Seven years ago, Shambala Festival ‘liked’ one of my images on Facebook. That little bit of relatively insignificant recognition, over the forthcoming years, turned something I enjoyed into a passion and a passion into a thriving, successful company. Namely Strikingfaces. It was the very start of something significant and hugely fulfilling.
Today, Strikingfaces, is a specialist commercial photography company, having many household name corporate clients, BBC, Thomson Holidays, RSPCA, Kwik-Fit to name but a few, along with several hundred medium and small business clients and several large annual events. This in a world where there are many, many ‘professional’ photographers all jostling for business, this is no insignificant feat.
Drunk with that droplet of recognition that a single photo of mine was ‘liked’ by Shambala, I naively wrote an email to the organisers asking if I could take pictures for them the following year. The answer was a polite no.. They get frequent requests to do the same on a daily basis and the reality is that there are many very capable individuals who do this for a living and do it well..
Determined, a response, even though it was a no, was at least a response, I wrote again – four times if I recall. and finally I got a yes. “Come and do it, and if we use any of your images for promotional material, we will give you a free ticket for the following year”
Charged with a mission and a press badge, ( my first ever ) , that first year I took a couple of thousand images, over four days, walked about 40 miles each day and collapsed next to the camp fire every night, my camera and myself utterly exhausted. This type of photography was hard work but for me so, so exciting. Every passing moment there was an image to capture and tens of thousands of beaming faces, all bedecked with the most extraordinary, inventive and startling toggary, demanding to be captured. I had never experienced anything so photographically demanding but yet so thrilling. It was something that was truly hard work, yet didn’t feel like work at all.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs
Shambala has a great ethos when it comes to its Crew. Respect everyone, give opportunities, demand excellence and invite back those who deliver. The entire organisation is run efficiently, professionally and successfully and that is reflected, each and every year, by the tens of thousands of people who are lucky enough to attend.
Photography is a fabulous profession but not an easy one, and even harder if you want to make a respectable living from it. It requires, talent, professionalism and business acumen. A combination that is not nearly as common as you would expect especially with those that have a tendency towards the arts. Very few ‘professional photographers’ actually make a decent living from it but what inspires us to keep shooting is that special instantaneous moment when, in a split second, we capture “the shot”. Events such as Shambala provide a cornucopia of fabulous material and are a photographers dream.
Seven years on, I am still attending Shambala as crew. I am an old buffer relative to many who attend, and, at times feel an imposter because of my age. Yet Shambala is one of a few festivals that really does bring together all ages and all walks of life. You will not have a conversation about your job, look at your phone, or worry about mortgage repayments throughout the four days. This for those new to festivals is a refreshing, healthy and serendipitous experience. So different is the world that Shambala surrounds you with for four days, the obligatory trip around Tesco’s on the way home for emergency provisions comes as a very surreal experience indeed. The real world is so grey and dull by comparison but don’t worry this feeling wears off soon enough. Everyday life comes equipped with a hot bath and comfy chairs , to counter that dreamlike experience.
Shambala gave me an opportunity; my efforts haven’t set the world of festivals alight or changed the universe, but it did give me the confidence and skills to build a successful photographic company . I, and all those who now work at Strikingfaces, solute you Shambala.. A hearty thank you..
Shambala Tickets are available from their website here.. ( a few remaining at the time of writing this, but unlikely to be around for long based on previous years experiences )
Last years images can be viewed on Strikingfaces FB page here