Adrienne Pitts: Life of a Freelance Traveling Photographer
Adrienne Pitts is an award-winning photographer and creative director originally from sunny New Zealand. She has a deep and a'biding love for the beach, sunny days and blue skies.
She's been working and living in London for the past 10 years, and happily traveled around the world. Adrienne considers herself very fortunate because she is doing what she loves for a living. In this very episode, we explore Adrienne's path to becoming a successful photographer - not only that, but also how she explores and unveils her brand identity that's ever evolving since launching own business in the past few years.
If you can't see the player above, click here to listen to the audio directly.
Whether you are a photographer, an artist, or someone who's just contemplating a career in the creative domain, you'll find this conversation useful. We hope it gives you a different perspective, or perhaps confirms what you've already doing.
Why is this conversation important? Because choosing to work as an artist isn't an easy decision.
If you are certain about your path to become an artist, we want to offer you some wisdom and support as part of your journey by introducing you to someone you can relate to or aspire to become. The opposite of that may be true too, we challenge you by asking yourself if you are willing to do the work and take the risk.
Feisworld Podcast has a constant theme of transitions.
We invited Adrienne to share her transitions. Like many of us, she worked full time for the majority of her career before she decided to take the leap and become a full time photographer. In a few years, she built a business of her own and found clients independently. We dug deep into this part of the conversation so you'll know exactly how Adrienne got started, and the beliefs she had to march on during difficult times.
After winning the "PPA Designer of the Year award", as well as "Travel - International iPhone Photography Awards", Adrienne became even more recognized by a global audience. But it was so much of the heart and soul she poured into her work that made it happen.
[06:00] How was it like to be born and raised in New Zealand?
[08:30] Between the ages of 18-20 people usually go on an exchange program/experience, how does that work?
[10:00] Where did all your friends in New Zealand go for their overseas experience?
[12:00] Can you tell us a how did you get started in photography?
[15:00] How was your transition, from your previous work (art director for Jamie Magazine) to your current job as a photographer?
[19:00] How did you find and deal with your first customers?
[21:00] Can you share some details about your first few freelance photography gigs? How were the assignments and how did you market your skills?
[24:00] What are some of the communities you are involved with, that could be useful to other people?
[30:00] You won three very important awards (Apple Best App, PPA, and iPhone Travel Award). Can you tell us about them?
[34:00] What do you need to do, as a photographer, to be noticed by important brands and companies?
[40:00] Looking at your portfolio, there are several brands and companies you’ve worked for. Could you take one example of your past jobs/assignments and walk us through it?
[46:00] How can people learn more about your work?
[09:30] It’s very normal to be raised to leave. Most people come back, but I haven’t done it yet. I love it, [...] it means that if I want to go anywhere in the world, I usually have a friend fairly close by, who I can catch up with.
[22:00] [In this job] You forge connections with people as well, and that’s what I want to emphasize, the importance of a creative community. I think one of the best things you could do when you work in the creative industry is make sure you surround yourself with other creatives, and don’t try to work as an island, and don’t try to have all the answers, because you are never going to.
People need to be honestly told that as a freelancer is probably the hardest they are going to work, ever.
[35:00] Creating work that internally resonates with you and reflects who you are is the most important thing, because that’s going to be your point of difference. I think it is really easy to look at other people’s work and emulate that.
Welcome to the Feisworld podcast, engaging conversations that cross the boundaries between business, art and the digital world.
It's very normal, to be raised to leave. I love it. It's kind of a crazy melting pot of friends from all different stages of life. But it also means that if I want to go anywhere in the world, I usually have a friend fairly close by, who I can catch up with, which is my favorite thing.
You forge connections with people as well. And I think that's the thing that I really wanted to emphasize, is the importance of the creative community. Make sure you surround yourself with other creatives and don't try to have all the answers because you’re never going to.
Creating work that internally resonates with you and reflects who you are, is the most important thing because that's going to be your point of difference. I think it's really easy to look at other people's work and emulate that.
I think people need to be told honestly, that this is probably the hardest you'll ever work, but it's also incredibly rewarding.
Fei Wu 1:48
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Feisworld podcast. This is your host Fei Wu, today I am joined by Adrienne Pitts. Adrienne is an award-winning photographer and creative director. Originally from sunny New Zealand, she has a deep and abiding love for the beach, sunny days and blue skies. She's been working and living in London for the past 10 years and happily traveling around the world. Adrian considers herself very fortunate because she is doing what she loves for a living. In this very episode, we explore Adrienne's path to becoming a successful photographer. Not only that but also how she explores and unveils her brand identity that's ever-evolving since launching her own business in the past few years.
Whether you are a photographer and artist, or someone who's just starting out or contemplating a career in the creative domain, you will find this conversation helpful, I hope. We want to give you a different perspective or perhaps confirm what you're already doing. But why is this conversation important? Because choosing to work as an artist is a difficult path. I couldn't do it when I was 18. I remember how I forced myself, basically, to write down computer science and math as a major. Well, my entire being wanted to go after visual design, even fashion design, but I didn't. I was afraid of failure. If you have chosen the path of becoming an artist, we want to offer you some wisdom and support as part of your journey, introducing you to someone you can relate to or aspire to become one day. Or the opposite of that - asking yourself if you're willing to do the work and take the risk. Feisworld podcast is a constant theme of transitions. As for Adrienne, she also worked full-time until rather recently, when she decided to take the leap and become a full-time photographer, building a business of her own and finding clients independently. We dug really deep into this part of the journey, so you will know exactly what she did to get started, and he believes that she had to march on even during difficult times. After winning the PPA “Designer of the Year” award as well as travel international iPhone photography awards, Adrienne became even more recognized by a global audience. But it was so much of the heart and soul she poured into our work before that to make it happen. Adrienne has an Instagram account called @hellopoe with nearly 120,000 followers worldwide. She connects with her followers and became good friends with many. Her passion for travel and documenting the people in places she comes across with her camera resonated so much with me because that is precisely why I started the podcast. So I hope you enjoy this episode. Share it with your friends. To get new stories from us from these sung and unsung heroes and my world, consider subscribing to our podcast. It takes seconds on your iPhone or Android phone. Without further ado, please welcome Adrienne Pitts to the Feisworld podcast.
Fei Wu 5:22
I'm intrigued by people born and raised in New Zealand, not only because it's an absolutely beautiful, gorgeous country, it looks like a painting, you know, everywhere you go. I personally have not been there, but so many of my friends have. So I've been indulging in there basically through Facebook photos and Instagram. And to most people in the US, and I believe elsewhere, can't really say that I have a ton of friend from New Zealand like other friends from China and elsewhere. So tell me a little bit more about your origin stories. You're just getting started with that. I love to hear more. You know, where did you grow up? What was that like?
Yeah, sure. I mean, you probably know that TV show called “Flight of the Conchords”, there are posters, prompting New Zealand, in Murrey's office that appears on his walls. And my favorite one is the scene of South Island. And it just says “New Zealand - just like Lord of the Rings”. And it's my favorite one. Because it's basically true. And that's what I tell everyone who sort of asks what it's like. I mean, I grew up in the North Island, which is sort of a beachy, foresty kind of part in the South Island, which was in the beautiful Lord of the Rings, snow-capped mountains kind of thing. But I'm incredibly biased. But I think New Zealand is just such an incredible place to grow up. And you raised with this appreciation of nature, which you don't really appreciate at the time. Because you're a kid and you don't want to, you know. You're a kid, you want to do other things. But the freedom of being raised in a place which in the 80s and 90s had very little crime, and you could stay out, and play all day, and explore, and really not have to live by any rules. That was incredible. Another thing about being raised in New Zealand - I think I've mentioned this a bunch of other places, but it's so important - we raised to be a nation of travelers, and we're very much raised to leave home when you're 18, go and do your overseas experience. Traditionally, that's in London, because we're a member of the Commonwealth, but I never really wanted to go to London. But most people do go to London, and then live here for a couple of years, and then go back and continue on with their lives. But you're very much raised with the idea of “Okay, we look after you until you 18 (usually). And when you turn 18, you kind of get kicked out the door and sort of go along your merry way, which is fantastic.
Fei Wu 8:21
How does it work? You know, you're 18, but you have to go to college, and then you go home at 20. Is that like an exchange program or what, work experience?
It all depends, really. Some people go straight off the university. Some people take what's called a “gap year” in between high school and university where you go and work overseas, or you travel around with your mates because you've saved a bunch of money and you just kind of find yourself. For me, what I did, is I finished high school when I was 17 in New Zealand. And then I took a year as an exchange student in Chile, South America, and I lived there for a year. And then I went back to New Zealand and I went to university. It's very normal to be raised to leave. And one of my favorite jokes is “The last one out of New Zealand, turn the lights off”. It's so true. It's such a cliche, but it's so true because we raised to leave. and most people come back and I've yet to do it. But I know, probably, eventually, I will. But I love that you find New Zealanders everywhere as well. We've quite an adventurous life.
Fei Wu 9:29
Wow, everything you just said is completely unfamiliar to me. This is why it's so interesting to connect with people from all over the world, you know, the terms like OE, overseas experience. And the gap year is very familiar to, you know, people around the world. So that's very fascinating. So, I think, on one hand, it's easier that way. And people ask me what it's like to be an only child, which I am one, and most of my friends born after 1980 are ones, but once you're surrounded by people like that and families structured that way, it's very normal. For you, what was it like to grow up the elementary school, middle school, high school, and then to see everybody kind of disperse into the world and have to find a new set of friends? Where did your friends go?
Yeah, it was a real mixture of the people I went to university with and studied photography and design, half sort of went off overseas and scattered around, the other half didn't do anything related to the degree and stayed there. It's funny, the high school I went to in Oakland, I live in a suburb in London right now called Queens Park, and a few streets away live the guy I was a friend with at my high school in Oakland, which blows my mind because we run into each other at the bakery. And it's like, how are you? And it turns out, there are a couple of other people from my high school in this neighborhood as well. But yeah, I have to say, I definitely have friendships that mark certain periods of my life, I might have gone off traveling for a few months, and made these amazing friends in one country, and we stay in touch via Facebook and whatever else. But then my London friends have been a real constant over the past 10 years or so as well. So it's kind of a crazy melting pot of friends from all different stages of life. But it also means that if I want to go anywhere in the world, I usually have a friend fairly close by who I can catch up with, which is my favorite thing.
Fei Wu 11:50
Wow. There’s so much freedom associated with the lifestyle you've chosen, and so much more. You have mentioned, you know, friendship, travel, food, adventure, all of that, are reflected in your creative work. In particular, photography, that I have seen on your beautiful website. There's so much nature and people involved. It's not just one or the other. It's both. So it feels very lively. And I want to sort of hear a little bit of the origin story of how you got started in photography.
Okay. Basically, I discovered photography when I was 15 years old. And completely fell in love with it. And after my year in Chile, I went back to New Zealand, and I did a four-year degree. And I majored in photography. And I was like, I was going to be a photographer. The year that I graduated was also the year that digital cameras really properly came out. And, obviously, being far away in New Zealand, everything's quite a lot more expensive when it comes to electronic and that kind of thing. So I graduated with this fantastic degree. And I realized, as well as having put myself through university and gotten loans to do that, I'm now going to have to spend about $60,000 - 100,000 on setting myself up with digital cameras. And I realized I can't do that, I just couldn't take on that kind of debt. So I decided to kind of take a little segue and go into graphic design, which I basically had as a minor in the university by taking a lot of electives about design. So I was really interested and passionate about it. And I ended up working around, you know, various places in New Zealand, doing design work, and building that up. And I did that for about 15 years. And I worked my way up. And I ended up in magazines, which I knew I really wanted to design, I really wanted to work in publishing. So I worked with a bunch of different magazines, work my way up to art director and was the head of a large number of international editions of the magazine I created. But I did sort of realize that I really missed being able to devote more time to it. And the more I commissioned photographers and worked with photographers at the magazine I was at, the more I realized, well, I want to take those photos, you know, so about, gosh, two and a half or three years ago, I decided to make the switch again, and change from creative direction and design back to photography. So it's been kind of build circle over the past 15 or 20 years.
Fei Wu 14:31
Wow, it’s only been two to three years since you switch back to photography completely.
Yeah, exactly. Very scary times, not gonna lie. It's not an easy thing to do. But I'm glad I did it.
Fei Wu 14:43
Let's talk about the transitions. One of many things that I absolutely enjoy talking to my guests is about his transition, and everybody's transitioning, and, you know, everyone's stories are slightly different. And the funny thing is, we often associate transition with someone you got to be in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and it's not true. And parents talking about their young children going through a transition. So what was yours?.
I mean, it's a funny thing, I'm 38 now. And I realized, two or three years ago, when I made the jump, I was like, wow, I'm in this really privileged position where I don't yet have any dependence. I'm not paying a mortgage, my money is really my own to do what I want with and, you know, live a lifestyle that I want, when else am I really going to be in a position to make this leap. So it was really a case of “now or never” because I knew I really wanted to do it. And I knew I will, I thought I could do it. I just got to be away. And I feel as I'm passionate enough where I could make it work. But it's a really scary thing to do as well, making that leap. I remember the first two or three months after I left my full-time job, I woke up in the morning and I just feel guilty. I just felt completely guilty for not having anywhere to go or anything to do. And I felt quite useless as well. But then you hit your stride. And you just find that you really are reliant on yourself. And that's it, and you just have to get things done.
Fei Wu 16:24
I love that. I personally went through that transitions at the beginning of 2016, almost exactly a year ago, at this time. Yeah, I put in my resignation letter. And, you know, going through that conversation, why are you making such a decision? Was it a compensation? Like, no, that's fine. I very much can relate to what you said about creating something on your own. So I can completely understand why you made that switch.
Totally. Yeah. And I would love to hear your opinion on this: I think I also had started feeling really safe. I knew how to do everything that I was doing. And I was kind of just going through the motions, and I didn't really feel challenged anymore, you know.
Fei Wu 17:09
Yeah. Also, I like the idea of influence without authority. That was a position that I was very much in for the majority of my career. Because, you know, in a magazine or in advertising, the ceiling is so high. And then there is such thing as a glass ceiling as well. You're in these long drawn out meetings for creative reviews. And essentially, whatever you may be doing at the time, at the end of that funnel, you'll look at it like, who did this work? Am I truly satisfied with it? Do we, you know, push the envelope…? And all those questions come up. But there isn't so much we can do about that, you know.
Exactly. And feeling as though you have ownership over what you're working on is increasing satisfying as well, like, knowing that you can get hired to do something and just go out and do it. And that's not to say that you wouldn't be collaborating with people, but just having that ownership over the parts that you are contributing is pretty wonderful.
Fei Wu 18:13
Yeah, I'm so curious, and I'm sure people listening to this are ready to jump out of their chairs, because, believe it or not, you are a success model, that's someone who is relatable and very relevant to people who are considering this path, anything in the creative field, it must have been very satisfying for clients, even just a few of those at the beginning, to approach you to say “Adrienne, I want you to do this work. This is your commission work. How did that come about?
I think, in terms of photography, what I really did whilst I was still working as the art director on this magazine, is I really started paying attention to the work that I was commissioning, and the work that was successful, and what photographers gave me that really worked for me as an art director. So when I started putting myself out there, as a photographer, I really made a point of saying to people “I know what it's like to do your job, I know what you need from a photographer, because I've been in your exact position, and I can give you multiple different angles”. And I can give you a bright color if that's your style. So I was working full-time at the magazine. And I've been really spending a lot of time, nights and weekends, taking photographs with my iPhone and posting them to Instagram and really engaging with the community that exists on Instagram because it's absolutely incredible. And some of my very best friends have come out from this app on my phone, which I keep in my pocket, which kind of blows my mind every time. So whilst I was still working full-time, as an art director, I started getting approached to do sort of Instagram social media-based jobs, which was incredibly flattering, but also kind of reaffirmed that, oh, maybe this is the thing that I could go back to, because I do still feel intense passion and love for this work. So I started working with tourism boards and companies that would compensate me for my work. And let me shoot the way I really love to shoot. And eventually what happened was that all this freelance work that I was doing sort of nights and weekends, it really started getting in the way of my full-time job, which was when I really had to sit down and go “Well, am I going to really ask for another 10 days off from my full-time job so I can do this freelance job? Or am I really finally going to inverse these jobs and dedicate myself fully to photography?” So that's what I did.
Fei Wu 20:53
Wow, congrats. And this path sounds more or less familiar. I wonder what was some of the assignments in terms of how people approached you, how you sort of structure that? A lot of people, I noticed, are struggling with that, a few things like pricing and how do you articulate your skills? How do you not just build your website, but actually be able to say, you know, whether I'm a strategist, I execute, I'm actually a producer or do post-production? How did you do that?
I mean, to be perfectly honest, that's still a work in progress. I am the first to put up my hands and say “I'm really terrible with negotiation, and I don't enjoy conflict so much”. There's no conflict in negotiating rates, but it's still a really stressful thing, you know. So for me, that's a constant learning curve, because I'd prefer to be on the creative making side of things. In the beginning, it was a case of working with brands, and especially with tourism boards, that really gave me a lot of freedom to take the kind of images that I wanted to take and post them to Instagram and to my feed, into their feeds, and it really encouraged me to be creative. I think one of the first Tourism Board jobs I did was with Canada, and they were great. They sort of had a theme, they flew a bunch of us out there, we spent four or five days traveling around Montreal and their area, and you forge connections with people as well. And I think that's the thing that I really wanted to emphasize is the importance of the creative community. I mean, the girls that I did the Montreal trip with have become lovely friends, made a bunch of friends of Instagram. And I actually think one of the best things you can do, when you work in the creative industry, is making sure you surround yourself with other creatives and don't try to have all the answers because you never going to. If I get a job come up, and they sort of asked me what my pricing is, and I'm a little bit unsure, I have this amazing network of incredibly talented and very helpful people who are willing to give me their advice and say: “Oh, I would charge this” or “Oh, have you thought that”, and it's making sure that you're actively being a member of those communities and helping other people, and also realizing that you can go to them when you need a bit of support or a bit of advice. I mean, that's what really helped me in my career, are these really selfless wonderful people.
Fei Wu 24:05
This is great advice. In terms of communities - are those communities that you had mostly consist of people you have known on Facebook or Instagram? Or are there specific existing or well-managed communities out there, that other people, some of my listeners, could join and check out as well?
I have to admit that most of mine have actually originated online, usually through Instagram. And the connections that you make. So I can fly into a city and meet up with some locals and they show me around. And then when they come to London, I show them around. I know there are amazing websites, I think “Meetup” is one of the those where you can type in the types of things that you're interested in. And you can find groups that meet up and either do that activity or talk about that thing or have an experience. So usually through jobs and through the wonderful world of the internet is where I found my communities.
Fei Wu 25:16
I think, a lot of the people I've been working with are doing this, and part of what I do is also helping other people, freelancers, people with full-time jobs, to work as freelancers, whether full-time or part-time, something that they committed to do, and if they don't have a lot of obligations, family, kids, or are they, you know, just testing the water a little bit to figure it out and see how they can get their first few clients. And I can't emphasize things enough, as you had just mentioned, is the keep in touch with people and finding your tribe. And there's no excuse because someone like you, you travel all the time, it's not like you're in the same location always, so, I think, seeking out people, mentors, peers, is incredibly important. Make an effort to keep in touch with them and actually sit down, have a conversation, coffee or lunch and just be dedicated to that conversation. There's so much knowledge you can distill out of those things.
Yeah, 100%. And being willing to give your time and advice freely, as well as asking for that time and advice as well. You know, it's a two-way street, and we all know what it was like, starting out, right. It's new, racking. And it's scary. And I think it's really important to be really brutally honest about what it's like to work in these industries. And sure, it looks pretty on Instagram. And it does look amazing, but you can't see the weeks and weeks spent editing at the computer and not talking to anyone. I think one of the most important things I tell people is to set yourself up financially before you go freelance. I think there's a great misconception that you can gain some popularity or some traction on social media and that the work will come flooding into you. It's just not the case. You know, you have to be really responsible about your future and go, hey, you should have savings, and you should have clients already in mind who want to work with you, ones that you're willing to get in touch with and you think they're going to respond favorably, because the worst thing would be to finally strike out on your own and realize that oh, it's going to take me ages to build up this network. So I'd say definitely build up your network whilst you're already earning and gainfully employed. It makes the leap much easier knowing that you've got a little bit of a cushion.
Fei Wu 27:51
I can validate that. And then, I feel like it gives you options once you have evaluated how much you need, which is really based on your own personal burn rate. It's not some magazine, some article you read in a magazine about saving, you know. To me, someone like me, coming from a more traditional background, growing up in a Chinese family, savings was something that my parents couldn't emphasize enough. So, yeah, that certainly gave me options. Uh, personally, I had saved up well over a year and a half of savings.
Wow, that's amazing.
Fei Wu 28:33
Yeah, so, I think the four 1K's that companies would offer to you, I would say, take advantage of those things right away. As soon as you start working. As soon as you switch to a new company. I ended up recording these short videos on Facebook live and just telling people some of the decisions I made. And what really ate me in this process
Totally. And I think that honesty is just super important because in the social media that people consume these days, I think it's very easy to believe that life's one big picture postcard and you flip from one beautiful place to the other. And if you're lucky, you do get to go to beautiful places. But it's also really hard work, working for yourself and marketing yourself and dealing with your own accounts and everything. And I think people need to be told honestly, “Look, this is probably the hardest you'll ever work. But it's also incredibly rewarding”.
Fei Wu 29:34
To me, it's worth it. You know, I did not regret for a second for choosing what I get. To be able to do this felt like this is a passion project. But yeah, it's really above and beyond the passion project, something I've been doing for over two years. So I'm looking at your path, and I was surprised to find out you've only been doing this freelancing full-time for two to three years. And I noticed along the way, you've won a number of very impressive awards, to name a few “Apple best app” in 2012 and PPA and iPhone Travel award. So I am most familiar with the last one. But I would love for you to tell us a bit more about all three of them if you don't mind.
Yeah, of course, the “Apple best app” of 2012 was for the magazine that I worked on, it was run or owned by Jamie Oliver. So it was his own proprietary magazine that I was art the director of, and as happened the advent of the iPad, you had to develop and put out an iPad app. And we worked incredibly hard on it, really, really long hours. And I'm a very much a print designer, so the idea of having to work in pixels and work in sort of screen rotations and all the things were very foreign to me. But I had a fantastic team of people that I was working with. And in the end, we were named as one of the best apps of 2012 by Apple, which was very exciting.
Fei Wu 31:13
Jamie Oliver. Sorry, did you work with him directly?
Yeah, yeah. So it was his magazine, or it still is, it's called Jamie. So I was the art director. I started work on it from the second edition and went up to the 52nd.
Fei Wu 31:29
I love that magazine. Oh, my God, small world. I love his work. Once I happen to be in London for like a week, and I ended up buying a magazine, probably still have it from years ago. I absolutely love it.
I don't have my name in it then, cause that's where I left to go back to photography. So I was there from issue 2 to 52, I mean, the magazine's still going, they've got a new team in place. And it's fantastic. But how is that, that you've seen the mag, so funny. Yeah, so that was one of Apple’s best at 2012, the PPA awards, I guess, you'd call them the Oscars of the magazine industry here in the UK. Basically, commercial magazines and customer magazines are all sort of, you can put yourself forward and various categories. And I was nominated as designer of the year, three years in a row. And then the third year, I actually won it, which was incredible, and surreal, and very humbling, because the competition was with Ella magazine, and Cosmopolitan, and like all of these incredible magazines. And here we were this tiny, scrappy little team, just producing this magazine that we're really passionate about. Yeah, that was incredible and humbling. And then, the last one was the “International iPhone Photography Awards”. It was one of the things that it really gave me a renewed sense of, yeah, maybe I can do this. It's a yearly award that they give out for people who shoot images on the iPhone, which I did religiously for a really long time, and still do actually. And I won the travel category for that year with an image that I took in Iceland, so they're all sort of lovely little confirmations along the way that “Hey, you're doing something that you really, really love”. And look, isn't that amazing that some people are recognizing that? It’s a really lovely feeling.
Fei Wu 33:34
I can imagine that! And a lot of people, a lot of the podcasts, like you said, social media, promote this sort of a success formula or like a checklist that people can follow. But in reality, after interviewing more than 80 people at this point, and releasing nearly 100 episodes, I noticed there are very few success formulas that can translate from one person to another, what will do one experience to another for the same person? So, you know, it sounds fantastic that you've been named and all these confirmations along the way. What are some of your advice for photographers or creative folks to be noticed, to even be considered or to be on the trajectory of being recognized by these brands and awards? What do they need to do?
I mean, to be honest - and I know this probably isn't really what people want to hear if they want a hard and fast sort of super track - to getting somewhere is to be really genuine and really honest, and really yourself in all of your interactions. I think if you go out seeking only success, and not the things which should come along with it, which is collaboration and friendship, and wonderful clients, and being involved in meaningful things, then I think you're probably going about it the wrong way. I think that creating work that internally resonates with you and reflects who you are, is the most important thing because that's going to be your point of difference. I think it's really easy to look at other people's work and emulate that and go, Oh, well, xyz, that style is really popular right now, if I'm going to create images, which are exactly like this because that's what people are lacking right now, then you're not really going to get noticed. Because your voice is just going to blend with all the other millions who are doing the exact same thing. So, I think, creating the image which resonates with you and creating the work that inspires you and makes you happy – I, really, I have the sort of thing that I like to tell people. And it's the best advice I ever got, is to always have intent. At university, it was one of my lecturers, Tony, as soon as we presented an assignment, he'd go: “Okay, what was your intent?”. And we'd have to tell him what we intended to create before we even created it. And I think that's hugely important. And the other thing is that you really need to approach the work that you're doing with feeling. If you're automating your processes, or if you're just trying to do something because other people do it, then that's not reflecting who you are. If you do it with feeling, then people sense that and they feel it and they feel that authenticity. And that gets you noticed, eventually. And if it doesn't get you noticed, then at least you’re having really authentic interactions with people, and you're putting your very honest self out there, which is a pretty amazing thing in and of itself.
Fei Wu 36:50
I love what you're sharing here, because I think that's often the struggle that many people have. And I'm sure people like yourself of like us, and we're still trying to sort of overcome or sometimes remind ourselves of over and over again, at running a podcast, it's very easy to want to mimic other top 50, top 100. And you know, what you said really appears during post-production. It's like “I want to sound like that”. But ultimately, the hardest thing and, at the same time, the easiest thing is to find yourself, to be yourself.
Totally, yeah, it's listening to how you actually feel about a project or how you feel about the thing that you're creating. It's almost like you put yourself into some kind of automated flow where you just do it and kind of discover along the way how it's working and how it's turning out. But at least you're intuitive along the way, you know.
Fei Wuu 37:50
I love that you mentioned the Flight of the Conchords. They just made me laugh until my stomach hurts. [laughs]
And I have a little Flight of the Conchords story I can tell you as well. Which is about my very first job out of design school. There was a local theater in Wellington, New Zealand, where I lived in and where I went to university. It's called BATS Theatre. And I'm sure it's still around. It was a wonderful, independent, small, quirky theater. And they had this some monthly publication where they put in all the dates and times and details of their plays and their shows and everything. And I was fresh out of university. So I went to them. They were advertising for freelance designer, and I went in, and I got the job, and really, you know, because there was such a small outfit, they didn't have that much cash to pay me to work. So I got a lot of free tickets to shows, and I ended up seeing Flight of the Conchords when they were playing there. And I just remember going to this show and my face physically hurting for two days afterward. Because I had never laughed so much in my entire life. I remember thinking “God, these guys are going to be really, really big”. And then obviously clearly they both have become huge. So it's really wonderful. And I'm really glad. You know, there's an example of taking an opportunity that came along, and I would never advocate doing things for free, but at the same time, I've got to say, Flight of the Conchords were pretty amazing.
Fei Wu 39:59
You know, looking at your portfolio, at all these amazing brands such as Google, I wonder if you could take one example and kind of walk us through the assignment to say, this is kind of how you approach your work.
Hmm. Interesting. I mean, there are basically two approaches. Well, there's two types of job that I do, really, the majority of what I do is for magazines for publications. And they generally come to me with an assignment and say, we need eight images of this, this and this. Maybe it's a festival. Lonely Planet came to me and they said: “Look, in every issue, we look really deeply into one specific location. And we send a photographer and the journalist out for about nine days. And we do in-depth coverage of that area. And we go to various cities, or in this case, it was various Greek islands. And we give recommendations of places to eat, places to stay, things to do. So your job is to go to every single one of these locations over this period of time, photograph those things, but also be creative in photographing anything else that you see, and creating images, which you think are going to be beautiful and compelling, and really make people want to go to those locations”. So that's one type of job that I do. And so that Lonely Planet job was nine days, and it was two days in Athens and then the other ones traveling to about four different Greek islands, which is a lot of ground to cover as well. So they’re really busy days, they're very hectic, but they're hugely rewarding because you get to meet the most incredible people. You know, normally, the journalist has lined up a bunch of people to speak to, people who are farmers, cheese makers, bar owners, and you get to immerse yourself in worlds which you really know nothing about, which to me is the most exciting - is meeting people, talking to people and realizing that we are all the same. Wherever you go, we're all just trying to do the best we can and be excited about life. And then the other type of job that I do is – Google is a really good example of that - is I get hired to take photographs, however, I really want which is incredibly fulfilling as well. And really nerve-wracking because without a hugely specific brief, sometimes it can be a little bit of a challenge to go “Oh, my God, you just want me to take photos. But what do you want me to take photos of?”. And that's where it's really important to talk with your client and get a really good understanding of, okay, you might want to see this through my eyes, but what is particular would you like to see, or is there an over overarching, emotional feeling that you'd like conveyed, and then you have a dialogue and talk about these things. And then you get a really good sense of the type of thing to take photographs of. So the Google job was a two-day shoot, in Sydney, which I coordinated with a fantastic team at Google and a production company as well, based in Sydney, we had a bunch of Skype calls and video conferences. And they went out scouting for me because obviously, it was on the other side of the world. And I've been to Sydney quite a bunch. But I hadn't been in a few years, I didn't know how things stood with needing permits to shoot in various places. So they did a whole bunch of scouting for me, I landed, we shot for two days with the Pixel phone, which is what the campaign was for. And it was really wonderful, actually just creating the types of images that this client needed, which were bright, colorful, exciting, but also real life, real-world photographs that anyone can really take. So yeah, that's a really long-winded way of saying that I either work to quite a set brief, but still with the freedom to in between times shoot things that I find interesting. Or in the case of Google or the tiny bit of social media work I do with tourism boards, they really just say “You go at it and produce images, and you share them”. I love both, to be perfectly honest, I'm really happy doing both because I find them both hugely rewarding.
Fei Wu 44:41
I think a variety in our work is really important because not only it makes us better at what we do, but sometimes we feel like we know where we want our careers to travel to, and sometimes we don't know. And so much of the work that I enjoy, I love doing, I have to do with the people and we do have to do with this location as well. And, you know, sometimes I find some of the projects more mundane, but the people are incredible. We're enjoying food, and we're having a good time, and getting things done, and making a real impact in their business and in their lives. It just indescribable.
It's a wonderful synergy, isn't it? When you get to work with incredible people who are also really passionate and hugely knowledgeable about what they do. So wow, we both have these ideas and let's work together. And I've been really lucky this past year to work with some incredible journalists who have just really taught me a lesson on how to approach people, how to build a connection with people, when you don’t speak the same language, and what kind of questions to ask to really get to the heart of a story. You know, I’ll sit back and I will watch them. And it's a huge privilege, I have to say, to see people do their work, who are passionate about it.
Fei Wu 46:08
Yes, that's precisely why I enjoy podcasting. You know, there are so many people from so many professions I knew so little about, and the idea and just a privilege to be able to speak with them and talk about their day, their origin stories, it's, like you said, is so satisfying. And with many other people out there, I notice you have a very significant following at this point, so if people were to discover if they want to learn more about your work, what's the order of things and places that they should go?
Yeah, I'd say, first off, my website, because I do update it really, really regularly, which is Adrennepitts.com, and then Instagram. I'm still basically obsessed with it, and, I think, I upload a photo a day usually, and on Instagram and Twitter my handle is @hellopoe. Yeah, so those are the three places that they'll be able to see most of my work and little behind the scenes.
Fei Wu 47:18
Awesome. That's lovely. Thanks so much, Adrienne. It was so fun!
Fei Wu 47:39
Hey, it’s Fei, I am back for a few words at the end of the show. I hope you enjoyed what you heard. You can visit us online at Feisworld.com or social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, also under Feisworld, to keep things simple. I personally review and respond to all the messages and love to hear from you. Thank you and lots of hugs. See you next week.
Credit: Music by Florian Bur
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