Talking About Careers With a Highly Successful Photographer

“Saying no is saying yes to what you want.” Chris Burkard is a world-renowned photographer who is on a level of photography and client list that many aspire to be on.

It’s not the success of his work that drives him. It’s rather the other projects he gets to work on because of his success that makes his career grow and that stimulates him.

He's published several books. He published a children’s book a couple of years ago, and he recently published At Glacier’s End, which is his new book about the flow of water and how water moves from one place to another.

He states that doing your personal projects is crucial for your long-term success as a photographer or director. If you can maintain your work for clients consistently over a year or period of time and see it as a baseline for your career, you can use the quiet times to be creative and focus on projects that answer your reasons why you became a photographer in the first place.

He was able to do a TED talk because of his children’s book, and he says that writing the book about Iceland’s flow of water is the kind of thing that inspires him again when doing commercial work and with regular client interactions and projects. It keeps him sharp.

He speaks about how when we first start out, it’s about fear and that we never say no to anything and how you need something to keep you sharp later on in your career. It's the side projects, the work you do because of your love for what you do that keeps you sharp in the long run.

“If you build it, they will come” is a beautiful expression, but whether it will be successful or not is a risk. For him and Chase, it’s a risk worth taking, and both their lives are perfect examples of this. 

He speaks about how many people now ask how they can also become successful, and for them, it’s really hard to answer, although they both believe they give good advice. It’s like having all the pieces of a puzzle, but not having any display on the box to show you what you’re trying to build. If you don’t know the end goal and where you want to be, it’s really hard for someone to give advice on how to get there.

What I Took From This Video

  1. Take more risks with regards to creative projects.
  2. Build something. If it’s a book, portfolio, or documentary video, work on something bigger than your day-to-day work that gets you paid. You’ll never know where it might lead, and it's part of the fun of being in this industry. 
  3. Have an end goal. Try to envision yourself in the future. If you think about how people will talk about you in the future, what would you want them to say? Do you want them to say you’re the person who directed this film, started a successful YouTube channel, or published this book? What is your legacy and what will you be proud of accomplishing? Once you have this, it’s much easier to put the puzzle pieces together.

I enjoyed this video, especially watching it at this time of the year, when we are all thinking about the new year and how we will work on ourselves and our work and how we want to grow. What were the points you got out of the video? Please share in the comments.

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Jeff Walsh's picture

Chris Burkard is awesome, and I love his work. Chase is always a joy to watch, I love his interviews. Good stuff

Wouter du Toit's picture

Thanks for sharing Olivia. Your purpose is to do what you love. Have a good one!