We chat to one of the world’s most published travel photographers – artist and businessman David Kirkland.
TrueBlue Magazine - April/May 2019
Words by: Michelle Hespe
It’s a common assumption that a photographer’s main passion is photography and that a writer’s main passion is writing. However, highly acclaimed travel photographer David Kirkland says that first and foremost, his passion is travelling to meet people. Photography and writing simply provided him with the vehicle he needs to travel the world, capturing people and places in all of their inspiring and vibrant beauty.
This passion for humanity is what shines through in his stunningly vivid portraits. They capture the pure joy of living on faces that embody the subject’s country and/or their tribe’s rich culture. The pleasure to be found in day-to-day life is something many of us take for granted, and that’s another great thing about David’s work – when you look at the way he sees the big, bright world, it’s hard to not be as excited as a child on their first adventure.
“I’ve been a tourism photographer for 20 years, and I always go above and beyond for my clients. But as is the case with most creatives, inside there has always been a fine artist wanting to get out,” he says. “So recently I have also created my private collection of photographs – my fine art collection, shall we say – which are interpretations of the photos I love the most. These pieces keep my creative soul alive.”
As any artist who has created and grown their own company knows, you have to understand every aspect of your business in order to succeed. These days, that also means getting a firm grasp on social media and non-stop digital advancements. “In another life I ran tourism authorities, and so I already had my head around budgets and strategy and everything that goes along with running a successful business,” he says. “That gave me a great advantage.”
In fact, it was his business mind that led David to photography. Originally he travelled the world as a writer, paying a photographer to accompany him. “I quickly realised that it wasn’t rocket science, and taught myself to take images for my travel stories,” he explains. That not only saved him money, but freed him up to travel the world solo, on his own terms.
Social media, and in particular Instagram, opened new doors for David, keeping his imagination afire. “Instagram attracts people like me – creatives who love beautiful photos, and I am so happy to engage with a community like that,” he says. “I’ve spent the past six months dedicating myself to building up my presence on social media, and it is unbelievably time-consuming, but it has been absolutely transforming. It’s been a creative renaissance for me. I am nourished by this amazing community, and now follow other photographers who inspire new work and new ways of looking at things.”
But just like anything enjoyable, David emphasises that social media is a “pleasure and a discipline” that needs to be managed. “I have to limit my time on Instagram, and like anything else in business, set particular times to be engrossed in it. But the passive benefits from it have been extraordinary.”
David is widely renowned for his work capturing the people and places of the South Pacific, but after recent trips to the Middle East and Africa, he intends to spread his wings and move further afield. “I am going to explore more regions, however I am going to limit my time spent travelling to about six months of the year, so that I can also spend time and energy on my work at home, refining my art,” he says.
Having realised the goal he set 10 years ago – being paid to travel the world as a photographer – David’s new mission is to become more widely recognised for what he does. “I want to pass on what I’ve learned, and to sit at the top of my genre as a tourism photographer,” he says. “There is always so much more to learn, and I am really enjoying this new phase.”
There’s certainly plenty of scope to inspire and teach others, as David is regularly asked for advice and guidance on how to get to where he now is. After all, it’s a beautiful place to be. His advice is offered in this question which could be applied to achieving a dream in any profession really: “If you don’t know where you want to be in ten years’ time, and you don’t have a solid plan to get there, how can you possibly expect to arrive?”
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