This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Simon Scott of Simon Scott Photo. Simon’s work with the Ezidi Community recently featured on the front cover of the Australian Weekend Magazine and also in a local exhibition as part of International Refugee Week.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I moved to Armidale in 2001 to manage Yarandoo, the eco-tourism centre near Ebor, working there for two years. I migrated to Australia straight from London to Armidale. I’ve been in Armidale and Australia almost 20 years now, and have only ever lived in Armidale in that time.
Prior to relocating to Australia, I worked in telecommunications as a network engineer and before that, I worked in the gas industry. I guess you could say I’ve been a jack of all trades.
My son Fletcher, who is 16, is at boarding school in Sydney. It’s been tricky to see him this year. At one point I hadn’t seen him for three months because of COVID-19 restrictions.
What led you to starting Simon Scott Photo?
Photography has been my hobby since I was a little boy. As a business, I kind of stumbled into working for myself. I am fortunate that my hobby or creative passion earns me an income and has allowed me to travel lots. This sometimes means there is a clash between my job as a photographer and my personal passion for photography, but I make sure I hang the camera straps up for a short while to re-ignite the love for what I do.
After my time at Yarandoo, I started teaching photography part-time at the TAFE and did that for eight or nine years. Over time, more and more people asked for my services, and I built a reputation as a photographer. I’ve never had a business plan although I do start the odd to-do list from time to time. You could say I almost stumbled into working for myself.
What is the appeal of a career in photography?
I think most photographers hide behind the camera lens. I think that is the appeal of photography – you are the quiet observer and your role is to capture the moment. Seeing your images on a billboard, a poster, in a magazine or on someone’s wall can really make you proud.
As a photography business owner, it can be a very independent job as you’re working on your own and then there is the editing after. As most people who run a business would know, there are sacrifices to be made with time, family and finance. I try to balance these more now.
I am out and about all the time. I get to see different things, experience different things, and meet different people. That really is the beauty of my job: there is always something to do. I can’t imagine ever not working. Every time I do think about hanging up my camera, a good job always comes across my path.
What type of photography services do you offer?
I’m a great believer that if you live in a regional centre you need to offer a range of photography, not just because of the imperative to make a living but also so you can do a wide range of interesting work. In one week recently I would have taken photos of an art collection at NERAM, the police commissioner, a launch of a new sea patrol vessel, profile shots of business people, and produced a small corporate video.
My corporate work includes profile photos, headshots, stock images and editorial photography. In many ways, my role is documenting how businesses and organisations do things. I keep my hand in with real estate photos too, working with Cayne Moar at Ray White.
Currently, I work on a part-time basis for Adam Marshall in his role as our local MP. Occasionally I will also take photos for him in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture.
One the exciting jobs this year was working on set with Renovations Australia shooting stills for one of their episodes.
What does a photography business look like in a pandemic?
It has been quiet. However, the regular part-time work with Adam Marshall has been great. On the other hand, it has been nice that work slowed a little because I could work on my porch portraits project!
It has become busy again and finding time to schedule work when I’m on the road a lot is tricky, but clients are patient when they only want to use me. I am glad I am not relying on wedding photography as this year would have seen almost zero bookings. A friend of mine in Melbourne has seen her business reduce to almost nothing. I feel for her as it can be unsettling not knowing where your next income will come from.
We are fortunate to not have had the extreme lockdown that has hit Victoria, although I am careful with using distancing – and the beauty of using a suitable camera lens means you can work from a distance. Also, given the distance and places I travel to, I have had more than one COVID-19 test to ensure I am keeping safe.
Tell me about the Porch Portraits?
Porch Portraits is a photography project where I take photos of people, families, pets from their front porch, their driveway or at the front gate. I’d seen the idea in the USA online and thought it was a way to stay busy, keep me active, energised and creative. And the nature of them allows for social distancing. It was so well received in Armidale that I almost got too busy.
What are some of the challenges of the job?
The work can be very busy and it’s very easy to lose the balance between your work and your life. In the past, a busy schedule could have easily led to editing through the night to meet a deadline. If a deadline compromises my own health, I don’t commit to it.
After a busy day I’ve found I need to sit down for five minutes and switch off from the day. Working with people can be exhausting, especially if you are directing them. I run lots to keep myself fit, healthy and focused.
Being proactive and getting up to go to work is down to you. I don’t get sick pay or holiday pay. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. It’s simple. I enjoy the act of going to work even if it is walking from one room to my work desk setup.
I have made lots of mistakes, been guilty of not keeping to deadlines or not ringing someone back, but I am only human. Often working on your own can be testing but good music and good coffee helps.
What inspires you?
As a creative photographer, what inspires me is raw humanity. How people are, what they do, how they do it, the nature of things. I’m also inspired by light, how light changes what you see.
I’m inspired by people who are passionate about their work, who work hard, are successful but are also able to balance their lives in a unique way. We are fortunate to have some great creatives locally. Verso Design is one of them.
Travel also inspires me. I love visiting Africa and if there weren’t any travel restrictions I’d have been in West Africa in July.
And I’m genuinely inspired by my own son. I think he’s wonderful.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
You need to financially look after yourself, pay yourself a reasonable wage, make sure you have a super plan worked out. I really try to manage for my retirement as best possible and can see the fruits of that hard work maturing soon.
There is always a price to pay working for yourself. There is not always much of a personal life, and you need to be fit and healthy to stay on top of your game.
Eat well, keep healthy. Try and switch sleep is one of the biggest things: for any important job, you have got to get sleep. Don’t be afraid to take criticism. Know that if you give your best, that it is all you can do.
When you make a decision don’t delay, just get on with it! A business plan is important. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they think, even If they are far removed from your line of work.
Keep working well, keep fit and healthy. As soon as borders open and it’s safe to visit places, I’ll head back to Africa. Iceland is a place I have always wanted to see, too.
There is some new photographic gear I will invest in which may allow me to diversify what I can offer. I also have an exhibition planned at the regional art gallery, NERAM. This was put on hold because of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on galleries. Hopefully next year.