can fit in one word. Use words wisely.

Photo credit: Tana Benavides

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I Wish I Had Known... About Marketing!

This is the second 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 Ilise Benun, a Marketing mentor and author based in New York, about what marketing is and how can creatives successfully self-promote:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and the work that you do?

I am an author, business coach, national speaker, the founder of and adjunct faculty at Pratt Institute and Maryland Institute College of Art, host of the Get Better Clients Bootcamp and a Program Partner for HOW Design Live, the largest design conference in the U.S.

Half my time is spent coaching creatives, especially the ones who are willing to do what it takes to get better clients with bigger budgets. That includes photographers, designers, illustrators, copywriters, videographers and other miscellaneous creative professionals. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years.

I have also written 7 books, including The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing, and Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. I edit 2 blogs, The Creative Freelancer Blog and The MarketingMixBlog, and I host 2 podcasts, The Marketing Mentor Podcast and the HOWLive Podcast. My online courses can be found through CreativeLive, HOW Design University and American Writers & Artists Institute.

I also have an online store where I sell tools to grow a creative business, including The Pick a Niche Kit, The 30 Minutes-a-Day Marketing Plan for Creative Professionals, The Designer’s Proposal Bundles and The Package Pricing Bundle.

All of that keeps me busy delivering the basic business training in all the different ways a creative professional would want to learn how to grow their business.

2. When did you decide that you wanted to help creatives with their marketing strategies?

In 1988, I was fired from a job so I started out helping my friends who were actors and singers and painters in New York be more organized; over the years it has evolved into helping creatives learn what it means to be your own boss and take control of your business and your life. So I wouldn’t say I “decided” – it was more a question of me responding to the needs I perceived around me with a skill I didn’t even know I had at first, and then practising what I was preaching to take control of my own business!

3. Niche, target, audience, market... for the uninitiated these words are very confusing at the beginning. How would you explain in everyday words what self-promotion is all about?

Let me start with what self promotion is not. It’s not:

  • Bragging
  • Tooting your own horn
  • Boring people with me, me, me
  • Shoving your business card in someone’s face
  • Convincing anyone that they should work with you

Unfortunately, most people think it’s one or more (or sometimes all) of those things. Instead it is very simple:

Self promotion involves identifying those who need what you offer (that’s your target market or niche) and letting them know that you are willing and available to help. Self promotion is everything you do to communicate that message to the right people, the ones who will be open to it – again, your niche.

4. Why is it important for creatives to get their products and services out there?

James Sommerville, VP of Global Design at The Coca Cola Company, said it best on my blog: “Show us you’re interested by reaching out to us. Otherwise, we probably won’t know you exist."

5. Are creatives betraying the artist in them by trying to attract clients?

There does seem to be a popular myth that art and business don’t mix, that one corrupts the other or that you can’t be both “an artist” and “a business person.” I, of course, think that is bull. In fact, I recommend not labelling yourself at all. Instead, think about the business tasks that need doing and do them, whether you are “an artist,” “a business person” or a dog.

6. In this day and age when we are over saturated by promotional material, how much self promotion is too much... or too little?

It depends! And we each have to figure that out for ourselves. Here’s how: if you have a goal to earn X dollars (or pounds) per month, you have to figure out how much self promotion it takes to make your monthly goal based on how much you charge for your services.

Also, self promotion is not a question of quantity, as much as quality and effectiveness. If you choose the right tools to reach your target market in their moment of need, you may not have to do much at all. But you have to know which tools those are! Sometimes, attending one targeted event will give you all the marketing ammunition you need to last a year, as long as you follow up.

7. Is it enough just spreading the word about our work? What else can we do?

The most important thing to do is develop and nurture relationships with the people who are in a position to either hire you and/or pass your name along to the right people.

That can be done in many different ways – too many, really. It can be done in person through networking. It can be done online through social media. It can be done via email and through the old fashioned snail mail -- even sometimes on the phone. The problem most people encounter is getting overwhelmed by all the different marketing tools available. Or using the right ones in the wrong way. The right way, of course, is strategically, allowing you to connect the dots so the right people get the right message at the right time. That is the basis of my latest marketing plan: 2017 Marketing Blueprint - How to Connect the Dots of Your Marketing.

8. Most creatives are very good at their craft but very bad at selling themselves.... myth or reality?

Reality…but for a good reason. You are good at your craft because you care about it and you devote a lot of time to improving it and making sure you’re the best you can be. If you don’t do that for the business side of your craft, you are almost guaranteed to be really bad at it. No one is good at anything they haven’t learned and practised until they are competent and confident about it.

9. Any other word of advice?

Stop making excuses and get on with the work of letting people know about your work. It is your obligation to yourself.

10. How can creatives reach you and what can you do for them?

What I can do is teach you the simple and basic marketing tools that will bring your ideal clients to you. If that sounds good, sign up for my Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor to get a taste of my advice. Listen to the podcast and then, if you like what you see, sign up for my free 30 minute mentoring session and we’ll talk.

Beautiful! Thank you so much Ilise for your time and for all this fantastic information. So many things that "I Wish I Had Known"! I am sure that a lot of people will find it all very useful. I know that your blog, podcasts, calendar and books have been very useful for me!

If you haven't read the first post of this new series, you can check it out here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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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, 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 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


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?


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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