I have just returned from my second trip co-leading photography groups in Cuba with Jeremy Woodhouse of Pixelchrome. For myself and everyone else on this trip, it was a highlight of the year. For Jeremy, it was how he spent this month. And next month, he’s off to somewhere else, creating the same experience for a new group in a new location. And again, each month after that. This got me thinking about how Jeremy does what he does, and how he does it so well. His photos are consistently impressive wherever he goes, and he never appears to tire out. So, I wondered, How? What’s his magic recipe? I’ve come away realizing that there is more to learn from Jeremy than photography, and have decided to share these take-away observations here, and they really should be titled How To Travel :
1. Approach every day in every location like you have never been there before, or seen anything like it.
You would never guess that Jeremy had been to Cuba 6 times before. It was all of 30 seconds that we walked out of the hotel in Havana in Decemeber, before Jeremy ran up to an elderly woman cupping her face in his hands saying, “What a face!!!” And with that, we were off and running! He sees every location with new eyes, every time.
2. Greet everyone like they are your best friend.
Be the first to set the tone of the interaction. Even if you don’t speak the language, an enthusiastic “Hola!!” from a distance has people smiling as you approach. Like attracts like, and happiness attracts happiness. People often remark on how Jeremy gets people to do what he wants, or have their photo taken so easily, or how they invite him into their house for coffee, etc etc. These things that can seem so intimidating for foreigners. Well, I’m telling you, this is how he does it. He is the first to set the tone, and the rest follows. He talks to everyone like they have been lifelong friends.
3. Know that magic rarely happens on your first shot.
This is the art of the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. With a snapshot, you click and go. To create the photos that have people stop in their tracks, you have to stay awhile. Go past your first vision, and see what else surfaces. Try new angles and perspectives. Analyze what you got and how you can improve it. Try something new. Our best photos in Cuba often came from staying in the same location for over an hour! And when everyone else got their shot, Jeremy kept working it — and he was the one who walked away with perfection, every time.
We all know that the camera is a passport. Instead of viewing it as an intrusion, which we often do by default, think of it as the reason to connect. It’s the reason to be able to ask to go into someone’s house to take a photo off their balcony, as Jeremy does. It’s the reason to be able to ask questions of your surroundings. And it’s the reason you might find yourself rapping with local Cuban musicians.
Ask Jeremy anything, and he will tell you. Unlike many photographers, he honestly wants others to take the very best photos that they can. And if he can help them, he wants to. He shares all of his best image ideas for others to try for themselves, his connections, his Photoshop actions, everything. There’s no shortage of helpful information out there, and Jeremy is clearly from the Land of Plenty. The more that is shared, the more that there is to go around.
Travel in groups can be challenging, and leading them even more so. But you would never know it, traveling with this man. He’ll probably kill me for writing this post, but I truly believe that there are things to learn from everyone, and I want people to know about what Jeremy is offering, both in life and photography. Jeremy, on behalf of your past and future clients, and co-leaders like me who have the pleasure of working for you, Thank You.