“How I Attained Massive Success as a Vagabond Travel Photographer”
Representative samples of my “Urban Grunge,” “Brush Stroke,” “Matrix” and “Heavy Metal” series of fine art composites are interspersed throughout this story of how I achieved huge success as a perpetually wandering travel photographer with no base to call home.
In the past I focused on shooting the world’s classic travel icons but along the way I always photographed interesting grungy urban textures to one day use in the creation of digital artworks as represented here.
Now back to the saga of how I made it all happen.
Our karmic avenues in life are unique. Mine, albeit with a dreamscape far exceeding past deficiencies in business strategy perception, will most definitely be very different from yours. Yet, underlying our various yearnings (and the resultant struggles we must endure) common threads of persistence usually come to play. If you’ve already decided to go for the wildest of your wild dreams—far exceeding those on a typical bucket list—then you must decide if you are really willing to dive wildly over the abyss of potentially risky pursuit and most likely into realms far outside your current comfort zone.
If not, stay home. Or attack your campaign at a more palatable scale than I chose.
My drama began in the early 90s.
After a couple of decades as a prolific architectural photographer in Los Angeles with five full-time assistants and a million bucks in earnings, life as an artiste plus a radical lack of proper business acumen suddenly led to massive financial devastation when the USA economy and the real estate market boldly crashed overnight. Soon my lucrative assignments completely dried up and my financial foundation proved woefully shallow.
Within a year I had lost everything: my staff, my house, my car and most of my camera equipment.
Bankruptcy loomed bleak.
Delivering pizzas became my only path out of the quagmire.
But two decades of deep Buddhist study and diligent practice had taught me to never ever dig my karmic hole even deeper by complaining. So I rapidly became the happiest and best pizza delivery boy (at age 45) Los Angeles had ever seen. My exuberant life condition led to huge tips and quickly proved to the Universe that I had already absorbed serious lessons. My ultimate dream was to finally leave Los Angeles behind for the wide, wild world of glorious travel photography. But I had zero idea how I would ever put the pieces together. Yet within weeks my meagre collection of past holiday travel pix were accepted by the successful but relatively small After Image stock photo agency in Los Angeles, which quickly became the first global acquisition by the world’s premier stock photo agency at the time, Tony Stone Images in London, which quickly became the first major acquisition by Getty Images when they began to gobble up the world’s top stock photo libraries.
And the rest is history.
Somehow I did put the pieces together and I started traveling around the States shooting all the major travel icons—the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the St. Louis Arch—all the while yearning that my stock photo earnings would soon trickle in. Ultimately, and rather miraculously, it didn’t prove long before I started riding the big wave but before the big money started rolling in I had to find ways to start traveling the world on the most meagre of shoestring backpacker budgets that early on required a stint of panhandling on the streets in faraway locales where I didn’t speak the language. But I never gave up or gave in to despair. Ultimately my first trip lasted nonstop for nine years during the 90s and took me to more than a hundred countries around the world. I stayed homeless by choice. The travel bug bit big. Within a decade my travel images at Getty had earned three million dollars in royalties resulting in excess of a hundred thousand publications across the globe including most of the world’s leading travel publications.
Ah, the glory days.
Then, like any avid dreamer not yet firmly grounded in reality, I invested a million dollars cash into building a wild dream house paradise retreat located on the exotic isle of Bali. I felt invincible. I was tapping my architectural design training with absolutely no limits applied. The very wildest of possibilities became my everyday fodder. I was possessed. My Bali design radically expanded to include six inverted, glass-walled, steel-framed pyramids clad with traditional thatched roofs and floating in twenty-one infinity-edged reflecting pools with cascading waterfalls and deep below the surface there were stepping stones traversing my manmade underground river that would serve as my art gallery and there was a five-level dining table way up above that overlooked the lush verdant jungle vista beyond. Heaven seemed to scream enthusiastically.
Yes, a bit over the top but I could afford it. That is until the global economy massively crashed in 2008 when I was only halfway through construction when my million bucks was already exhausted and when I soon found myself way unprepared and deeply into profound debt with virtually no new income from Getty to finance the rest of the wildest of my ventures to date. Karma of my own creation had reared its massive ugly head yet again. Clearly it was finally time to learn secure investment strategy and common sense restraint. The end of the road had arrived. Now I had to find ways to ground myself still allowing my ceaseless dreams to unfurl.
My personal path manifested unique to me. Yours will unfold adhering to the story you’ve set in motion.
Today, in my early 70s, my fine art photo pursuits propel me along new paths whenever I want to go. Of late, it was a five-month sojourn around India seeking out classic steam locomotives to be used as design elements along with other grungy urban textures in my digitally composited artwork creations. See my blog post, “Magical Steam Train.”
Never, never give up your dream. Never, never give in to weakness that would curtail your challenge.
Savor harsh lessons. Make vital adjustments. Then brave yourself to blast forward yet again.
See my entire fine art STEAM PUNK STEAM TRAIN Series collection.
Read my novel The Journey from Kamakura that won a silver medal for Best First Book/Fiction in the Benjamin Franklin Awards. It’s a poignant (and almost true) love story novel about a travel photographer who roams the globe in search of the ultimate experiences life has to offer. Along the way he becomes wildly successful and soon blows through a million bucks. Then in Bangkok he succumbs to self-destructive tendencies that propel him into an excruciating pit of deep suffering. Eventually he encounters a mysterious woman who re-ignites in him the determination to grapple with his weaknesses and who leads him toward revelations no photograph could every portray.
Read how I stood inches from an rancid, maggot-infested, decaying dead dog to capture a “Blue Taj Mirage” image.
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I only use Lonely Planet guidebooks.