With a dream of having his own travel show, photographer, filmmaker, and director Taylor Jackson has worked six days a week (and still works on his day off!) to make his dream a reality. But he says millions of views and a commercialized TV show isn’t all that he’s looking for.
With the savings most would use to put a down-payment on a house, Taylor has traveled the world shooting a 12 part series in the hopes of inspiring fellow photographers and entrepreneurs to do the same.
Here’s the scoop on how he was able to land his dream job and fulfill his lifelong goal of traveling the world, all at the same time:
When you first started to get into concert photography, and not yet getting paid, what were your plans as far as what you would do for a job?
My plans with concert photography were always just to make my friends look cool. I got paid in band shirts and free concert tickets, which made it worth my while. While shooting concerts, I was always selling stock photos, and it’s still one of my main sources of income today. My main struggle at that point was how to scale my stock photography without going insane.
Once realizing you could make money doing something you loved, was there ever a point where you doubted the legitimacy of photography as a full-time career?
I was making about $500 a week automated through stock photography pretty early on, and that kind of built my commercial portfolio. American Idol picked up one of my images in an early season, and that alone gave me some pretty solid credibility to talk to companies even though I was still really young in comparison to the people I was competing against.
Were you ever scared of getting into such an unpredictable industry?
I was scared of having to give up this dream of running my own business and having to get a 9-5. That fear kept me working hard whenever I didn’t feel like it. I knew if I put in the hours at before I was 21 or 22, I could have something good for the rest of my life.
What was that lifestyle actually like?
It was about 15 years of 80-90 hour weeks. It’s still not easy or on autopilot. The plus is that most of what I do for ‘work’, I also do for fun, so it rarely ever feels like working.
What advice would you give people who have not yet found their passion?
Keep learning, keep listening to podcasts, and reading articles by people you respect. The more you digitally hangout with your idols, the more you start to shape your mind like theirs, which puts you in the right space for when you do find your calling.
I loved your trailer for “A Photographer In..”, and I’m already inspired! What was the evolution of doing concert gigs to traveling the world, making the first series of your own travel show and taking pictures of Tacos?
Thanks! It’s been a lot of fun so far. I’ve been making short travel videos for as long as I can remember, but they were all just random and disconnected. This year I figured it was time to finally combine everything I’ve learned over the past 10 or 15 years into one project that can hopefully inspire others to follow their dreams.
Is it safe to say that you like Tacos?
Yes, I am a big fan of tacos. I’m not sure what got me hooked on them, but the two “Tacomentary” episodes in Season 1 of the show really solidified my love for them.
Most people say retirement is the best time to travel. I love that you decided to make it a part of your daily job! Was this a part of the plan all along?
The goal has always been to make my job whatever I want to do. I’ll probably have to work 2x harder than normal to make it happen, but when you’re combining your leisure and business as one, it’s a really good thing. I’d rather take my retirement trips while I’m still young enough for them to shape me, and work a little bit longer into life.
And how did you mold your job as a photographer to enable you to travel the world?
For photography, it’s always been show what you want to shoot. One free gig gets you a hired gig in the same niche, and before long you have a brand going and the credibility required for someone to fly you somewhere for a shoot.
So how long have you been planning and saving for this project? Did you have a budget?
Most of season 1 was shot while I was on other paying jobs, or just on vacation with my girlfriend, Lindsay. There wasn’t really an internal talk about budget, just a list of places I’d like to go see this year.
How did you connect with people in places like Iceland and Kyoto?
On most of the trips I just hired a tour guide. Makes life a lot easier knowing that your contact is a professional that isn’t going to bail on you, or wake up too hung over to show you around. The places I went were mostly places I’ve wanted to go for years, but never really had an official reason to go.
Describe your lifestyle. What is a day in the life of a traveling photographer/videographer like?
Usually it involves a 6am flight, and the internal struggle to either eat bad airport food, or wait until I land and get something local and delicious. The rest I just kind of make up as I go. There’s no real rules to what I’m doing for the show — if I want to shoot film for an episode, or disposable Kodaks, that’s what I get to do. If I’m actually hired for a shoot somewhere, things are a lot more structured and proper planning goes into it.
And what are some of the best and worst parts?
The best part is everything. The worst part is having to pay for everything because I don’t have any sponsorship deals.
What’s the one thing you can’t leave home without when you’re traveling to your next adventure?
Taylor: As long as I have one device capable of capturing proper video and photos, I’m happy. An iPhone 6 or 6s would probably be the thing I can’t leave at home.
So tell us more about this project. You said you have always wanted your own travel show. What was the defining moment or event that finally gave you the push to start it?
I felt like over 2015, I had accidentally created at least 4 episodes, but it needed more to be ‘a thing’. I think the defining moment was when I decided to go to Chernobyl. At that point, it was no longer just a vacation.
Were there any unexpected challenges along the way? And how did you confront these?
There were less challenges than anticipated. The first time I traveled the world, it was really difficult to get by as just an English speaker. Now with the help of apps and cell coverage being in so many places, it’s much easier.
Were there any unexpected gains along the way? Did your learn about yourself throughout this journey?
I learned that I like being home with Lindsay and our dog, Richard, a lot. While I’m so happy to be traveling and seeing new places, sometimes it’s just nice to be home for more than 48 hours.
Where do you hope to take “A Photographer In…”? Is a TV show something you’re shooting for?
I don’t have a specific plan for where I see it going. It’s a pretty amazing lifestyle, and for now I just want to make it sustainable. I’m hoping that people enjoy watching the first season, and from there I can make some deals with the brands I already support.
So it will be releasing March 1, 2016, where can we find it? And how often will new episodes be posting?
You can sign up at www.aPhotographerIn.com and you’ll get an email when the episodes start coming out. There will be one a week until they’re done — which is currently 12, but there might be one last minute addition.
Do you have any final advice for people who want a job that they are passionate about, one that also allows them to travel the world?
You’re probably never going to find your dream job, you just have to make it.
So true! I guess my last question is, now that you’ve reached your dream of a travel show, what’s the next one? (Taco shop?)
Season 2 is my next goal. I have some pretty crazy plans and I’m hoping they work out! I really appreciate all the support everyone has given the project so far, and I’m excited for it to finally be revealed.
Working damn hard to make his dream a reality, but still waking up every morning with a passion to do it, we can all take inspiration from Taylor Jackson.