Travel is good for the soul. Whether it’s a long weekend to Berlin, a gap year travelling South America or a week’s summer break to Ibiza. The memories we make travelling the globe help shape who we are as people – and give us many a giggle with our mates when we return back home. But there are some lucky folk who don’t have to limit themselves to a few stolen days every year to get away from it all. There are some people who get to travel for work. Yes, you heard right, there are some people who GET PAID TO TRAVEL AND VISIT NEW COUNTRIES.
In a new monthly series for House Of Solo, we speak to young creatives who have a case of wanderlust more than most and spend their working days jetsetting around the world. We find out what they do, how they got in to their profession and get advice on how you can do it too. First up is 26 year old photographer Jack Alexander who specialises in portraits and editorial with actors and musicians – talent he’s shot includes Liam Gallagher, Years and Years, Panic at the Disco! And Meghan Trainor. He is also an Ambassador for Nikon Europe.
What made you want to get in to photography?
I’d always liked taking pictures, but for a few years it was never in a professional capacity. I’d be the designated photo-taker at friends’ birthdays when I was about 15, just with a cheap handheld camera. It was addictive. It was only when my friend started a college course for Multimedia and purchased his first DSLR that I really got into it. I’d experiment with his camera, got obsessed, and got my own for my 18th birthday.
Where have you travelled for work?
I’ve been lucky enough to see Israel, Italy, New York, Amsterdam, Florida, Berlin, and also LA twice. I’ve even experienced parts of the UK I’d never previously ventured to, such as the coast of Wales. I did a bunch of shoots in Australia and Iceland, but those were trips for personal work rather than a specific client.
Biggest pinch yourself travel moment (for work)?
Probably being stood in the middle of the Israeli desert getting ready to shoot. As far as the eye could see, no matter which way you looked, our small crew were the only signs of life. It felt like what I’d imagine the end of the earth looks like! It was a surreal place, a photographer’s dream, and it was nice to shoot somewhere that wasn’t touristy. In the short time we were there, I felt like we really got a taste of the country. It’s great living and working in places like London and LA, but Israel was so unexpected and I was booked on the trip with relatively short notice, so it was quite the whirlwind. I think I was there for 48 hours in total, with two really intense work days. I felt like I’d dreamt it when I woke up after a night back in my own bed. Israel hadn’t been somewhere particularly high on my radar of destinations to visit before that trip, but now I’d love to go back.
Best and worst parts about travelling for work?
The best is just that old cliché of seeing the world. There’s been a number of places I’ve been to that I wouldn’t even have thought to visit. When we went to Florida, we stayed in a residential area and got to see how people really live out there. Travelling for work is great for getting a taste of a country you’ve never been to. It depends on the client, but usually they’re based where you’ve flown to so will be your tour guide. Often you encounter a lot of locals, so it’s different from a holiday and you get a real feel of the place.
As for the worst part, it’s really not a dealbreaker, but if I had to pick, I’d say it’d have to be not having access to a creative team you know, trust and regularly work with. Sometimes, booking total strangers from across the globe and trusting they will do a good job can be daunting, especially since you’ve travelled so far for the shoot and have a lot riding on it, since the client has spent money.
I guess for most people, it would be the jetlag. But I have a particular skill for sleeping on planes, which always helps. The first time I came back from LA, I slept the entire 10 hour flight home!
Favourite country/city – and why?
I love the US. In the back of my mind I’ve always felt I’d end up in New York eventually. Since travelling to LA twice this year I feel like California may be calling my name too. Visiting both places reminds me of the excitement I used to feel on trips to London before I moved there. I love London and it’ll always feel like home, but NYC or LA feel like the natural progression for me, career-wise. There’s always something going on.
Why is travel so important for you?
I grew up in a tiny place that many people never leave. It was beautiful – perfect for starting a photography portfolio – but nothing ever changes. There’s so much to see, and the internet only reminds us of that. One of my favourite qualities of London is the versatility of people; where I’m from, there’s very little diversity. I love that in London you can meet every type of person. But that experience is infinitely better when you’re meeting and experiencing those people in their home turf, a million miles away from your own country. When we shot a music video in southern Italy, we had free reign of a quiet town. The mayor of the town had granted us permission to shoot anywhere we liked. We spent a lot of time mixing with the locals – it was really humbling, and a nice parallel to the rush of shooting in London.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you like to do?
Initially I was heading towards Journalism. I have an English Language degree and I’m a big fan of grammar and spelling. At the moment I write for Fstoppers, one of the biggest photo community sites on the web, whose website surpasses 7 million hits most months, which ties my two passions together nicely. I love writing and find it quite therapeutic. Failing that, I’d probably work in any job that involves dealing with large quantities of people, as one of my favourite elements of being a photographer is meeting and being surrounded by new people. It’s helped me come out of my shell massively – I was shy growing up.
Essential 5 items to pack when travelling for work?
Flash gun – it’s small and compact, easily fitting in a backpack, but adequately lights any subject. Often strobes and light stands aren’t practical for travelling.
External hard drive – small and light also, but an essential. Necessary to ensure never running out of space on memory cards, as it’s easy to shoot lots when travelling.
Sun cream – It’s factor 50 for me. I burn terribly, and don’t want to be worrying about sunburn when I have a job to do.
Comfortable clothes – make sure you’re equipped with practical clothes. Trainers for long hikes, shorts for working long days in heat. You’d be surprised how often a crew member falls short on this front!
Reflector – not always necessary, but can work great as a diffuser if you’re shooting in the sun. Helpful if you’re unfamiliar with where you’re going to be shooting.
Any travelling for work disasters?
Thankfully nothing drastic so far. I never let my camera bag out my sight when I’m travelling; I’ve a deep routed paranoia of having my equipment stolen in the UK, let alone an unfamiliar country. I’m also the type to always be at the airport hours in advance for fear of missing a flight. I’m a worrier!
Top tips to get in to photography?
Remember there’s no right or wrong answer in Photography – so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It takes years to establish what you do and don’t like, and what your niche is going to be, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Everyone is intimidated by studio lighting, strobes and flashes at first, but it’s hugely beneficial to take the time to familiarise yourself with how each works, even if you feel you’re a natural light photographer at heart. Be polite always, and don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t want to be quoted on. The industry is smaller than you think.
Check out Jack on Instagram @jackalexanderUK