When you’re in a romantic relationship and both of you are landscape photographers, it’s easy to make any travels central to photography. But should you? In the final episode of this series, four couples give their best advice on juggling photography and a romance like a pro. But first, here's how these couples handle their holidays.
The Holiday “From Hell”
From short breaks to multi-week outings; the holidays of Stan Bessems and Inge Bovens are absolute nightmares for non-photographers. They always go somewhere that is photographically interesting. It starts months in advance when they try to find interesting locations before even booking. Accommodations follow preferred hotspots for shooting, so they aren’t often equipped with all the latest amenities. To Inge and Stan, everything pretty much revolves around photography. They are the guys that get up at the crack of dawn to be at the right place at the right time. And when it's time for golden hour at sunset, you’ll probably find them out in the field somewhere.
With children, it’s logistically a very different ballgame. Dylan Toh and Marianne Lim always plan to stay a minimum of two to three nights at a location, so they don’t have to pick up and move the children every day. This of course has the added benefit to return to locations to maximize chances of getting good conditions.
It really depends on what your ideal holiday looks like. But non-photographers typically agree that getting up before dawn to hike to a remote location isn’t the best idea of a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle.
While Alain and Natalie Briot do travel to continuously explore new photographic possibilities and locations, they make sure that their holidays are not photo-trips. Remember that Natalie isn’t a photographer herself, but that she manages the logistics of their business. Alain told me, “When you struggle to make it, you focus on making it, not on taking time off.” At this point in their careers, it’s easier to let go of that notion. And it definitely helps that they have always lived where they photograph. Any trips don’t necessarily mean very long travel distances. Today, they live in the Sonoran desert, a beautiful area that also offers fantastic photographic opportunities in addition to great weather. “Spending Christmas outside in the sun is hard to beat!”
The best advice that Natalie has given Alain is that not all of their time should be invested in their business. But that might be one of the advantages of working with your spouse or partner; it makes you want to do other things besides running your business. Of course for that to happen you have to become successful first. A business that’s not generating enough money to support non-business activities isn’t healthy, so get your priorities straight. Alain and Natalie were in that situation when they started, but soon after things began to pick up for them, the same thing happened.
Alain explains, “We were selling so much that we did not have time to do anything else. All of our time was spent printing, matting, selling, and shipping. The solution was to refocus our approach and move from focusing on quantity to focusing on quality. This was a key moment in our business. It allowed us to reach an entire different level of success, one that allows us to have a rich personal and social life and engage in multiple non-photography related activities.”
Alister Benn and Juanli Sun travel locally in Scotland together when they’re not running workshops. So their photography-related leisure travels are confound to scouting locations. These guys are in the field over 30 weeks per year with clients and “eat, breathe, and sleep photography”. Any vacations would be photography related.
But as they consider the time spend with their tours to be the same as a vacation anyway, a holiday is never far. They love sharing with others. “Running workshops like this is such a rewarding thing to do for a living.” Alister and Juanli aren’t the kind of people you see relaxing on the beach. Well, not in the sense you’d expect anyway. Alister relaxes by doing something. If it’s not shooting, he likes to play guitar for a few hours a day. Juanli’s Chinese work ethic is strong, so she can’t relax if she know something has to be done. So she works.
The Photographer / Non-photographer Relationship
You can always try to get your spouse or partner a camera. But if he or she isn’t interested in taking pictures, you can combine several things with photographing majestic landscapes. There are of course other art forms such as drawing or painting. Or camping, mountain biking, or just taking a stroll with the occasional stop. I often go on bush crafting trips with friends where we can combine our passions. My wife likes to film our trips in remote places, so that keeps her busy while I’m tweaking compositions and juggling lenses.
“The key is that you both need to be hungry,” Alain adds. If only one of you is, then the other will sooner or later drop the ball when adversity gets to be too much. You also need to put a lot of effort in what you do. Effort equals success. Both Natalie and Alain work very hard at what they do: “People are sometimes surprised at our success. What they don’t see is the amount of effort we put into what we do. We don’t talk much about it, we just do it.” A good tip is to have specific goals and deadlines. They help to get things done and function as waymarks along your path.
Dylan and Marianne shoot together but stay very true to their own agenda. Useful advice. Especially within the context of the growing trend of landscape photo manipulation, which would often be the source of debates at home for Dylan and Marianne. In the end, their hearts are always set on recording a revitalized version of the truth they recorded at the scene.
Dylan does think that there needs to be a compromise. It can’t all be about what you want to do photographically. A good relationship will stand up to splitting desires 50:50 between the two and finding common ground. “This last trip to Canada, I literally could have been shooting all day, every day with the beautiful scenery on offer. but really compromised to having one shoot per day”.
Alister says that the biggest bonus of working together in the arts is that everything they do is a joint decision. They’re very close and spend a seemingly impossible amount of time together. “It’s truly impossible to ever feel like we’re growing apart, as we morph from one phase of our lives into another so seamlessly; it’s very organic.”
Do try to divide your time as best as you can and be patient. A person who is not a photographer probably does not completely understand your urgent need to take the best image you can. Live and let live! Stan Bessems with the final thought, “Inge keeps telling me to be patient; that all good things come to those who wait. Usually she's right.”