October 15th 2008 by Andrew S Gibson
Can there be a more romantic location to work as a photographer than Africa? Wildlife photographer Andy Biggs is living the dream.
Can there be a more romantic location to make a living as a photographer than the African wilderness? Wildlife photographer Andy Biggs is doing just that. His diverse business mixes photography safaris and workshops with stock and fine art photo sales. More impressive still is the fact that Andy only started taking photos eight years ago.
What’s more, Andy Biggs’ photos are extremely good. I asked him some questions about his photography and his business. Here’s the interview:
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look/atmosphere/feel do you try and create in your photos? Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I like to have my images describe the following, and hopefully all three at the same time: Timeless, Remote and Hope. My inspirations primarily come from watching the wildlife itself, and I enjoy every second that I am out on safari. The resulting photography is just an extension of my love of the wildlife.
When did you start taking photos and why? What made you decide to explore photography as a means of artistic expression?
I started taking photographs back in 2000, and I decided to make it my full time career in 2002. It took a couple of years to get to where I could support my family, and I haven’t looked back.
Name three photographers or artists you like and why.
Ansel Adams for his larger than life black and white images, Galen Rowell for his passion for the outdoors and for conservation and Art Wolfe for his ability to come away with wonderful photographs in challenging circumstances.
Why Africa? What attracted you to the continent?
This is a difficult question to answer, as I don’t know what initially attracted me there. I think that the movie Out of Africa had a romanticized idea of what life in Africa is like.
It seems to me that your photographic income comes from a mix of your photographic safaris, stock sales and fine art print sales. How important is diversification for the modern photographer? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt from the years that you’ve been in business?
Diversification is hugely important in the industry at the moment, as declining stock sales and more competition seem to be commonplace right now. Even though I have different streams of revenue, I have tried to only concentrate on African imagery, which is more of a niche. Be a niche player, and marketing yourself will be much easier.
Tell us a little about your photographic safaris. Why did you start the business, what need did you see? What obstacles and difficulties have you faced as you established the business?
The photographic safari business is really one of teaching and also one of being in the hospitality business. It is a merger of both. It takes a special personality to do it well, and I think I was born with the ‘gift of gab’ in that I love interacting with people.
How successful have you been marketing your stock photos through your own website? I’m sure it helps that you specialise in a particular niche. What’s your take on the present state of the stock industry and where do you think its heading?
I don’t have much to compare my stock business to, but I have done ok so far. I am not confident that I would have been able to land a deal with Banana Republic for their summer 2008 campaign if was working for somebody like Getty or Corbis. So far, so good, but I am always evaluating my options going forward.
You also sell fine art prints through your website. What tips would you give any photographer who’d like to do the same?
Understand who your customers are, and dedicate the time to creating products that serve their needs. In other words, don’t try to create $10,000 limited edition prints if your customers are asking for $125 signed 8×10 prints. Create different products for different markets if you can, such as posters, calendars all the way to large fine art prints.
Where is your photography going? What future photographic project or projects are you excited about?
I am going to start work on a portrait project in 2009, where I will be capturing both formal and environmental portraits of communities in Africa that I have contact with. The goal is to create a body of work that will benefit these communities through the auctioning off of the original negatives or tintype plates.
And finally – what’s the most interesting or unusual commission you’ve ever received?
I have been asked to photograph a family and their pet that had terminal cancer. It was an awkward, but fulfilling situation. I don’t think of myself as a pet photographer, but I love doing new projects that push me into challenging situations.
All links open in a new window.
Tanzania Photo Safari and Workshop
Article published on Luminous Landscape.
Famous wildlife photographers
This American wildlife and travel photographer has taken over a million photos and published over 60 books.
Amazing fine art black and white wildlife photography.
All photos Copyright © Andy Biggs. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.