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Photography in the 21st Century

Being your own boss is the dream for many. No matter the background, everyone wants to be able to break out and stand in the spotlight as striking entrepreneurs.

For many the dream is to make their business their passion. Thus, making this the common ground for these four independent photographers: Maurice Schutgens, Jennifer Squillario, Stacy White and William Steel. These entrepreneurs want to climb to the top and reach for the trophy.

As tempting as this might sound, it’s not always easy or possible. There are many challenges that these photographers, like many others, face on a daily basis. Their passion is their hobby, yet to have their own business and be successful entrepreneurs they need both time and capital, which at times is hard to get.

We have interviewed these four amazing photographers and have found that photography is by far one of the most expensive hobbies there is!

The photography industry has been constantly evolving as more and more people have access to high quality cameras – smartphones and tablets. For this reason, it harder for present photographers to follow the footsteps of Brent Stirton, Mick Nichols and Michael Poliza.

Photographed by Jennifer Squillario

Photographed by Jennifer Squillario

On the one hand, some argue that because a lot of people have access to cameras this is directly affecting the photography industry.  Others, however, such as Jennifer Squillario, see this differently. Mrs Squillario, 41, from Washington DC, a lawyer and on-the-side photographer, says that there are always downsides to every job. But fearing these amateurs with mobile cameras is not one.

Phone cameras can’t hold a candle to what a DSLR can do, even an entry level one.  I think as people get more and more familiar looking at photographs taken on cameras – comparing them to those that were not – they are able to see that there is a difference in the quality of the photograph – Jennifer Squillario

This wildlife photographer, who wishes she could go back in time and study photography, argues there is much more to photography than just taking a picture. Mrs Squillario believes that photography is an art, an art that requires the person behind the lens to be patient and adventurous whilst waiting for the perfect moment to be captured.

You have to look for the wildlife which may take hours, and when you find them they may just be lying there, doing nothing.  There’s adventure and challenge in it. No matter how much the photographer waits for something to happen, the animals and the conditions may never obey – Jennifer Squillario

Despite a photographers’ dedication, the lack of time and capital to pursue their dream job is what holds them back. Not only is time scarce, but also quite impossible to make a living just by taking pictures.

Most of the really successful photographers teach or do workshops. They also spend a great deal of time on marketing to get their name and work out into the public – Stacy White

Stacy White, 43, from Sarasota, started taking photographs in 2004 after her daughter was born. She just wanted to document her family’s life and take vacation photos. Although she is not a professional photographer, she believes that photography is a great way to document moments and feelings that otherwise would be missed.

Mrs White is not the only one who shares this perspective. Maurice Schutgens, too, believes that the moment captured is what invites the audience to the photograph. As a Conservation Biologist working in Kenya, Mr Schutgens, 28, from the Netherlands, takes mostly pictures of wildlife.

From charging elephants to stalking predators and stunning wildlife filled landscape – Maurice Schutgens

Photographed by Maurice Schutgens

Photographed by Maurice Schutgens

His most successful picture is ‘Footprints’, shot in Namibia in 2012, won him several competitions.

” I believe that people enjoy this photograph due to its symmetry. The dunes look huge and it invites those admiring it to imagine what that adventure felt like.

Even though Mr Schutgens has won several competitions, he hopes that one day National Geographic will come knock on his door. His desire to be contacted by the National Geographic is one of the reasons he spent around 3 hours to get the perfect photograph. Not only did he spent a whole afternoon waiting for this moment, but he also spent around US$3,000 on it. Costs include spare tire replacement, the drive from Cape Town to Sossusvlei and food; not to mention the possibility of getting his feet burnt on the hot sand and the risk of running out of fuel in the middle of the desert.

Hard work, dedication and patience are key to being a successful photographer. Hence, willingness to put time into learning and growing is crucial to expand  experience and knowledge. William Steel, 24, from Botswana started taking pictures in 2011 in Botswana National Parks. This young man won Runner-up Sunday Times Photographer of the year in 2015. He is an MBA student, ready to manage and market his own product when the time comes. Like any other photographer, he argues that a photographer needs to know the theory, but learns best through practice – studying is an on going project of any professional.

An artistic flair, an understanding of composition and style is necessary. I believe in wildlife photography an understanding of the animal is key – William Steel

William Steel

2015 Runner-Up Sunday Times photograph of the year – Photographed by William Steel

Photography, like any other form of art, is subject to different perspectives and opinions. Mrs White says, “everyone has their own style.” Trying to pinpoint what makes a good photograph is both elusive and arguable. For Mr Schutgens for instance, is all about the angles and perspective, an eye for detail is as essential as framing the photograph carefully.

A fresh perspective can turn a boring image into something exciting – Maurice Schutgens

These photographers believe that if you dedicate your life to something you are passionate about, this might help you break through the crowd. They are, however, aware that this is an industry that is hard to breach. Regardless of the number of people who offer their photographs for free on a daily basis, these photographers agree that not everyone is good at it.

Everyone can take a picture of an elephant, but not everyone can take a picture that makes the elephant erupt from the canvas, so to speak! – Maurice Schutgens

To be able to do any kind of job, one needs to be have the support of family and friends. These photographers are no different. Being an entrepreneur in the 21st century is hard as the market keeps evolving and technology certainly affects this industry. But to be successful these photographers need pillars in their lives that help them continue to pursue their dreams. For Mrs White it is her caring husband who helps her carry her equipment and for Mr Schutgens it is his loyal girlfriend who keeps him down to earth.

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