To supplement my travelling and to learn more about marketing from one of the most recommended hostels in the world, I am currently working behind the bar at Hostel Kokopelli in Lima, Peru.
One night working with my Bar Manager Guy Grigsby, I noticed on his laptop some incredible photos he took while stranded due to the devastating floods in Aguas Calientes earlier this year. A few questions later, I found out about his photoblog business “Some Guy and a Camera” and I knew this would make a great inspirational interview for Maloney on Marketing. So Enjoy!
What is “Some Guy with a Camera” all about?
Ultimately, “Some Guy and a Camera” is about just that. It’s a photoblog that I created to promote myself and share my work.
Initially it was a way for loved ones to follow my travels via my images. I began traveling in August of 2009 and started to blog, as many travelers do, but being a photographer I decided to gear the site toward my passion.
Since then, I have expanded it to include print and digital sales of my work and a newsletter as well.
How did you get started?
In my mind, I am still “getting started.”
I am new to the business of photography, but a long time lover of making photos. I have been photographing that which I see for years, but only about 3 years ago did I ever consider photography for a living.
I was working as an account manager at a large computer products manufacturer and making a living, but I wasn’t content in putting so much effort into making money and furthering the company’s agenda.
I feel like many people in my generation who yearn for a more self-actualized line of work. They are not happy with working for a company for years, even if that means a more stable source of income. I think the idea of “following your passion” is more acceptable now than it has ever been.
After having worked and saved for a few years, I knew that it was time for me to make a change. That’s when I decided to quit my job and travel the world practicing my craft, photography.
While traveling, I regularly update my website and I have contracted with a third-party called SmugMug to take orders, print and ship my photos.
I guess that was the point where Some Guy and a Camera went from just a blog to a business.
Where did the name “Some Guy and a Camera” come from?
I thought that was pretty clever, no? My name is Guy and it’s a play on that.
One night I was talking to a photographer friend of mine and we were tossing around ideas. I decided to start my blog and needed a domain name.
I guess it took us about a half hour of bad puns and boring names to come up with what you see. It is both humorous and it accurately portrays how I see myself.
Being so new to the business, I liked the idea of having a humble name for my brand.
Who is your main target market?
This is tricky for me. Until recently I just made pictures, but having worked in sales, I knew that I would have to have a more solid plan for my business to work, to support me.
I have, as all do, a distinct style, but have begun to expand on that to increase my audience.
My main target market is composed of those who love travel and enjoy art, but some of my photos definitely appeal to a younger alternative crowd.
Abandoned buildings and urban decay are a couple of favorite subjects of mine.
How is your photography different?
The way I see it, there are two ways to differentiate yourself in this space: what you shoot and how you shoot it.
Seems simple enough right?
Wrong. It’s a constant struggle to stand out and I am constantly thinking of new ways to make my work different. Take Machu Picchu for example. How many countless photographers have shot the Inca Citadel?
I could rattle off techniques that I like to use, but what I really search for is how I can show you what I see, as opposed to what everyone else sees.
That’s what makes my work different. It’s the world though my eyes.
What is it about photography that inspires you?
Photography is beautiful because it combines art with cool gadgets!
Photography itself is not my inspiration, but it is my means of capturing things that inspire me. Other artists use oils or charcoal. I use light itself through my camera.
The thing that I love most about photography is that although it captures the “moment,” it is still absolutely subjective. The moment I choose to capture may or may not be representative of what is going on at that time.
A photographer once told me that a photo is the ultimate lie for this very reason. Imagine an image of a woman in tears with a handkerchief to her face. The background is a blur and all you can make out is that she is crying. Out of context, as a lone photo is often taken, she looks unhappy. In reality, her daughter just got married.
That’s what I like about photography. It takes what “is” and opens it up to interpretation.
You were one of the unlucky few thousand stranded in Aguas Calientes during the deadly floods earlier this year. Talk us through it from a photographer’s point of view.
In retrospect, I consider myself actually lucky for being there and getting out safely, or course. As a person who observes and documents, it was an incredible experience.
As you can imagine, there were people that were very upset to be stuck there, but there seemed to be more that just went with the flow.
While I was there I wanted to document the evacuation, but I also wanted to capture the more human side of being stranded. I made a number of photos of folks in the Plaza de Armas, children playing with adults, groups around a fire playing instruments, things like that.
For me, the most interesting part about being stuck was to see the roles that people adopt and how they handled the situation differently.
There were those who yelled and made themselves heard. There were those who tried to pay their way out. There were those that cried and felt helpless. And then there were those who accepted their situation and made the best of it.
While I shot many of them, my favorites were those who turned it into a party. Once they realized that there was nothing that could be done to get out any sooner, they were content in making new friends and helping those who lived there.
A number of tourists helped fill sandbags to shore up a smaller tributary of the Urubamba River. There was a point when I tried to make it to the Urubamba to shoot the destruction, but was turned around quickly when the Peruvian Military saw what I was up to.
The highlight for me was the eventual evacuation by helicopter. I had never been in a helicopter before. One of my favorite shots was shortly before I climbed on board the chopper. It is an image of a helicopter taking off and a few soldiers holding their hats down and covering their heads. It’s one of my best.
How do you go about marketing “Some Guy and a Camera”, and what method has proved the most effective?
My most effective method of marketing is face-to-face.
I am currently working as a bar manager in a hostel in Lima, Peru. As such, I meet many people traveling around the world and I show them my work or give them a business card.
You get to know a person and then they have a genuine interest in your work, I find.
I also spend time visiting photo galleries in the area and showing them my work. The problem with that is that it’s not scale-able.
I have started using Google Adwords to advertise my work on Google’s network and third-party sites as well. I am still learning about this so my results are mixed.
Exhibitions are a good way to market yourself, though I have only had one.
In addition to these methods, I have a newsletter. It is a synopsis of what I am up to and what I have been shooting once a month.
For me, it serves to remind people to keep coming back and that my photos are available for sale.
What hasn’t worked?
Thus far, my Google Adwords campaigns have not brought about a significant return. This, however, is likely due to user error.
The problem is that because I am doing this all myself, eg website design and advertising, I must first learn how.
That makes it a slow process.
What does social media mean for “Some Guy and a Camera”?
When I hear social media I automatically think Facebook. To be honest, I am a bit torn and I’ll tell you why. I do have a Facebook site for Some Guy and a Camera.
I also have a “like” button on SomeGuyandaCamera.com that links back to Facebook.
Nearly everyone I know uses Facebook and it is a wonderful way to spread your name. People “like” your page and then their friends look at it and it snowballs.
The problem is this: I didn’t like the idea of uploading my photos to Facebook because of copyright issues. The following is the excerpt from Facebook’s terms of service that concerns me.
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
I have done my best to disable things like hot-linking and image saving on my site to protect my work, but on Facebook I do not have that kind of control.
As Guy Grigsby I love Facebook, but as a person whose livelihood depends on easily reproducible intellectual property, I am hesitant.
In the end, I have been using it because so far the benefits have outweighed the risk.
How important is word of mouth and recommendations for Some Guy and a Camera?
Personal recommendations and word of mouth are a big part of my website traffic. A product like mine is not often something that many people search for. It is however, something that people are open to if presented to them.
In this way people talking about my work is the best way for me to reach new potential customers.
Are there any special offers that you have made that have increased sales?
I have created “coupon” type deals that were sent out to my newsletter subscribers for a percentage off the first print purchase. That is the only special deal that I have created so far.
What’s next for Some Guy and a Camera?
I am currently designing a portfolio website, GuyGrigsby.com. SomeGuyandaCamera.com is my photoblog and as such it is rather expansive. I am creating a site that can house my best work in an easily viewable format. Simple and impressive is what I am going for.
In addition to my increasing number of web properties, I have entered an exhibition here in Lima called Late La Noche. It takes place in August in the district of Barranco.
Aside from that the most important thing for me is to always find new ways and subjects to shoot.
I am currently planning a trip to Ica, Peru to shoot this beautiful oasis in the Atacama Desert.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to get into photography?
My advice for anyone that wants to follow their dream is this: Don’t expect to make much money for a while, if ever. We aren’t called starving artists for nothing.
As for those specifically interested in getting into photography, I cannot stress the importance of practice enough. People may tell you that you need the best and newest camera and gear, but the truth is that I have seen some breathtaking work done with a camera phone. Before you spend a bunch of money on gear, take 10 or 15 thousand pictures.
Another piece of advice I have is that it is easier to sell your services and yourself rather than your prints. People would rather pay you to photograph them or an event than to buy prints of things you chose to photograph, no matter how good your photos are.
If the subject is personal to them, the photos are worth more.
Finally, for your enjoyment here is a collection of Guy’s images accompanied by a remix of Daft Punk’s Around the World. A fitting tribute.