David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All | The Tim Ferriss Show".
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At this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? No, I just didn't have perfect time. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market. Thrive Market saves me a ton of money and it's perfect for these crazy times. Thrive Market is a membership based site on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. You can regularly save 25-50% off of normal retail prices with member only prices for anything you can imagine really. Whether it's keto, paleo, gluten free, vegan, whatever you can sort by that. You can find all types of food. You can find supplements. You can find non-toxic home products. Clean wine, dog food, just about anything. Let me give you a personal example of just how much you can save. My last order I ordered Primal Kitchen mayonnaise which is made with avocado oil. It's delicious. Justin's almond butter. The first was 25% off. Justin's almond butter was 30% off. Rao's homemade marinara sauce which is awesome. 26% off. All said and done at the end of my shopping I saved $39 on my order. So members, and I'm a member, can earn wholesale prices everyday and save an average of $30 on each order. I'll come back to that. And through Thrive Gives, their one on one membership matching program, every paid Thrive Market membership is matched with a free one for a low income family in need. And you can try Thrive Market a few different ways. They have the monthly membership which is $9.95 per month. They have the 12 month membership for $5 a month which is billed at $59.95. And right now, this is exclusive to you guys. You can get up to a $20 shopping credit when you join today. Now remember that I saved $39 on my order. So basically with one or two orders I pay for the annual membership which is pretty sweet. So go to thrivemarket.com/tim to give Thrive Market a try. You can, like I said, choose between the membership models you'd like to test out. If it doesn't work for you, you can cancel for any reason within 30 days for a full refund. And on top of that, you will make back your membership and savings as I have or they give you credits to make up for the difference. So it's really win win win all around. And I would suggest you check it out. Go to thrivemarket.com/tim. You can receive up to $20 in shopping credit. That's thrivemarket.com/tim for up to $20 in shopping credit plus all of the other great stuff that I mentioned. One more time, check it out. thrivemarket.com/tim. This episode is brought to you by LegalZoom. It's a whole new world out there and we're all facing new challenges. You may need legal help to overcome some of yours and that's where LegalZoom fits in. Maybe you've been wondering about the best way to protect your family or maybe you're thinking about starting a business, but you don't know the best way to do it. Don't let legal questions hold you back. LegalZoom has been dedicated to helping you find the right solutions for nearly 20 years. If you're looking to protect your family with a will or a living trust or something else, or you're thinking about the right way to start a business with an LLC, nonprofit, or more, LegalZoom's got you covered. It's easy to get started online and if you need guidance, their network of attorneys can provide advice to ensure you make the right choices. And since LegalZoom isn't a law firm, you won't get charged by the hour. So check it out. Visit LegalZoom.com today to take care of the important things that need to get done. That's LegalZoom.com. LegalZoom, where life meets legal.
David Yarrow’S Life & Career Journey
David Yarrow's (Living) Story Thus Far (03:48)
Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to interview and deconstruct world-class performers to tease out how it is they do what they do and what you can possibly model, emulate, or apply in your own lives. My guest today is David Yarrow. Y-A-R-R-O-W. In his genre, David Yarrow is one of the world's best-selling fine art photographers. I have two collections of his work. One of them is very, very heavy and sitting about 30 feet away from me right now. Most recently, David has focused on capturing the animal and human worlds in fresh and creative ways, which is probably an understatement. You just have to see some of these images. And this has really been partnered with or coalesced with philanthropy and conservation. Those have been two primary drivers behind his work. In 2019, charitable donations from the sale of David's images exceeded $2.5 million US. Yarrow's Photography of Life on Earth has earned him a large and ever-growing following among art collectors, and he is now represented by some of the top contemporary fine art galleries around the world. In the last two years, three of his works have sold for more than $100,000 each at Sotheby's Auctions in London, New York, and UBS have also appointed David as their global ambassador. You can find all about David and see his work at DavidYarrow.Photography. You can see some of his amazing images on Instagram @davidyarrow. I highly recommend following. Facebook, you can find facebook.com/davidyarrowphotography. And then on LinkedIn also, DavidYarrow, pretty easy to find. And without further ado, please enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with yet another guest who should have their own podcast and it'll be obvious why that is the case soon, namely David Yarrow. David, welcome to the show. It's very good to be here. It's an honor. Likewise. I'm thrilled to connect. I have several of your large-format books of photography. They're both incredibly gorgeous and incredibly heavy. So in quarantine, they're helpful for doing farmer's carries. It's partly because in Scotland, shoplifting is a problem. So the heavier the book, the less chance they can actually make them.
What Should've Been a Coming-of-Age Trip to Mexico (06:36)
And we'll get to the current day, but I thought we would start not necessarily at the beginning, but certainly some time ago. Could you please speak to what happened to you or with respect to you in Mexico in 1986? Sure. I traveled to Mexico for the World Cup in 1986. I was in my third year out of four at Edinburgh University studying business studies and economics. And my exams were finished one week into the World Cup. And the day of my final exam, I flew to Mexico City. I'd never actually even been to America before. I was working for a very modest magazine in Scotland that covers Scottish football, which almost by definition of the very limited circulation. The one benefit of having that working for the magazine was that FIFA in those days would be much more accommodating with regard to accreditation. Just for the Yanks in our crowd, because FIFA is like the NFL for football, as in actually using your foot football. Please continue. And unlike the NFL, it's been characterized by blazing corruption for many years, which you're fine. NFL hasn't. But putting that to once, it's like the IOC, but the IOC is blatantly corrupt as well. But this is before people knew that FIFA took bongs in order to give World Cups to places like Qatar and to an extent Russia. But it was 1986. It was six months after the earthquake that had devastated Mexico City. And I arrived as a Scottish fan first and foremost. And they always used to say that Scottish journalists are really just fans with typewriters. But I did have a press pass, which allowed me to go onto the pitch of these games. And the reality was that I was 20 years old. I wasn't at all good. I was very, very average. And also photographing Scotland became very, very difficult because I really was much more interested in watching the game rather than taking photographs of it. And there was a moment when Scotland were playing Uruguay. And Uruguay had a player sent off in the first minute of the game. So Scotland had to just beat 10 men to qualify to the next round. They were managed at the time by someone I'm sure a lot of Americans would know, Alex Ferguson, who for many years managed United, Sir Alec. And there was a moment when there was a Scottish center forward who missed an open goal.
My head in my hands, not on the camera (09:33)
And back in the Times newspaper, and I was working then for the London Times, all they could see was the striker with his head in his hand and my head in my hands with my camera nowhere near. And they thought, "Well, this guy Yarrow, he's not really focused on the football at all." The games were, a lot of them were played at midday or at three o'clock in the afternoon because of European TV time. And if you can imagine a high sun in Mexico and maybe some African players or Latin American players, there was a great chance that you got very little facial detail because their faces were underexposed. And then the top of their heads had a kind of biblical halo on top of them. But these were the days in sports photography where in order to get a moving figure in focus, you had to do a thing called follow focus because autofocus hadn't been invented then. This was also in the days of film. And follow focus basically meant that you moved the ring focusing rim of the camera in tandem to the movement of the player. So if you had a player coming towards you, like a 100-meter runner, you would try and get as many different pitches of him in focus. You'd have to move the focal rim manually. And it's a trade. It's a skill. And I was crapping it basically, which meant that the only good pitches I got were of the players lining up at the beginning of the match because they weren't moving too much. FIFA had another rule that if you were from a country that had qualified for the tournament, every single country that qualified for the tournament would be allowed one photographer on the pitch for the final. And Scotland obviously had been the first team to get knocked out. That tends to happen habitually. And of course all the photographers that are on expense bills for the newspapers back home had been sent home with Scotland. And then they would just get their pitches through AP or Reuters or whatever. So I was left as a 20-year-old with a press pass for the pitch on the World Cup final. And I remember going to the stadium at 6 o'clock in the morning, the game was at midday, and I bribed the Mexican guard with a bit of whiskey. And I said, "Listen, do you mind?" It's one of my rules of the thumb to take whiskey everywhere. But I said, "Do you mind if I walk onto the pitch?" And in those days, the Azteca, they had a Monday Night Football there not too long ago, but the Azteca held around 120,000 people. And he allowed me just to walk from one goal to the other. And I could see my footprints in the dew in the ground. It was a bit of an epiphany for me. I felt, "Well, I'm doing this at 20. This has surely got to be a big part of my life." And you'll know the saying from Mark Twain where he says, "The two most important days in a person's life, the day they're born, the day they find out why." And that was my first inkling that it might be a decent part of my life. The problem was I was fairly shit as a photographer, which I think was very integral to becoming part of my life. I was lucky. I had a good final. I was in the right position for the first Argentinian goal. And then when Maradona's Argentina won, the most extraordinary thing happened in that probably about 20 or 30,000 Argentinians came onto the pitch. And it was just a scrum. I had two lenses and two cameras like most photographers in those days. You'd have one big lens recovering the midfield area and then a shorter lens recovering the goal mouth areas. And I thought, "If I take my wide angle lens and try and get as close to Maradona as possible, I might get a picture. But in order to be nimble, I'm going to have to leave that 400, 2.8 lens in the goal mouth." And I just took the split decision at the time that a lot of photographers weren't, given the number of Argentinians coming onto the pitch, that it was a gamble worth taking. I thought, "Well, if I lose the equipment, as long as I've got close to Maradona, it's the right call." And as it turned out, I got dead close to him, dead onto him, just as he was lifted on another player's shoulders. And with a kind of biblical narrative behind of the stadium and thousands of people, he looked right in my eyes with the wrong cup. And of course, those are the days in film, so you didn't know what you'd got. You didn't know whether you got it sharp. You didn't know whether you got it in the lighting right. But I went back to the net, where I'd left my $7,000, which was a lot of money in those days, $7,000 of equipment. And there was my lens and my camera. And I've always had a bit of an affinity for Argentinians ever since that day, that they were far more interested in celebrating than ever thinking about making some equipment behind the goal. And the picture really kind of saved my bacon from the whole tournament. Photography is about those one or two big pictures. It's not to me about portfolios of hundreds, and thank goodness, because I really didn't then. And it led to doing an Olympics the next year. I still had to finish my studying. And there was a lovely moment. I was flying over to LA about six months ago, and the Maradona movie, directed by the same guy that did the Earth and Sun movie, and Amy Winehouse. I thought, "Well, I should watch this." And about two-thirds of the way through the movie, which is excellent, my picture came on my TV screen in front of me. And I couldn't believe it. I don't know about you, but I always get quite emotional on planes. I don't know what it is about altitude and emotion. I was going, "This is my bloody photograph. That's my photograph of Maradona." So I pressed for the stewardess, because I didn't have anyone to talk to about it, and she came over and spayed him. I said, "That's my picture of Maradona." And she's going, "There's a nutter in J21. There's a nutter in J21."
Why the Maradona photo is far more special than it looks (15:49)
Cut him off. No more scotch. Don't land in Halifax just yet. So luckily we didn't land in Halifax, and I did try to explain to her that I was a photographer, and that was my picture. But I was hoping to actually go down to BA and see Maradona, and I still very much hope to do that when the current crisis is over. It would be quite special to meet him, and he's got the picture. He obviously knows of the picture and reminisce of when he was the greatest player in the world. Amazing. So I want to add some color for perhaps the Americans or even just non-Argentines who are listening. So Maradona is a demigod in Argentina. It is hard to overstate how much of a cultural fixture he is. Even to this day, and he is certainly decades past his prime in playing, his photographs are everywhere. There are murals of him. If you were to take, for the US, let's just say pick your favorite team sport, basketball, football meaning American football. If you were to take the most popular, say 10 players of the last decade and wrap them into one person, that would be Maradona to the Argentines. And they take their football very, very seriously. When I was living there in 2004, I remember... Of course, I forgot about this. You're a tango dancer. You're a champion tango dancer. This was a long time ago. This is previous lifetime. But living in Argentina, one of the most terrified moments that I had was waking up in my apartment building and thinking that the entire building was on fire because people were screaming their faces off at something like 9 in the morning. I couldn't recall. And it was because the World Cup was on television and Argentina scored a goal and they went completely berserk. You can pretty much track the morale of the country and probably the GDP based on soccer results. They take it so seriously. It is hard to overstate. Absolutely. And of course, your world and his world collided because the home of tango was Boca, wasn't it? The Boca area of Buenos Aires. Exactly right. He played for Boca Juniors, which is one of the two great famous football clubs in the big capital. That's right. And Boca Junior fans are very partisan. Oh, they are. He had a habit of playing for clubs in cities that are renowned for wearing it on their sleeve. And for many years, he played in Naples, in Napoli, in Italy. And there was a… He was… People in Napoli, they would have two pitchers above their bed. They would have Jesus Christ and Diego Maradona. And when the World Cup was in Italy, two World Cups… One World Cup after the World Cup I photographed, the planners hadn't done a good job because Italy met Argentina in the semi-final in Napoli. And that, for most Neapolitans, constituted an enormous dilemma because who were they going to support? Were they going to support their home country or were they going to support their son? And the person that had revitalized the city. And 75% of the people in the stadium that were Italian supported Argentina. That's amazing. I did not know that. Wow.
What did David learn in Mexico? (19:38)
Yeah. Yeah. What an incredible story. I don't mean to interrupt, but I want to ask you what you learned from that experience, if anything. What did you take from that experience after that photograph hit the wires, went everywhere? What did you take from that or what impression did that make on you? Well, to begin with, I was just happy that it had saved my bacon because it had diverted people's attention away from the fact that 95% of the pitchers I'd taken of the other matches were out of focus. So, in many ways, it was the outlier, but it gave me a chance. And a lot of these self-help books and your books are at a higher grade than the majority of them, but there is a lot to be said for the old idea that if you're the smartest person in the room, get out of the room. So, whatever the polar extreme from being the smartest person in the room was, I was at that polar extreme in Mexico. I was the worst photographer of the British press corps. And that is good because that means that if you've got any sense of self-pride, the only way is up. And I just went back and practiced and tried to get better at the things that I wasn't good at. I think there's a lot to be said in photography. The fact that the older you get, the better you should be as a photographer. Cartier-Bresson said the first thousand pitchers you take will be your worst thousand pitchers. That was certainly true of me. And the following year, I just continued to work quite a bit in skiing. Skiing was easier to photograph because if you're doing the men's downhill, whether it be Kitzbu or the Larberhorn or Aspen or Lake Placid or wherever it might be, you can pre-focus on a gate and then wait for that skier to come around the gate. So there are still lots of difficulties in it, partly skiing down. I always remember trying to photograph the toughest men's downhill in the world, which is the Hahnemkammer Kitzbu. And the star of the race was in Kitzbu in Austria. Oh, sorry. I didn't recognize Kitzbu. Got it. Yeah, sorry. It's my Scottish accent. And it was the days when you had some amazing skiers and then you had the crazy Knutts, the Robbe-Boids, the Podorskis, the Ken-Reeds. And you yourself, you had Bill Johnson, of course, won Olympic gold as well. And they were all crazy, mad, good skiers. But that first stretch in Kitzbu is like the white cliffs of Dover stacked on top of each other. And if you were trying to sidestep down inside the ropes with 20,000 Austrians outside the ropes going, "Look at that British idiot. He doesn't know how to ski." And you got your long lens around your neck and you're trying to sidestep down. And you take one bad move and then you're at the bottom in a heap. So you're getting to be in a position to take the photograph as part of the challenge in the first place. But I did. It was in the golden era of Swiss skiing and where there were the men's and the women's downhill. And Slalom was dominated by the Swiss. And I got a bit better at photographing skiing. And then I got the offer to photograph the Olympics in 1988. And that was in Calgary in Alberta. Those Olympics were remembered for two things. Firstly, one of the most beautiful women ever to ice skate called Katharina Witt. So that's what most of the photographers that were good were given to do to spend the evenings photographing Katharina Witt dancing around an ice rink, which is not a bad way to spend the evening in 1988. The other thing it was remembered for was that Britain had the world's worst ski jumper called Eddie the Eagle. And he was... So they gave that to me because they thought, "Well, that's a good pair up. We'll get Yarrow to photograph Eddie the Eagle." And of course, Eddie the Eagle, they had a film about him as well quite recently. And so I enjoyed Calgary. But I had my moment there where I... In those days, the Olympics would be sponsored. There'd be lots of sponsors, but two of the key sponsors would be Kodak and Fuji. That kind of dates me because we were still working on film. And at the end of the day, you'd go to these enormous labs that would be sent up, sponsored by Fuji and Kodak. And you'd hand in all your 35 mil film, you'd hang around for three hours, and then you'd get them back, and then you'd wire them to whoever you were wiring them to. And I remember so vividly then worrying that no matter how hard I was trying to get a different type of picture, that I would go around the editing room because there's degrees. Photography, breast photography is actually quite collegiate in that everyone tends to try and help each other. Certainly the top. At the bottom, there's maybe people who are in a hurry, and then the people that are insecure can be a little bit bitchy. I'm sure it's the same in every industry. But I would see too many photographs that were the same. And it worried me with my very limited understanding of economics from my schooling, that how on earth could you have a profession that would evolve if there was just so much supply of what you were doing?
Photography is quite collegiate (25:42)
You'd go and try and get a different photograph of a bobsleigh coming down the bobsleigh track. And then before you knew it, there were 25 German photographers. Always watch the Germans, they're very good. So there'd be 25 German photographers working for Stern or whatever that would have exactly the same or a better image. And I came home from that Olympics full of stories, and I loved the glamour of it all and being where the world was focused. To be at that men's downhill with the world watching it was hugely exciting. But I just worried about what it was all about, what my craft, what was I trying to do? I was just getting another picture that perhaps the world didn't need. There was something else, Tim, that concerned me. I think a lot of artists are insecure, and I'm insecure. It manifests itself in lots of different ways. I think a lot of people would see me as not having one ounce of insecurity, and I worry about things that I probably shouldn't do.
The problem David saw after the Olympics (26:49)
But I had a problem that there was no one there in the photography world that was 20 years older than me or 25 years older than me that I looked up to and I said, "I really want to be that man when I'm older. That's what I really want. I want to be him." There was no guiding light, and that's not meant to be disrespectful to any of these individuals who are great fun in the evenings most of the time, but a lot of them had fairly dysfunctional lives. And I didn't really see where the end game was. They were pressmen. They were working for either big newspapers or, in those days, of course, Sports Illustrated was so much of a bigger magazine than it is now, regrettably. But I didn't see many people that set a goal for me to try and attain in terms of getting a job affirmation, getting better at what they're doing, really enjoying their life and taking pleasure from it. There was, I think, quite a lot of fairly unhappy pressmen on tour. And I remember coming back from that Olympics, and I had two job offers because I'd finished my—I graduated, and the two job offers were the identical salary. There was a job offer of what would equate now to $20,000 to work for what is now Getty Images, which you'll be familiar with. And then there was an offer of $20,000 to work for NatWest Bank. And to the enormous surprise of people at Getty and—but to the profound delight of my parents, I chose NatWest Bank. I think they're both nearly bust now, by the way. I think Getty's really well being bought back by the family because they had to buy it back after the private equity passed to parcel. And NatWest is certainly bust. Why did you choose NatWest and banking?
Why I went into Banking (and the subpar VW Camper van) (28:56)
Because everyone else was doing it, and I'd watched Wall Street, and I thought Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox were super cool. And it was inside—it wasn't like minus 25 in Calgary, and it just seemed like what everyone else was doing. Way back in 1988, the Big Bang had happened in the UK. That was when there was a consolidation of the whole broking industry. And Oliver Stone had produced Wall Street about 1985, that year of 1985. And the books that we read were books like Barbarians of the Gates and— Which is a fantastic book as an aside. It's a great read. And it was R.J.R. Nabisco, wasn't it? And then Michael Lewis, who's just a superb writer, just brings it home. And I think Laris Poecher, about the dealing room floor at Salomon Brothers, was almost like the Bible if you were—whether you—I'm sure it's true in America as well. If you'd been at Harvard or Princeton or MIT, and I was not at an Ivy League college like that, but Edinburgh University was certainly a good platform for people building a career in those days in the UK. And it just seemed the normal thing to do. I'll never forget a conversation with my father, who—I had a difficult relationship. He was a kind of patriarchal Edwardian character. That was just the way he was. He didn't mean it. He just—that's the way—he was of that old school Downton Abbey type generation that would never express words like "love" and "congratulations" or whatever. It would be very difficult to get that kind of appreciation out of him. And I remember him saying to me, he said, "David, you should go into banking because it's a robust, honorable profession, whereas photography is just a hobby." And it kind of dates the conversation that anyone could say that, because it says, "Well, that must have been in the '80s when someone said that." And my dad was a—he was an industrialist, but he was also chairman of a bank in a kind of ambassadorial way. What does that mean? I think that your banking system and our banking system are very different in that if you look at right now, if you look at the big senior banks, the chairman of the banks that are being interviewed right now during this meltdown in financial markets and talk of depression, they are entirely— entirely fluid in the language of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. If you are chairman of a British bank, you just have to be familiar with opening an envelope and opening an office. And my father's role was very much more. There's a ceremony today. Someone's got their 50-year—give them a watch. They've been working 50 years. I don't mean to sound that disrespectfully, but the chairman of American banks, they've got an executive role, and they've got to understand exactly what's going on in terms of their risk-weighted assets and the risk portfolio of those assets. Whereas in the UK, there was a period where you—there were a lot of banks, and you could have a figure at the helm that was just there to add a little bit of gray hair and gravitas without having a fucking clue what was going on.
What I learned in finance to inform my later exploration of photography (32:31)
So if I got my homework done correctly, your father was involved with banking, among other things. He was an industrialist. Industrialist. So he was an industrialist, Yarrow Shipbuilders, and then he had the banking involvement. So your mother was an artist. You end up after watching Gordon Gecko, reading Barbarians at the Gate, Liar's Poker, all great reads. Barbarians at the Gate, for those people who don't want to read a book right now, also made into a fairly entertaining movie. You enter the banking world in part because it is the normal thing to do, but also because it was, I would imagine at the time, based on the stories told in these books and shown on the big screen, quite exciting. What did you learn in banking that informed your later exploration of photography, if anything? I learned so much. I learned failure, humility, surrounding myself with bright people, and I made a lot of friends. I encourage younger people these days to remember that friendships and the contact, the people you can call, are so important, particularly at times like this when you need to be calling people and need to have a degree of contextuality. You're right. In 1988, going into a dealing room, whether it be a Salomon's dealing room or in my case it was an investment bank called NatWest Market, having 500 people in one room was incredibly exciting. You didn't, again, you didn't really have a clue what was going on and someone else was paying for you to learn. I moved to America for a while and when I was working in Wall Street, I got to meet some of the first hedge fund managers. Some of them were in Boston, some of them were in New York, and I thought this is a kind of cool job. You're the guy that can sit around and not have to make calls the whole time, but maybe be slightly more cerebral. Spend a bit more time just doing your own research and be judged by the quality of your decisions, not the quantity of your calls. The problem is that no one wanted to hire me as a hedge fund manager. So I thought in about, it was about 1995, 96, I left the investment bank and set up my own fund management business. I wasn't married and didn't have any obligations and I thought if I don't do it now, I never will. And the idea of continuing to be that bud fox and plenty of six-figure numbers on that zip file kind of call, I'd done that for eight years. And for most people it's enough.
Alex's experience of 9/11 (35:41)
That's a tough job. I do feel, and the job is slightly anachronistic now, but that job of being your kind of bud fox salesman. And we'll come on to Jordan Belford because I spent quite a bit of time with him over the last 12 months, but it was a slightly more elevated phone call. The wolf of Wall Street who don't recognize Jordan Belford. So I set up my own fund and I didn't really know. I was 31 at the time. And there were a few things I had to negotiate in the markets, but it wasn't that demanding. There was the big run in tech stocks that you'll remember towards the tail end of the 1990s, 1998, 1999. The Icarus flying too close to the sun years. Yeah. And then the big Scandinavian telephony stocks, the Nokias, the Eriksons. And then there was the whole Y2K turn of the millennium situation. I often say to people, if you set up a business on Monday and you get married on a Tuesday, metaphorically, a lot of things are going to have to go right in your life for that decision making, crammed into one kind of week, albeit it wasn't. But I kind of set up a business on Monday and kind of got married on a Tuesday. In what sense did you get married? Well, I did get married, but it wasn't on the Tuesday, but there wasn't a huge gap between the two. You mean got married? I apologize. Physically married to a young married my girlfriend. Got it. And in 2000, she had our first daughter and everyone looked at me and said, "Bloody hell, Yara, you've not done bad. You've got a lovely young family. You've got your own business." And then she was barely one year old. We went over to America for a wedding in September 2001. And at the end of the wedding, we said, "Well, why don't we, rather than going back to the UK, why don't we just go on a little bit of a U.S. road trip?" And on the Tuesday morning, I was getting ready and I was just in the lobby of the hotel when I saw the first plane go in or what looked like the repercussions of the first plane going in. And of course, because it was 2.15 or sort of 5 to 2 European or British time, our markets were open. And I was running a very, very small pot of money at that time, but I still had responsibility. I probably had about 60 or 70 investors. And I just didn't like what I saw and markets would have been tough anyway. Ericsson, the Swedish mobile telephony company had warned the previous day. And also, I was with my wife and I was on a road trip in America and I thought, "You know what? This just doesn't look good." And because I'd read all the books, I just thought, "Why don't I just take my risk off?" And because markets were open… So this is 9/11. This is on the day of 9/11. This is on the day. And so by the time the second plane went in, we'd cleared the decks for every client that we had of every holding that we had. I think Goldman Sachs, I think it was in those days, well, it's still now, but they were looking after me. They sold everything that we had. And if you go back to those, whatever they were, 19 minutes or 18 minutes between the two planes, and when one of the CNBC anchors died two or three years ago, Mark Holmes, they played his, I thought, extraordinary performance on the set of an incredibly professional of those 19, 20 minutes. And what I find still extraordinary was that it was really only two minutes before the second plane went in that things became… There was no impact on the markets of the first plane going in, absolutely none at all, because people just assumed it was an accident. And the whole… I'm sure you remember the visuals of that hole on the tar. It just seemed a bloody big hole for… I'm not trying to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I took the decision. There was no skill in it, it was just instinct. So after the whole denouement of 9/11 and whatever, I went from being someone that seemed to be a nobody. I hasten to add, we didn't make any money from this, we just avoided our clients losing any money. So when they got their returns for the month of September in the post, their return was 0.3%, whereas of course a lot of people had lost 15, 20% of their money. And that's why the book, Nassim Taleb's book, Fooled by Randomness, plays a big role in my thought processes. I was just lucky, but I went from running a small amount of money to employing 45 people to running a billion dollars and… Over what period of time did that happen? About six months, and six to nine months. The reality, Tim, was that I was not equipped for it. I was not equipped suddenly to be having a wife, a daughter, 45 people, a billion dollars, whereas, going back two years before, I was just a kid with a dream. And it was actually too much for me, and I couldn't cope because suddenly everyone wanted a little bit of my time at home or in the office, and I had to have a little stakeholders in my life. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing I do again now, but I'm more mature, I can cope with it. But then I just couldn't, and I just felt lonely, I just felt unhappy, and I didn't know when the me time was. There was no real time for me.
What happens to us in a financial downturn? (42:31)
And when markets are your way, when your fund is performing through luck or judgment, those cracks can be papered over in a cocktail of champagne and good food and wine, and people playing up to you because you're the guy. But of course, as soon as the performance deteriorates, which inevitably it will from time to time, those cracks become very conspicuous. And my life kind of blew up. My marriage didn't survive. I probably took it out of myself quite a bit in the evenings. What do you mean by that? I would drink too much. I think I'd leave it at that, but I wasn't a happy person. Then you go in the following day to face more hell. And so many people do get divorced, sadly, but it's about as big a test as you can have. Unless there was someone on the other side and you fall in love with someone else, and I hadn't, neither of us were… there was no infidelity. It was just like ships in the night. Two people that were… one was being a mother, which is the most important job in the world, and the other was being a depressed hedge fund manager full of self-inflated ideas of their own importance, potentially. And something had to give, and it gave. And of course, if there is a little bit of money knocking around because of previous success, well, then the lawyers can take their teeth in and all hell breaks loose. And this was all… I'm moving forward now to when the world really did start financially to implode, which was around the first signs in 2006. I think it was the investment bank Bear Stearns, and then just continued to spiral downwards from there. And because I was going through the kind of final parts of that divorce, I had a disposition to being cautious anyway. I just couldn't maybe subconsciously… my whole mindset was to be cynical and miserable. So, when… and also, something's got to be wrong. I mean, Scott's… we're quite a savvy bunch. I think the three oldest universities in the world are Scottish from about 1450. But in 2007, a nation of six million people, and we've got two of the top ten banks in the world, that doesn't stack up. It stacks up. We might have had three of the oldest universities and one of the worst football teams. But not two of the biggest banks in the world. And so, I was very cautious about that. Royal Bank of Scotland bought one of your bank's citizens, and it just didn't stack up that these were where they were in terms of 300 years of prudence. A culture of prudence had gone to five years of a culture of building the balance sheet. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we got through 2008, and on the… I think it was the 8th of December, I had a Christmas lunch with my team and said, "Well, listen, you know, it's been a shitty time, but most people have had their bollocks put on a plate, and we've lost three or four percent of people's money. So, we're going to come out of this okay." And then I get this… For the Yanks, just a subtitle, bollocks equals balls. Please continue. Please continue. Yeah. Sorry. No, I'm quite… We must do the two lavishes. I'm quite enjoying this. Yeah, please continue.
Bernie Madoff and the Ponzi scheme. (46:43)
Anyway, so I get this phone call saying this guy, Bernie Madoff, Madoff Madoff, has handed himself over to the FBI in his biggest Ponzi scheme. And I go, "Who's he?" And they say, "Well, he runs a big hedge fund out of New York." I say, "Well, it won't affect us silly idiots." A bunch of crooks in this game. I knew about a group of people called Fairfield Greenwich that were a feeder to him because this was a well-known fund, but I thought it had no impact on us. And how wrong was I? Because what I didn't know was that so much of the money that had got invested with Bernie Madoff had also invested with us. And when I set the fund up in 1997, the only people that were going to put money with me were my dog and my sister. So in 1997, I said, "You can have your money back in a week's time." And I kept that rule. Oh, man. From 1997 to 2000. If you need your money, you can have it in a week. So the next day, I got redemptions over the next week of $600 million, and that was it. That was it. So something that I was exposed to that was an exogenous variable effectively to all intents and purposes killed the business. And you asked a question quite a long time ago. It might have been in the previous millennium, but you asked me the question, "What did you learn from investment from your time in banking?" I think the thing that I took away from it most was that I must never again put myself in a position where your work ethic can be totally undone by things being totally beyond your control. It's rather ironic I say this as the coronavirus is about to hit its peak in parts of Europe and to hit its peak in America soon, because clearly that is an exogenous variable that means that right now what I do is not something that people want to hear an awful lot about. But I'll always remember that time. It taught me a lot of humility. I think if you're selling a product, you and your career have sold all sorts of things and a huge admiration for the polymath that you are. I've already only sold two things. I've sold hedge funds and pictures of elephants. Now by and large… There's a bit more to it than that, but please continue. But by and large, one is quite an easy sell because you turn around to the guy that wants the picture of the elephant and say, "That's always going to be an elephant. You're not going to wake up tomorrow morning and it's a giraffe. You're getting what you see." Whereas the whole concept of selling a product on the basis of future returns, you cannot guarantee. I really struggled with and I know I'm not alone, but the whole premise that… And the words "salesman" as well slightly gives an uncomfortable shiver down my spine because you shouldn't really be selling. Selling investment products is a very tricky compromise.
Challenges On Being A Salesman And Market Insights
Dave's challenges with being a salesman. (50:22)
It's a difficult thing to get right because you cannot make an aggressive sale because you cannot guarantee. You've just got to say, "I promise to do my best. I promise to try and exercise maximum judgment. Try not to panic. If I'm going to panic, I'll panic early and I'll show total integrity at all times." I don't think you can do more than that, but I think it's a tough… I have huge admiration for the people that do it well. Yesterday on your CMB show, one of your icons in hedge fund management, Paul Tudor Jones, spoke and I listened. I wrote to him afterwards. I listened so you could hear a pin drop in my living room for half an hour and he was so precise, passionate when he needed to be passionate, dispassionate when he needed to be dispassionate, but all the time entirely considered. But he's the exception. Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show. We all shop online and we've seen that promo code field that taunts us at checkout. You see it all the time. Thanks to Honey, you never have to manually search for coupon codes ever again. Honey is the free browser extension that finds promo codes for you and automatically applies them to your cart. As a real example, just yesterday, one of my employees saved $21. That is a whole lot of money off of a sweater they've been pining after for a long time. Here's how it works. Just shop at your favorite sites, click the Honey button that drops down at checkout, and wait a few seconds as Honey scans its database of all the working coupons for that site. Then watch the prices drop. That's it. Honey has found its 17+ million members more than $2 billion in savings. So check it out. Get Honey for free at joinhoney.com/tim. That's joinhoney.com/tim. So I can't not go down this rabbit hole for just a second since you mentioned PTJ. There's also a great documentary on his early days. If people can track it down, I can't recall the name of it right now, but really sharp guy. I'll leave it at that for now, but you know much better than I. It just so happens that two of the most successful photographers I know both have backgrounds in finance. You and Brandon Stanton, who created Humans of New York. That's not always the case. I also know Chase Jarvis and a few others who do not have finance or banking backgrounds. But you, in this current set of world circumstances, in lieu of going outside and photographing elephants and so on, since it's difficult to do that at the moment, I would imagine, correct me if I'm wrong, but have probably been unable to escape the temptation to put your investor/trader hat on, at least in observing world events. So Paul Tudor Jones has his perspective, which as you noted, can be seen on CNBC. On the web, there's a two-minute video. There's a longer interview with him. He is reasonably optimistic. It's hard to know how much of that is informed by what his current book looks like or anything else, but I happen to believe he's a pretty good guy overall. And what do you think the world looks like in a month, three months, six months? I know I'm asking you to kind of look into a crystal ball or through turtle shells and so on and so forth. But if you had to speculate, what do you think things look like, whether referring to markets, economies, or otherwise? What is your view of the world and what do you see coming?
Africa, one of the hardest hits by infrastructure and corruption. (54:25)
I've got to be very, very careful that I don't become an instant expert in viruses because we've seen so many of those get airtime recently. The first thing I'd say, without wanting to copy what Paul said, is that we are at the end, from a financial markets perspective, we're coming to the end of our first quarter, and that always means that bizarre things happen. The fact that the Dow should have its biggest run since 1933, at the very time that New York is being considered the epicenter of this virus, if you're looking from another planet, you really would think that humans are quite mad that those two things should happen simultaneously. And I'm sure the history books will look at what's happened over the last week. It's been a historic week following a historic week, and next week will be a historic week. And just for timing, so we just show where we're frozen in the amber here, we're recording this on Friday, March 27th. Please continue. So, the first thing I'd say is that I am following it. I want to be an optimist. I want to get out and photograph. I want to go out and see people. I want to come back to America. I want to go to Africa. A couple of things that I'm concerned about, and Paul touched on one, Africa I'm very concerned about. I spend a lot of time in East Africa. A lot of people turn around to me and say, "David, you spend quite a bit of your year in Africa. You must love Africa." I turn around, it's like dispersing. I say, "I hate Africa." I say, "It's the most corrupt continent in the world." For a start, it's four continents wrapped into one, whether it be the Arabic north, the All-Rich West, Colonial East, or sub-Saharan Africa. And the one thing that unites those four sub-continent within the continent is they're all corrupt from top to bottom. That corruption and lack of infrastructure is going to be laid very bare in the next two or three months. You take some of the townships in Johannesburg. Goodness knows what's going to happen. I see them made a lockdown today, but you worry about the spread. You've got to assume that whether you're in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam or Johannesburg or Lusaka, that the whole population is going to have it. That you've just got to work on that basis. The idea of human distancing and townships, I think, are mutually exclusive. So you worry about that. America is, in many ways, the right country for this to be the epicenter, for it to be the epicenter. Because your country, time and time again, has found a way out of things, and that can-do mentality and ethos has never been more needed. It's also very good for entertainment factors because the one thing our family will do – I just love it when I don't do politics, but your president's press conferences are a lot of fun because when he's asked a question – you wouldn't tolerate him on your show, Tim. Because if he's asked a question, he will take the subject matter and then give his personal experience of the subject matter. So yesterday when he was asked about when will insurance protection kick in for second-tier restaurants, he then goes on some sort of Gettysburg address, except it's not about the restaurants. You get some really good meat and fish, and then you just get one bad fish, and it ruins all the 30 good fish you've had. And you're going, "Where does this come from?" because that wasn't what you were asked. But he just takes it as an opportunity just to let go on his own personal experiences with all the same adjectives and pronouns. But that is a little bit of light entertainment away from it. I worry for New York. The last American city I was in was New Orleans two weeks ago. We had a show there, and that was about a week after the Mardi Gras. And obviously, they're concerned about that city now. We're all fine. If I had to put my bet is as good or as bad as anyone else's, how can it be better than anyone else's? It's absolutely not. I fancy this is six months, and then the cloud, the other side, will have many disappointments on the way. When this time yesterday, our European stock markets were around about 15%, 16% off their moving average from about 12 weeks ago. That seems far too high. Now, the markets have been weak today, but that would be my only comment is that this strikes me if you were looking at it from another planet. This is a 30% to 50% off risk assets event until it's sorted. And you don't want to be short of your economy. And your economy, if we'd had this conversation two or three months ago, your economy is quite extraordinary, has been extraordinary. We benefit. That's why we spend so much time there. If you take the second city in Great Britain for luxury spend, let's imagine you're Tom Ford, and Tom Ford wants to have a new store in the UK, but he's got London. So he said, "London's fine, but where are we going to go outside London?" And he thinks, "Well, maybe should we go to Manchester? Should we go to Edinburgh? Should we go to Leeds? Maybe Glasgow?" But then he's probably a bit stuck after that. And no one knows what the answer is, what that second city should be. What we think is in below the 48th, there are 37 cities in America that will be stronger than our second city in the UK. And that just shows the strength and breadth of your economy, which is going to be tested in the short term. That's for sure. And I think I'd slightly agree with what Paul said yesterday, that you could see at some stage in the next couple of weeks, now that the Fed have played their cards, that the lows might be retested. But what we do know from the last three days is there's nothing like a big, bare, short squeeze and the speed of that rise in the markets. You know there are a lot of people that are short, the shortness market. So I think in a year's time, the markets will be higher than where they are now. But we're all going to have to go through cutting for whatever your job is, whether you're running, do what you do, you do what I do. The next 12 months are going to be, from a purely cash generation perspective, there's so many other parts to life as you try to instill in us, but purely from a cash generating perspective, the next 12 months are going to be tough. So I think that's one or two last questions on this and then we'll get back to photography because I have a lot of questions about that. And they're partially informed by all of this background and context, but if we take one piece of Paul Tudor Jones' video and look at it for a second, I'd love to get your opinion. I don't know the UK markets at all, but how much of the pop that we're seeing in the US or in the UK do you think is accounted for by the front running that he mentioned of, I'm guessing, index funds or other large institutionals who have to rebalance effectively, right?
How much of the recent market rally was "forced"? (01:02:39)
Or forced purchasing. How do you think about this current jump? You have the stimulus package thrown in as another variable and many other things, people covering shorts, who the hell knows, but how do you explain the run up just in the last few days and at the end of this month, I suppose, more broadly? Yeah, 20% is an awful lot to explain by one variable alone. It's going to have to be an amalgam, an aggregation of variables that sort of self propagate themselves, but short covering the viciousness of the moves, particularly in the last hour of trading, spank of emotion and machines.
When emotion and machines agree... (01:03:26)
So actually, I'm saying two totally contradictory things, but emotion and machines have one thing in common, which is not about considered decision making. It's not about anyone turning around and saying, I think these numbers in New York are going to plateau earlier or whatever, or perhaps their balance sheets aren't quite as weak on the worst case scenario in the final quarter of this year. It is panic buying to rectify a situation that's not going to be comfortable going into the year end. When I got rid of my fund, actually someone took the fund over and the person that took the fund over used to work for another great American fund manager, Julian Robertson, the Tiger Fund manager in the old days. Quick side note, if people want to know Julian Robertson's story, the book More Money Than God is effectively liar's poker for hedge funds and has some great stories related to him. Please continue, sorry to interrupt. So all these Tiger Cubs were characters that Errol Flynn would have played them all. They're all heroes from a romantic novel, swashbuckling, normally athletic individuals that all had big degrees from big colleges or whatever. My fund was taken over by one of the Tiger Cubs and I think he's one of these individuals that even if a meteor like that film, whatever it was, the double impact or Armageddon, whatever, even if it's going to hit the earth, he will not hedge. So we got our, last Friday I got our year to date numbers from the fund and I haven't really been looking at the fund too much because I'm just getting on with my own stuff and I'm not trading it. Hopefully it will be there in 10 years time. And I saw he was down 68% year to date, which honestly, so I thought this is a fund that has now been going for 23 years and we've managed in six weeks to lose 68%. The reason I say this is because I take my hat off to the individual involved, not for losing 68 because he would just say that's a mark to market thing. He had the confidence, stoicism, the belief that when he was down 68, because I think if I was down 68, I'd either throw myself in the river, take old bets off. I don't think I would have just done nothing. I say that as a criticism of me, not a compliment to me, whereas this individual would turn around and say, no, it's just bars and sellers and the market's in a panic. And of course this week, he's cut those losses in half. So he's not far behind the market now. I would have been dreadful in those circumstances. I've given it to the right guy.
Dispositional bias in financial reporting. (01:06:43)
Who knows? I mean, who knows what, but I do think on your TV shows, there is a dispositional bias in the commentary towards hope and towards blue on the screen. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. The whole history of your country has been built on the basis of positivity and us Brits could learn a thing or two about that. I just think that if a market loses a thousand points in the day and rallies 50 points in the last 10 minutes, the headline should not be rallies 50 points in the last 10 minutes. It should be down 950 on the day. It's a bit like that Titanic story, you know, about, I don't know whether you have it in America, but talking about the UK's provinciality. And when the Titanic went down, the headline in my local newspaper, I come from a village in Scotland called Greenock and the headline was Greenock man dies at sea rather than the Titanic when he was on the Titanic. But I think there is a little bit of a dispositional skew towards wanting hope and wanting to see the other side of this. And we all share that, but in the short term, I'd worry a little bit. Great. Thank you for thank you for answering that. And we're going to hop back into some other subject matter, although people may see some through lines in maybe the thinking that you bring to your life and also to this conversation.
False Bay: Back on land. (01:08:26)
I want to go to 2012 and it would have been around 2012. I don't know if it's exactly 2012, but in that range of 2011, 2013, I believe two things happened that I'd like to talk about. One was the, uh, your, your story of the Texan attorney, nickname Jaws and everything around that. And then also a paper that you, uh, that you wrote a discussion paper titled, correct me if I'm wrong, the smart way to monetize strong photography, and you can tackle these in either order, but could you please describe and tell the stories of these two things? Sure. Um, I think we should all have heroes and, um, I have two or three heroes, uh, that there's a big gap from those two or three to the next. And they're actually the top two are filmmakers. Uh, Martin Scorsese is, uh, someone I looked up to enormously, but, uh, in gold medal position is Steven Spielberg. And when Spielberg shot Jaws, he was 25 years old and, uh, I was listening to your podcast with Vinnie Vaughn, uh, two nights ago.
Photography As A Business
Whats in a name? (01:09:50)
And I heard him mention how, uh, emotionally empathetic he was on, on set. Um, uh, Tom Hanks, uh, obviously collaborated with, with Spielberg an awful lot when, when Tom Hanks was asked, what is it that makes Spielberg the director cinematographer of our generation? Uh, Hanks, uh, replied it's because he has a fluency in the language of what it takes to elicit an emotional reaction. Uh, I think that's a very important sentence. Um, but I'll come onto that later, but in 2000 and 2011, our, uh, worlds collide a little bit. Albeit I wasn't 25, uh, which I think was still Jaws is still, I think one of the top 20 grossing films of all time. Um, but I got obsessed with great white sharks and then the best place in the world to, to photograph great whites, uh, was in False Bay around the corner from Cape Town. It's not now for other, for reasons that we can talk about later, maybe. Um, if you're, if you're going to try and photograph great whites, not, uh, swimming in the water, which is boring because it's been done before. I go back to my Calgary analogy of too many people doing the same thing. You, I want a shark coming out of the water. I want a shark predating on something. Uh, and I'd fly down to Cape Town or from London on a Thursday night, arrived Friday morning too late to go on my vessel. And then on, um, Saturday morning, Sunday morning, Monday morning, I would spend four hours from five in the morning till nine at sea in this place called Attack Channel, uh, trying to photograph the great whites. Attacking a seal coming out, predating, come flying out of the water to get the seal. Breaching. Uh, breaching. Yeah, exactly. And, um, I worked with a great marine biologist who's now a good friend called Chris Fallows. He's taken the best two pictures of great whites breaching that I know of. And my friends back in London were saying, you know, David, just isn't it cheaper just to go and see a therapist rather than just go to Cape Town to see him? What a f-ing waste of money. I mean, because every trip was costing me about, because I was still working, every trip was costing me like about 10,000 bucks, uh, because then I had the boat and then the hotels and it's their winter as well. So at the height of everyone in London going and getting blasted at Glastonbury or watching Wimbledon tennis or whatever, or being on holiday in Ibiza or Mykonos, I would be shivering my arse off in their winter on my own, um, trying to photograph a shark breaching out of the water. And I do think a lot of people worried about my sanity. Um, anyway, I wasn't going to quit. You cannot, you cannot quit. You just got to continue.
Arriving at Simonstown (01:12:52)
But equally there were practical considerations and the season would run from June to July and on the final possible journey out. And no one knows why Great White's breach in the half hour before sunrise and the two hours after sunrise. The general supposition is it's because the seal pups cannot see them coming to attack them and therefore this is their best time to, to, to predate. But no one knows the answer to that. Anyway, the final day I get the shot and, um, I remember my, my, my heart beating so quickly and, and you, you've then got a, you've got about a 40 minute journey to come into a very modest little village near Cape Town called Simonstown. It's actually where the South African Navy, I don't know why South Africa has a Navy. They might need it for a sort of a hospital ships in the next two weeks, but I don't know why they need a Navy. Anyway, the Navy is at Simonstown. Um, and you can never on, on digital cameras, you can't really find out whether something is what we call in the, in the trade. And I hope my accent doesn't make a mess of this, but out of whack, out of whack means out of focus. Either something is in focus, emphatically in focus or it isn't. And there's no ambiguity. If it's, if it's 2% out, it's 2% out. And my sports photography days taught me that. I'm very, very tough on myself, uh, on focus. You're never going to be able to see that on the back of your screen on a camera or on a choppy water. So I got back to the cafe and, uh, was able to look at it, um, uh, um, in the cold light of day and it was in focus.
Paying the bills (01:14:49)
The shark attacking the seal, everything was in focus and I got quite emotional. It was a bit like my story on the plane with Maradona except that was at sea level, not 36,000 feet up. And I knew it was a big picture. Uh, so I sent it to the agency in London. Uh, I was on my own. Um, I didn't really have, it was a Sunday morning. I didn't have anyone to, to, to celebrate with in a beautiful, ever you want to, ever you want a great restaurant in, in your, your happened to be in Cape town in a place called Quark Bay. There's a fish restaurant over the railway line. I think it's called Harbor lights. And because the South African round is under a lot of pressure, you can have the best seafood bottle of wine and get changed for 20 bucks. So I had lunch on my own, like the loser I am with my camera and, uh, the picture, um, was I think in the next week, around a hundred, uh, magazines, newspapers in the world, all around the world. And I got my check, uh, about six months later because they're all playing, you know, the game in terms of the delay between them getting the, the income in and then being sent to you. And my check was around about, I don't know, around about $17,000. And I thought, this has got to be the worst industry in the world because it must've cost me at least 25,000 to finally get that picture. So I've taken this picture and I've lost $8,000 from taking this picture. I thought this is, I mean, I may as well go back to try to do something else. I mean, what a, what a stupid industry. And then I got a call from someone, um, and I spent a lot of time in Texas, y'all, um, now, and they go, I was, that's a bad Texan accent. And he said, he said, are you the kid that took the photograph of the shark? He says, cause I'm an attorney, I'm called Jaws and I want one of them picture of my wall because I want to pay the prayer of God into anyone that litigates against me. And it went from Texas to Forrest Gump in about 10 seconds. Anyway, so he, um, he said, uh, how much do you want for the picture? And this is 11, 10, 11 years ago and people weren't looking at photography as an area where you could find art. And I said, well, maybe we'll put it in a nice frame at all. Uh, maybe, but, uh, maybe charge you $10,000. Um, but he said $10,000. So I, I obviously thought I'd gone way too, way too high. So I said, well, listen, um, I'm sorry to think that's a lot. I said, we'll deliver it, we'll deliver it to Texas for free. We might even install it. He goes, no, I'm going to have three of them shark. And that was when the penny dropped for me. It was just in that one conversation that photography at an editorial level, selling pictures to Stern magazine or Parry match or sports illustrated or the New York times, the London times printed picture. One of my pictures, half a page, London times like the New York times. I don't want to end a thing for it. It's the best PR you can have in the world. So that was when the penny dropped that the way to monetize it, if that's not a vulgar word, um, but the way to make a living, um, was through fine art. And so I wrote this piece is my ode to Cameron Crow in a way, because when Jerry Maguire did it in, uh, in, in Jerry Maguire, when, when, uh, Chris did it, you remember he wrote that missive and then he put it in everyone's cubby hole. Uh, and he said the sports manager should look after a few sports stars and you give them more personal attention. I wrote my mission statement. Um, I didn't do it quite as glamorous as Tom cruise and it took more than an evening with the towel around my neck. But I did a lot of homework and the basic essence was that the future for me, uh, in photography was going to be to not just encroach arts law, A.R.T. 's lawn with my photography, but for it to be an integral part of, of art, to be something that is quite clearly art full stop. And that was if you got that right and from there it was going to be a long old journey, um, that there was a marketplace. And I look back now. Yeah, it was 120 months ago, probably 120, 12, 10 years. Um, I, I think we, we, uh, we've, the journey's not ended and the journey's just having a massive, uh, bump for everyone. Right now, but I've got so many things wrong in my life, but I, I got it right. Um, and you write in your, um, in your books, which I've read and some of the podcasts, which I've listened to you, you use a word, which is very important. Use the word self propagating and the importance of self propagation. And if you can get to a position where your brand is recognized and strong, so many good things come from that in a, in a way that you don't actually have to, as long as you look after the brand, the position can reinforce itself. Um, when we were starting selling pictures for $5,000, $5,000 seems an awful lot for a photograph. Uh, I, I look back at, and we have one subject we haven't talked about when I did a sports, when I did sports photography, my claim to fame was that John McEnroe spat at me at Wimbledon and he got a 15 point code violation for many years.
Lessons from selling pictures for 20 (01:20:54)
That was my, that was my biggest claim to fame, but I used to sell pictures outside the tube station underground, the subway for 20 bucks. Um, way back in, way back in the day in 1987 of, it was the great days when you had America had fantastic tennis players, nothing you don't know. Um, you have an amazing women's tennis players and Coco's quite something. But in the days of, on the men's side, you had McEnroe and Connors and Garolitis, it was just like one big party. I mean, you just want to go party with those guys. Uh, but, but I was, I was sell pictures for 20 bucks. So, in Art Miami last year, um, I did say to people, we sold a picture for $200,000 and someone said, well, that's an awful lot. Um, David, that's quite, I said, well, how I could be accused of taking my time because that was 35 years after I was selling pictures for 20 quid outside a subway station in London. So it's, um, I think there are a lot of lessons to be, to be learned from that. Let's look a little more closely at that discussion paper. The smart way to monetize strong photography. So my understanding is that it included an analysis of the business models or approaches of two, at least two. I'm not sure if there were more very successful photographers at the time. Could you speak to what observations or conclusions you made of those successful photographers?
Why Charlie considers photography a collegiate industry. (01:22:43)
Yeah, absolutely. And the first thing I'd say about photography and almost more than anything else that I will say in this interview with you, Tim, I so believe in this from the bottom of my heart that photography is collegiate. I don't compete against other photographers. This is not a zero sum game job. I think you've used that expression just because you're doing well. It doesn't mean that someone else should do badly and vice versa. Right. I always, I remember that, uh, in the World Cup semi-final I did the first 10 minutes of, uh, West Germany against, they were still called West Germany, West Germany against France. Um, and my camera broke, uh, 10 minutes into the World Cup semi-final and the Italian photographer next to me, he can see I was having problems. And he said, uh, my friend, he said, except he said it in Italian, here is my camera. He just gave me his camera. Uh, and he had no right to do that. And that's what photography I think is like. The two photographers that I mentioned in that piece were, uh, both, uh, live, I think in America, one's Australian and one's actually British. Um, the first one, uh, is a guy called Nick Brandt. And Nick, uh, first got involved in photography as a cinematographer. I think he was doing the filming of a Michael Jackson video that happened to be shot in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Was it called Earth Song? I can't remember the Michael Jackson. I think it might've been called that. And he fell in love with the Plains of Serengeti. Uh, he was a creative guy and he decided to spend more and more time, uh, in East Africa filming. And he focused on, uh, part of all the big elephants in the world or in Kenya. Uh, if you want to go and photograph a big elephant and I'm very much, I'm a romanticist, but I'm also a magnifier as well. If I want to go and photograph an ABBA tribute band, I'll do it in Stockholm. I will go to where it's at. So with elephants, the best place to photograph elephant, big elephants in the world is Kenya. There are about 22, uh, what are called big tusker elephants left in the world. They're, they're the, the elephants that, uh, look half like an elephant and half like a mammoth from ice age where the, the tusks touch the ground. And they're only in two national parks. They're in a national park called Amboseli and a national park called Savo where Peter Beard, who I'm sure you know, Peter Beard's work. He's from the Andy Warhol school and a great storyteller of a photographer. He spent a lot of time in Savo. Um, Nick spent a lot of time in this place called Amboseli and he photographed in black and white. And I always have photographs tended to photograph in black and white. We can maybe come onto that later. And his work was shot on film, not digital, but he was achieving very high prices for his work. And I admired it. I, and I still do. Uh, he got there before me. We don't know each other, but I have total respect for him. Um, and I know printers that he's used to use. I've known a lot of galleries. Who knows, knows both. Uh, and he gives an awful lot back to conservation and he is not, um, someone that likes, uh, socializing. And I respect that as well, which is why you need to use the wholesale marketplace, um, for other people to extol the virtues of your work. We have an acronym in the UK, which I'm sure Tim, you have in America called a fig jam. Do you have, do you have an acronym?
The pros and cons of selling artwork through galleries. (01:26:46)
I don't know what that means. So fig jam means in Britain, um, fuck I'm good. Just ask me. So please also explain what you mean by using the wholesale market. Uh, so I left you free to explain both of those. So wholesale means using galleries because if you're a photographer and you want to sell your, your, your work, you've got really two options in the fine art market. Number one is you can go to the best galleries in the world that one week might be selling, uh, Picasso's or Warhol's or baskets or whatever and say, or, or, or photographic galleries and say, here's, here's my work. And they'll take 50% they will take 50% of the sale. That's standard. Um, and Nick embraced that a model to the full and to the party because he didn't to go and be selling it yourself all around the world. It's a lot of work and you could have get the content. It's not like original content providers like Netflix. She's not got the guy that's making the latest episode of the crown the next week, trucking around Berlin trying to flog it. But he's not going to have much of a home life if that's the basis. But if you need wholesalers to distribute our biggest market in the world outside London is in Dallas. No, I went to Dallas seven years ago. By your market, you mean our biggest market, you mean you personally or do you mean fine art photography? No, for me personally. So, uh, seven years ago I didn't know anyone in Dallas. Um, but in order to get to that position, you need a gallery and then you just build up contacts. And I mean, Dallas, I go to Dallas now more than I go to New York or LA. Um, and, uh, even culminated, I couldn't quite, my family and friends certainly couldn't. I even had the pleasure of having lunch at SMU with George W and that was, that was a great thrill. And that, that all just came from Texan hospitality and just getting to know people. But with the gallery, with the gallery at the epicenter of that, with the gallery to talk about me.
Target Markets And Artwork Criticism
How did Dixie Dallas come to be his #2 market? (A hint, hunters, and football) (01:29:06)
So why just let's, let's, I know we're going to get to fig jam, but, uh, why on earth Dallas? I know Texas actually has a lot of art, but you could also say that of Los Angeles. You could say that of New York, you could say that of Chicago. How did Dallas come to be your number two? Um, I think, uh, Texans, as you know, there is a, it's a great sense of hospitality there. People, people want to help. Um, I might be losing, looking at with rose tinted spectacles, but by and large, we've been welcomed with open arms. There is irrespective of whether the oil price is 24 bucks a barrel or 70 bucks a barrel. I think that intense correlation between Texan wealth and oil price has loosened a little bit. I'm sure life in Houston isn't quite as good right now with the oil prices. It was when it was 60 or 70, but I think there's enough money there that it doesn't matter so much. Um, you then get into this extraordinary contradiction between conservationists and hunters. You go back in the history of America, so many of your great men were hunters and conservationists, Roosevelt, et al. Um, in, in Texas, there are an awful lot of these like safari clubs and whatever the hunters, and then they go on safaris to Africa. So, and I'm a conservationist that I don't really want to get aggressively into the debate as to whether you should spend your weekend shooting ducks. Um, but I, I certainly am someone that can't really be seen to be shooting ducks at the weekend. I think that would open the doors to a degree of double standards, but there are big walls, big homes, the areas like the Highland parks of this world. Um, there's a great client base there and we've got to know, we shot recently with the Dallas Cowboys and which was great fun and, uh, Troy Aikling actually came along to the shoot. We closed down the city center of Dallas and I thought, what are we going to, what are we going to put in the city center of Dallas? And I thought, well, we're going to have the cheerleaders and then we'd get a bunch of Longhorn cattle and some Cowboys and, and we did it. We closed down, closed down the city center and we got, we got some cattle, some Cowboys and some cheerleaders and just, let's see what, let's see what happens.
Difficulties with L.A. and New York (01:31:25)
So I want to come back to that, but how did it start? Did it come from you reaching out to someone? Did it come from an agency who represents you reaching out to someone? Did it start with a cold email from some, you know, big hat, uh, plus cattle, uh, money family in Dallas? How did it start? Which, which the, the Dallas itself or the, the idea of, um, so wearing my old hat, um, I'm the geek at school that knows all the detail on the baseball cards, but if you substitute baseball cards for American cities, I think, I don't think I'd, I'm not gonna, I don't think I'd do too badly telling you, you, you name an American city, we'll tell you what the art market is. Like in, in, in, in, in growth, second cities, Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, the Carolinas, how strong are these markets? Where, where are the big markets? And there are some tough markets in America that I think the two toughest markets that people assume are slam dunks are bizarre. Let's forget about what everything that's going on at the moment, but Los Angeles is a tough market and New York is a tough market. Los Angeles is a tough market because the wealth lives in, tends to live in two different places, either on the beach or in the hills or around West Hollywood. And to the best of my knowledge, they're one hour apart. So having, locating a gallery, you immediately eliminate half of them. Also people in LA, a bit like Sam Fram, and you have experience of this, they're invitation rich, particularly in, in LA. They're, they're time poor, they're friendship rich, and they, they really don't want to go to things. It's not a treat to go to an art gallery opening. They just think they'd rather avoid it. They'd rather take the dog to the vet than go to an art gallery. And this is one of, or the therapist. Whereas you got to, and in New York, it's similar in a way, and my, my work's quite large and Peter Beard had, had a similar issue. And if you got to, in, in, in New York, you can go to the kind of waspy Upper East Side, but the galleries are small there by definition because the rents are so high. And if you've got a gallery in Upper East Side, they could probably only fit three or four of my pictures in there. Then you go down to, to Soho and West Broadway where, where we've been before. And the rents in some of those places are enormous. And maybe the galleries are more kind of pop art galleries than galleries with the provenance of some of the ones in, in Upper East Side. So you are two lead cities in a way for, for, and I don't think I'd be the only person to say this, um, to present challenges. Whereas Dallas and Chicago are fantastic. They're not quite as invitation rich with the greatest respect to my friends in both Chicago and Dallas. They're, they're slightly, maybe slightly more genuine. Friendships maybe have more substance. They want to introduce you to more people. And, um, the gallery competition maybe isn't quite so stiff. And both economies present circumstances excluded are strong. So are, um, there's a big gap for us between, uh, Dallas, Chicago and the next market we have in the States.
Fail and Collect (01:35:02)
And so it was, this was a research driven decision on your part to target Dallas and Chicago as primary, primary, primary cities. Is that right? Yeah. I mean, I think that's right. And I think, uh, the kind of founding father of photography in the States, um, lives in, uh, Palm Beach. Uh, and the gallery is, uh, on that Worth Avenue. Yeah. With all the smart golf clubs and the luxury goods stores and whatever. And he turned me down, uh, five times. And, uh, there's nothing you, you write an awful lot about, uh, in, in your work about what you take out of rejection and not quite hitting it. Uh, and everyone has different responses to it. I'm a great believer that you have to experience those times to get better. And if you're a British guy and you turn up at the most important art gatekeeper for contemporary photography in America, and he looks at you and he says, thank you, but no, thank you. And then you have to roll your portfolio up and then get a taxi or whatever to Miami International and then get a flight back to London. That's, that's a lot of time to do a little bit of self loathing or, or, uh, say, well, sooner or later, he's not going to turn me down. And I'm just going off on a tangent here, but probably my worst time, you know, our, our Scottish writer, the, the, the, uh, JK Rowling of, uh, of Harry Potter fame and her lovely expression of his, uh, uh, rock bottom was a solid foundation, which I built my life. And, um, my, my, my, uh, my rock bottom was probably in 2012. So after I'd written my Jerry Maguire piece, but no one really wanted to listen too much. And the guy in Palm beach had turned me down, uh, four or five times. Uh, and he represented Nick actually, he represented Nick Branson and Nick and justifiably so. Um, and there was a Christmas in 2012 where I'm sure so many of your viewers, this will resonate with them. Unfortunately, there's sometimes when a marriage doesn't work, there'll be one day in a year if you have children that it can be tricky and Christmas day can, can sometimes be that day, uh, in terms of whether you're going to see your children or not. And, um, my ex wife and I now have a wonderful relationship and she's here, um, uh, cohabiting with me in our house with the family now. But this, those eight years ago, um, things weren't so good. And so it was very clear to me that I wasn't going to see my kids on Christmas day. And there's, there's two ways you can react to it. I felt that you could be around the corner with, with friends watching love actually for the 20th time and feeling miserable and pretending to keep a brave smile on being a loser. Or you can get the fuck out of there. Um, so I decided on the latter and, uh, I felt a kind of calling in a way that I needed to go and do something and, and, um, South Sudan was going through a civil war. I'd seen some imagery there and I'm kind of led quite a bit by the imagery of others without wanting to plagiarize it. And it looked like there was, there was stuff there that if I could just get far enough North inside Sudan, I could get a picture that, um, could stand the test of time if I got my lighting right and my logistics right. And I got it. I, I, so on Christmas day, I spent Christmas day, um, at a United Nations refugee camp in, in, in South Sudan with a lot of guns knocking around and, uh, just drove North with my minders in, in tougher as whether it's civil war was going on. And I, on the 27th of December, minders are people watching after you. These are just chaperones. Yeah. Yeah. Guys with guns. I think, you know, the, the, my, my food, uh, I think cost me about a dollar a day and the accommodation was about a dollar a day and then security details about a thousand a day. Anyway, on a, on a, on a week, I got the picture and it had a, I think the best pictures can be looked at for a long time. And this picture, uh, could be looked at for a long time, I felt. Um, uh, so I, I left South Sudan on about the 28th of December. Um, I get all my printing done in Los Angeles. Uh, and so eventually found my way from East Africa to LA, got the picture printed and then took it to, uh, the gatekeeper in Palm Beach. And, uh, this is the same person that rejected me for five times, five times. And he, he looked at it and he said, uh, he said, how old are you? Which I thought he should probably have known by now, but why should he? So I said, so I lied as we all do these days and I probably pretended I was younger than what I was. I might've said, I don't know, 42 or I don't know, 43. But he said, um, he said, uh, this picture is going to change the second half of your life. And I said, I said, well, hopefully for the better because the last 10 years, I haven't been up too much. And he said, no, it was going to change for the better. Uh, I said, why is that? He said, because it's a picture people need to see. And he said, I'll represent you from tomorrow. And that, that was, that was the, that was the moment. And I remember getting, getting absolutely drunk, hammered, uh, pissed, whatever the British expression, American expression back in Miami. And, uh, again on my own. Um, and that was the kind of, that was the moment. And Palm Beach is, is a, is a very important market. Um, albeit it's, uh, it's seasonal as you know, it kind of starts in November and then it goes through to May. Um, the extraordinary thing about your country is the geographical mobility of people that have done well. They will, they will, they will have homes. Sure they might have a home in the place where they work, but quite a, so many people from Palm Beach you find in Aspen at times or up in Nantucket or whatever. And your holiday destinations, there, there does seem to be quite a lot of, an expression you've got to be careful with right now, but cross-fertilization, there does seem to be people do hop and scotch and your, your resort markets. We have, we've had no, we have no doubt in our mind that if you take all the top 20 ski resorts in the world in terms of, um, the, um, uh, what you can learn, the quality of the people that are there. And I know you're going to get many people that disagree with this to an extent, the wealth, the connections, and in Europe you have five or six big ones where we have shows, but, uh, Aspen for all its things that I don't necessarily embrace, it takes a lot of beating as, as, as a resort to have a get to be shown in. And we had a show in, uh, Christmas this year. It was quite funny actually, because they, they, the gallery said, um, uh, we will give you a discount on your hotel because obviously you're going to have to come to your family. And I, before I, I asked what the discount was from, I said, that's very kind of you, we'll all be there. And then when you get to Aspen a new year, you get a room about the size of, I don't know, a shoebox and they ask you for like 800 bucks for your discount, standing 720, but it's still, you do meet some fascinating people there. And, and, uh, that's, that's another great place to, to, to show in America. So two quick questions is, is Palm beach an important market for, as a, for revenue, in other words, a percentage of, of let's say income, or is it important symbolically because the tastemakers there influence representation and purchase decisions and so on elsewhere or both? You're very good, Tim. That was, you're very good. That's, that's the right question. And the answer, the answer is a bit of both. Um, there are galleries that we show at that might not ring the bell in sales all the time, but the fact that they are, um, part of your dream team and that they rep you, um, serves two purposes, direct sales and also the provenance of your sales. And the provenance that someone that is seen to be a scholar in the art of the selection of artists has for whatever reason deemed to include you in their squad. So, uh, in New Orleans, I mean, that's an extraordinary place, isn't it? I love it. Um, I don't know it that well. I was there three weeks ago.
Importance of being associated with revered galleries (01:44:19)
And the, the art district is clearly being done up quite a lot now and developing quickly. And we work with, I think one of the most celebrated galleries in, in Southern America, people called Arthur Roger. Uh, and he's been a big, uh, denater to NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art. Uh, Arthur will not necessarily be selling at the levels that galleries in London or, or Dallas or Chicago, but he is so loved and so respected that the fact that you're part of his stable only, uh, curry's favor elsewhere. I guess you're, you're allowed, isn't it a bit like some of the actors that, um, you interview, they will do stage performances. They will go on Broadway from time to time. It might or not earn the big bucks, but it's good for their spirit and good for their soul. And, uh, not every gallery, we've got, we've got 25 around the world and not everyone, um, they should not be clones of each other and some are a higher ticket galleries that have less charm. And then some are galleries you just love spending time with and asking questions and tapping into their, uh, extraordinary, um, life and, and, and, and knowledge.
Why David Yarrow visits the US to shoot this country's wild places and wild people (01:45:42)
And Palm Beach is a bit like that. And, uh, um, and New Orleans is a bit like that, but Palm Beach, you do see the incredible mobility of, I used to go to the, the masters in Augusta quite a bit. Um, and I know it's a smart event, uh, but when you just as an outsider, when you listen to the conversations that are going around under that oak tree by the clubhouse, it shows the extraordinary geographical mobility of your nation. You'll meet people for say, where are you now? I'm living in Seattle. Last time I was living in, in Chicago and then before, Oh, you've moved, you've moved up from, uh, from Austin or whatever. Those conversations don't happen in most countries in the world. They just happen in, in, in, in your country. And that means that if you've got, if you've got galleries in 11 or 12 of the hotspots, you do get that, uh, great cross fertilization.
Business of photography criticism, matching memorable frames to outstanding films (01:46:43)
Yeah, that's very, very true. And, uh, I promised I had a second question. In fact, I have many questions, including the second I had in mind was getting back to fig jam. There's your obsession with the Netflix business model in Montana. There's making versus taking photographs, all sorts, but would you mind if we take a brief bathroom break since I've been mainlining green tea for this entire conversation? Well done mate. Um, five minutes. Yeah, let's do five. Let's do five minutes and we'll be right back. We are back from respective bathroom breaks, ready to go and made a few promises before my bladder was on the verge of exploding. Fig jam, Netflix business model, Montana. We may not cover it all cause we have some time limitations today, but let's, let's jump into fig jam. What was the thread on fig jam? So the other photographer that, uh, that I talked about in, uh, my piece, my mission statement was a photographer, Australian photographer called Peter Lick. Um, Peter, um, decided he's a good, a very strong, smart photographer, hardworking photographer, but he decided to vertically integrate the food chain. But what I mean by that is that he would take the pictures, but it would be his galleries that would sell his own pictures. And that, that is, um, it's not a unique business model. There are quite a few American photographers in the Rockies. If you go to places like Jackson Hole or even Aspen, you'll see guys that, uh, take the pictures and then they have the galleries selling their own pictures. Obviously their margins are way higher because they're not splitting the take with the gallery because they are the gallery. The problem is, is that it is fig jam. It is fuck I'm good. Just ask me. There is nothing better than third party affirmation. If you're asking, um, your best mates about a potential new girlfriend and your best mate or vice versa, the best mate says, I think, I think she's excellent. I think she's perfect. That means so much more to you. Uh, if your girlfriend's asking, he's got a girlfriend about a potential guy and says the same, we look for third party affirmation. I don't like to talk about my work too much other than when it's my job, when I'm on show, when I'm on a stage or whatever or something like this. You need third parties to do it. A lot of people turn around and say, you know what? The last unregulated market in the world is the art market. I don't believe that's true. I think it's one of the most regulated markets because it's self pleased and something that is self pleased. That regulation can actually be much more onerous than something that is regulated by law. Um, and if you do something that is seen to be out with what is perceived to be right by the art market, you've got to be careful. Um, and I use Peter as an example in, cause no one has succeeded more in the vertical integration of their business than Peter. Uh, but he, he ruffled quite a few feathers by doing it because if he turns around and says he sold a picture for a million dollars, well, how do we actually know the provenance of that? I'm not suggesting that, but the New York Times did. Uh, it's a, it's a tough market to, to own the stores that sell your own work. Um, Warhol didn't do it. Basquiat didn't do it. So was this a counterpoint to where you ended up going? Was it a cautionary tale more than a best practices? Yeah. You know, I, um, I thought breaking bad, you weren't expecting I was going to go from there to break. Let's talk about, let's talk about mess. Let's go there. Let's just go straight in to, there's so many of those meth vans on the way to the Mexican border, by the way, from Marfa. Everyone looks like that one that they used in Breaking Bad. Anyway, putting that to one side. Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad to me was, um, should be not only in every cinematography class manual, but it should be on every economics class manual. So the cinematography side, I think it was in emphatically the series that showed the power of immersive filmmaking. Uh, we live in an era of wanting to be there. My photography, I hope is immersive because I use wide angle lenses rather than largely telephoto lenses. So you feel you're part of there rather than compressing distance. If you can press distance, it compresses emotion. Uh, if I, if I'm going to photograph a man or a woman, uh, I'm not going to photograph them from a hundred yards away. I'm going to photograph them from a foot and a half away with a wide angle lens. Um, and Breaking Bad did that. It also should be an economics rule books because from the moment that he went from supplying the crystal meth himself to a wholesale business model, the career in the series took off. It was just, that was the tipping point. Just go wholesale baby. And that's when he saw the power of being able to just have sales everywhere. Don't worry about the margin so much. But if you've got sales coming out of your arse in every big city in the world, then, or in his case, every big city in New Mexico or Hudson, New Mexico, it's going to make a difference. And so Breaking Bad was instructive for me, to me for two different reasons. So that means that you, you looked at the, if I'm remembering the name correctly, Peter Lick as an example of commercial success, but one wrought with difficulties and risks. And that ended up being a cautionary tale of sorts that steered you towards wholesale while embracing some of the best practices from the other gentleman who you, I don't know if he's a gentleman, but the other man profiles. You're so articulate and you summarize that brilliantly well. Yes, that's right. Peter, you want to have, he has a brand and he has constancy in his product, in his product quality. I have a few expressions at our business. One is Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Tom Ford. When we go Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Tom Ford, what do we mean? Everything has to be constant in the commitment to the pursuit of excellence and taste. And so the people, when they're looking at the frame of our picture, they'll go, that's a David Yarrow frame. Even if the photograph wasn't there, even if the photograph was the poster for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, they go, yeah, I know that film. That's a David Yarrow frame. The second thing, I used to, and I still do stay close to the creative director at Victoria's Secrets. Now Victoria's Secrets has had a stunning fall from grace over the last 18 months. But we don't have the time to go into the wherewithal and the reasons for that and whether they're right reasons or not. But clearly the brand is not of the hour. It is not what people want in 2020. And I understand that. When Victoria's Secret, their head office was in Columbus, Ohio. And when you used to go into their head office, in the foyer, they had two things. They had the newspaper from the 21st of November, 1963, with the headline Kennedy dead. And then they had another saying that said, perhaps you should be tougher on yourself. I think we should be tougher on ourselves. I think you and your writings, Tim, and I've seen quite a bit, you use the example of an athlete that has the expression, no one owes us anything. And I think that's the kind of corollary of perhaps you should be tougher on yourself. I think the world of, there's no reason for anyone to go and buy David Yarrow work tomorrow unless it's constantly the best that I can do and it's given third party advocacy.
Collaborations, Open Insights And Parting Thoughts
Why Adrian admires what Peter McKinnon has done with retail (01:55:40)
It's not for me to tell them to buy it, it's for someone else to tell them. And I admire Peter for trying to circumvent that. I think he's the only person that succeeded. It just wouldn't be for me. I wouldn't like to have 25 retail stores right now in America of my own. Yes, I would agree with that conclusion for these times right now, in particular. Where does your fascination with Netflix and Montana, I'm not saying those two are related, come into the picture, so to speak? I know that's probably a little too on the nose. No, no, no, no. Could you speak to either of those because Netflix is a fascinating business model. It finally dawned on the commentators on television today to say, because they were trying to find businesses that were immune from the crisis that we're currently staring in the face of. And you hear this word Netflix coming up time and time again and I'm wanting to kick the TV in because I'm sitting at home unable to film, unable to travel and I'm going Netflix can't produce any new content. Of course they're exposed to this. What do you mean that they're immune to coronavirus? They're right at the heart of it. Where's their new content? They are original content. It's in their mission statement. They fascinate me because their courage and investment, the crown, take the series of crown. And for all the Americans, please don't believe everything that's in there. I know people say I watch it because it's educational. Half is bullshit, but it's good fun nevertheless. Anyway, so it's like 10 million an episode or throw in a couple for post-production marketing, 12 million. So you do a series of eight. So you're kind of talking about 100 million a series. Their accounting fascinates me because they will amortize that cost over the expected worth of the crown. Now, far be it from me to criticize the accounting of Netflix, but if we spent as we did last week, 250 grand in Texas, we'll take that through the P&L last week. I'm not going to spread that over eight years, but what they have taught us is the importance of investing with confidence. And the mistakes that we've made, my goodness, we make a lot, is when we decide, should we go for option A of a replica 1850s wagon that was made actually in 1970 by Ford? Or do we go for an original 1850s wagon that's going to cost double the amount of the replica? If you take the 6,000 saving, it's a false economy in our own little modest way. So we have to have courage in our investment, and Netflix instills that as. I think you have, America has the most visually spoiled country in the world. Of everything that I've said that some people might find contentious or even be interested in, I think you have, by far and away, the most extraordinary canvas on which to tell stories of any country in the world. Because you have such diversity, whether it be the urban beauty of Chicago, the swamps of Louisiana, the John Ford scenery of Arizona, and then the Rockies of Wyoming and Montana. And for an artist, which I hope that's what I am, it is a dream. And of all the states, the one that I get most excited of coming back to is probably Montana. Because I think it's still the least dense. Have they got a coronavirus? I don't know what the numbers are, but they're going to be single digit. I think everyone lives remotely in the mountains there anyway. When I arrived there, and you get the big sky feel, and you think this is amazing, but then you meet the people that are there. And some of them that live up in the mountains, it's just the people that time forgot. There is a coordinate kind of time warp and high up some of the best. I've always had some sort of visceral attraction to ghost towns. Maybe it's a manifestation of my childhood fears of abandonment that I've now got. It's now manifesting itself in a love of ghost towns. It happened to you too. So we stumbled across this ghost town right up in the hills. And of course, because they're high, they've been preserved better than the ghost towns maybe in California and Arizona. And it's the characters there that we meet. And we met this guy. I was so cold filming outside, and I just wanted to get a drink at the end of the day. And I walked into this bar that looked like it should have been closed in the ghost town. And there was a guy behind the bar that looked like he killed about 10 people. And it was open. And I looked at it, and it was your quintessential American saloon bar with the wagon wheel on the top and the long bar going back and back and back. And they killed it because of the stuffed moose head and all that kind of stuff. And I thought, this has got to be a great place for a shoot. We talk about making pictures and taking pictures, and I do tend to have preconceptions, but you are allowed to have spontaneity. And I said, "Well, listen, can we bring a wolf in here?" And he said, "We have wolves here on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. It's fine. Wolves come in here the whole time." And nothing was too much trouble for him. And I put some chicken wings on a string around my head, around my chest, and lay on the bar, and then the wolf would walk along the bar to try and bite the chicken off my chest. It's a hell of a sentence right there. The great thing is, so we got the picture, and every Friday night now, people try and replicate the wolf on the bar. So it's the only time in my life I've – something I've done is given rise to a bar game in the evening. So you've got to try and reenact. We took Cindy Crawford up to that bar, and she was a great sport. And she played along with the wolf.
Why Adrian tells his film crews, Whenever we shoot in a bar in the mountains, its an open bar all day. (02:02:42)
And these guys who – they're pissed. Is that a British – you used the word pissed. Pissed. Shit-faced. Shit-faced. Yeah, pissed to us means upset. But yeah, shit-faced. And he's – this guy, he's at the bar, and one of my rules is whenever we shoot in a bar in the mountains, it's an open bar all day. So throughout the day, everyone gets – other than me, hopefully – gets hammered. And this guy, when Cindy's one side, you've got an American sweetheart, an icon, and there she is looking graceful, splendid. And then on the right-hand side, you've got a mountain guy, age 85, and he's so excited to be standing next to Cindy Crawford. He actually pisses in his pants, and you can see the wet coming through the leather. So if you don't believe me, it's in the picture. But we have a love affair. We went to this place called Butte, Montana, and it was a big old copper mining place in the old days. And it was abandoned in about 1950, but a lot of it as it was left. And we shot there in January in the cold, and it was in its heyday when Prohibition came in and with it kind of speakeasies and stuff like that. And we found a few of these speakeasies, and it was such a wonderful canvas on which to tell painting, to tell stories. Whenever I talk about your Wild West, I get energized because to me, that final frontier expansion and the stories of good guys, bad guys, outlaws, endeavor, drunkenness, whatever, crime, is one of the great periods of history. And there's a romanticist within me that just loves that pushing to the final frontier. I can't articulate it, but what a great story in which to tell – what a great canvas in which to tell pictures. So we've been attacking Wyoming on Montana, and then the next move seemed to go to Texas because it's the home of the real cowboys. But we shot there two weeks ago, and right down – I think you know the area well given where you live now – but we were shooting on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, which is one of the least-visited but most beautiful American parks. The only people that live there are kind of in witness protection program otherwise, or the crystal meth operations, otherwise you wouldn't be there, or they're Mexican. But we crossed the Mexican border four times in the morning because all you have to do is cross a 25-yard stream. And we were working with some Game of Thrones people, which is great fun. And we just said, "Well, we're in Mexico in two minutes, and we'll photograph ourselves in Mexico, and then we'll go back and forth." And we had some proper cowboys down there. And to me, those are my most exciting days to be doing that in your country, which is – there's so much history, but recent history. I think your 19th century history is more exciting than Europeans' 19th century history. It has to be.
David's early days of collaborating with celebrities and kind acts (02:06:15)
So I have one more question. We'll have to do a round two, because I want to ask you about Scorsese. I want to ask you about your near-death experiences. I want to ask you about all sorts of things. So we'll have to do, if you're up for it, a round two at some point. Yes, to the face. But you have – and this is a whole area that we could talk about – really honed the craft of not just photography but collaboration with different people and different groups. I think you've been very smart, very methodical, it would seem, in how you've approached that. So you mentioned Cindy Crawford. Of course, you've done a lot with many, many household names. How did you get your first celebrity collaboration? And you can interpret or define celebrity however you like it, but how did you get the first one? Or whichever early-day story comes to mind. The first point I'd make is that I'm not drawn to celebrity per se. In my younger life, I dated someone that was much more famous than I'll ever be by a multiple of a hundred. And the whole concept of being famous, that way scares me slightly. Some people say when you meet some of these individuals, does your ego go up? Actually, it suppresses any kind of ego at all because they're just so outstanding as individuals, and you're humbled by their normality, by their pursuit of excellence, by their family values, by their manners. I think that's important, manners, by their self-deprecation. I remember going, in your writings, you talk about when you were a lecturer at Princeton, and I've talked at Princeton several times because my daughter wants to get in, and because you're not allowed to bung them any money these days. The ethical way to do it was to give a few free speeches, and it didn't work. Speeches were fine, but she just stayed in the UK. But you talk about you gave your class a test of making an uncomfortable phone call or email to someone to tell them how a conversation or a meeting or a message from someone very high-powered. Whether it be the chairman of Google or whoever it was, I'm quite shy at those things, but I've got better at it. And I would also encourage people to say that we've all been rejected in our life. There's no shame in rejection. Rejection is part and parcel of the game. I think maybe being rejected 10 times in one day can maybe be a little bit too much for someone, but you can stagger your rejection rate, but never be afraid to do it. The one thing that I know from every person that people put on a pedestal as to how extraordinary they are and their cemetery status is that they're all like us. As Bill Gates said yesterday in his 15 Things We've Learned About Coronavirus, ego and fame don't differentiate. We're all the same. And everyone that I've met, a celebrity in some eyes, the vast majority of our 90% of the time, just like us, sports stars, I found are very nervous about art. In the same way, if you took an artist to Amen Corner at the Augusta Masters, he would be nervous to ask where the par 3 was and the par 5s were and how does the 13th play or whatever. In the very same way, sports stars that I met are nervous about art. And therefore, if you can, I think people buy people. I don't think that people necessarily buy products when the product is the work of a single person. They'd much rather tell the story about the person. 95% of our art is being bought by people that have met me one way or another or listened to me speak, which you could argue makes it a non-expandable business model unless I work hard. But I think by and large, with celebrities or people that have been champions of their industry, if you can find a way to engage them, to go right to the top, right to the top. And the glue, if you like, the glue that stuck it all together is fundraising for charity. I've been lucky that my work is valued because when we produce a sprint, there'll be 16 in a series. 16. To allow two or three of those to go to good causes doesn't cost me anything. It marginally cannibalizes the addition, but so what? That's fantastic. And through that, that's forged many links. And so for something like with Cindy, she lost her brother to leukemia at a very young age. She would work with me for nothing as long as a good percentage of the proceeds went to the hospital in Madison, Wisconsin that looked after her brother. So that's now equated to half a million dollars. That's much more exciting for her than her getting a check of 40 grand for a boring photo shoot. She doesn't want that. She's done enough of it. She's earned the right not to have to do that. And she is a champion for those kind of things. So the more advocates we have like that, the better. Tim, you know, you interview a lot of them. I think they are so long of kindness most of the time. I don't know about you. And this is a rhetorical comment. When you're dealing with these people, it's the entourage that I can't deal with. I mean, it's a bit like you, mate. You're entourage. I mean, but you seem quite a decent guy. So people underneath you. My team's great. You know that I don't have an entourage. I think it's the big bald head that scares them off. But yeah, in my experience, fame is like, if we're talking about fame, I mean, which often accompanies accomplishment in different fields. It's a non-specific amplifier, just like alcohol. In the sense that if you're a small-time asshole, you're going to become a big-time asshole. And if you're kind of hard and jovial and compliment people, then you're going to become probably a magnified or exaggerated form of that. So I think it amplifies the best and worst of people. So the folks that I've spent time with, whether that's the Edward Norton's or the Jamie Foxx's, whoever, they're great. I really have seen... He's a little conservationist, isn't he? He's huge. Yeah. And then on the flip side, those who shall remain nameless, I've met some very, very well-known A-listers who are just fucking awful. I think that you end up finding people on opposite ends of the spectrum when you get up to that level of visibility. And I haven't run into much in the middle either. And I've heard what you're saying about Cindy from friends of mine who know her. I've never met her. That she's just one of the sweetest, most kind-hearted, easy-to-work-with people they've ever met. And I've heard that about Jennifer Garner as well. We had a moment with Cindy where, in order to get a wolf's attention, you can either make it an aggressive movement one way or another, a bit like a dog, or you can make an aggressive noise. But wolves, like dogs, are smart. So they get bored of that after a while. So your third option is to use meat. And we're shooting outside. It's minus 15. And I've got the wolf in the car next to Cindy. And I'm just trying to get the wolf to look me in the eyes and to get the attention we're using meat. And the wolf wrangler has this chicken drumstick that has been in icy water, and it's about minus 12. And he's got a glove on. And to my horror, he loses his throw of it, and the drumstick from 10 yards whacks Cindy straight in the eye on the face. Cold chicken, raw drumstick at 9 in the morning. And because she doesn't know him, the only person that really has accountability without responsibility is me. And I'll never forget it. She just looked me straight in the eye and went, "David." And it was the gap after David. It was David that was inappropriate. And the gap between David and that was was probably only two seconds, but it felt like about an hour to me.
Bella Wolford (02:16:26)
But anyway, she was fine. She's brilliant. And that hospital, you go up to – I'm digressing, and I know we're short of time, but I went to – there's a football team in Wisconsin, Madison, called the Badgers. And when the Madison Badgers – Wisconsin Badgers or whatever – in the UK, our college sport is watched by six people. So we go to this place in Wisconsin. There's like 75,000 people in the stadium. And for us British people, it's just a huge eye-opener to your college system and how fantastic it is. And I love the fact that in your college games, people turn up. In the UK, people leave sports games at halftime because your team's losing. In America, people arrive at halftime so they can be drunk because they're not allowed to drink in the stadium. So it's the only place in the world where I've seen – and I've probably been to more football sports stadiums than most in the world – your college games, it's the only place I know where they fill up at halftime rather than people leave at halftime. And the people that arrive are all drunk. It's fantastic.
Parting thoughts, advice, where to find David, and more (02:17:30)
David, I think it's probably a good point to put a bookmark in conversation number one on the podcast. I think it would be fun to have another if you're up for it at some point. We certainly have lots and lots and lots of ground that we could cover, topics to explore and so on. But is there anything that you would like to say before we close, and where can people best find you and your work, learn more about you on the internet? My website is David Yarrow Photography. We show in galleries in America and in Europe and a little bit in the Far East. But on Instagram, we've got a recent presence on Instagram. My favorite story is a metaphor to my career is the one that you'll know well of, Thomas Edison, when he's trying to create permanent light and he fails for the umpteenth time, yet another time. They have a press conference and one of the young journalists at the front says, "Mr. Edison, you seem to have failed again to create permanent light. You've been trying this for five years and it feels like we've made no progress at all." And Edison replies, "On the contrary, young man, I've learned a hundred ways how not to create permanent light." And there is an element in terms, in my work, with all animals, in that by learning how to get it wrong, we've learned how to get it right. I mean, with the pictures we've managed to take with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, with lions in Africa, with polar bears in Alaska or Norway, with the orangutans, with the biggest elephants in the world. It is by an iterative relationship between taking a picture, recognizing its inherent weaknesses and the areas where we can quite plausibly improve that you get towards the kind of work you're looking for. I don't think that process is any different from what you do or what 99% of people do, is how determined you are to fulfill that virtuous circle upwards of just saying, "No, we need to get better at that bit or this bit or whatever." And sometimes people say, "The easiest question I get asked to him is, 'What's your best picture?'" And of course the answer is, "It hasn't been taken yet." Because if you feel that it was taken in 2013, how disbursing that seven years ago you took your greatest picture. I would hope that when all this dreadful virus and repercussions from people which we've been blessedly unaffected comes to its denouement, that I'll go out and I'll take far better pictures than I've ever taken before. What's the point of believing anything else? Gotta believe that your best work's ahead of you. This podcast will be a blip in your bottom left, top right, perfect, linear, upward trajectory of your podcast. Well, you know, I wouldn't… I feel strange saying I hope this is a blip, but I certainly hope that my best work is ahead of me. I agree with you that there's a strong case for optimism because what other choice do you have? In a lot of respects, it doesn't mean you're not practical. It doesn't mean you don't learn from your mistakes. But especially in times like these, if you don't have some glimmer of hope, I think you don't just lose your morale, but you also lose your ability to plan in many cases if there isn't a future worth looking forward to that you can imagine. There's a wonderful line in talking about Tom Hanks' films, Bridge of Spies. And you remember Mark Rylance, who pays the spy in Russia, and when he's imprisoned, one of the… the Russian spy in America. And when Tom Hanks interviews him in the cell for the first time, Tom Hanks says, "Do you understand the severity of the circumstances that are currently upon you?" And he replies, "What if I did? Would it make me feel any better?" And I think that's quite apposite for this time that you have to… you have to be an optimist. You have to… you have to believe in the world improving at some stage. And if we were to examine any of just how miserable this is right now, from every facet of society and business and finance, it's going to make it for a fairly miserable evening. So one would hope that you just got to look over the hill a little bit. Bridge of Spies is a great movie, and that scene, if we dig into it a little bit more, because it is one of my favorite scenes, he asks him if he understands the severity, and the Russian spy who's been caught by the U.S. government says, "Yes." And then the Tom Hanks character asks, "Aren't you worried?" And he says, "Would it help?" in response. So he's full… Yeah, you've articulated it much better than me. No, but you brought it up, and the lesson is, I think, very apropos of the moment that we find ourselves in, and that is you can be informed to the extent that it's relevant to your lives and actionable. You can be aware without being paralyzed by pessimism and worry. Not to say that I don't struggle. I have struggled in the last few weeks. But it is, in fact, possible to be aware and informed without being paralyzed. And that's something that I'm certainly striving for myself, and so to that end, I appreciate the reminder. It is a fantastic scene. And David, this has been such a pleasure. I really appreciate you taking the time, especially during these times. You're an example and an inspiration to so many people, and I'm very flattered to occupy your extraordinary mind for a brief period of time. And hopefully we can just add to it when it suits you. But I'm very flattered and humbled to be part of this exchange. Absolutely. And one final question. When you got hammered in celebration after you were represented by your Palm Beach man with no name, Tastemaker, what was your drink of choice or drinks of choice for that evening? I think it would have been quite a big range. It would take up another 20 minutes to discuss its breadth. But I think the thing is, if you're Scottish, you live under this belief that there's a mass conspiracy around the rest of the world to conceal how wonderful the nation is, and it just hasn't got out. So when we go abroad and we go to America, we just have to drink a lot of scotch, a lot of single malt scotch, and then talk to the barman that we're actually, that's where we're from. It's my ode to patriotism. So I like a good scotch, and maybe when I'm in Austin, we can share a scotch. Deal. I would love to do that. And David, again, thank you for the time to be continued. And for everybody listening, thank you for tuning in. Be safe out there. Practice well. Hold yourselves to a high standard, but try to be forgiving also if you struggle during these times in particular. And I will include links to everything we've discussed, including all of David's work that we can link to without violating any types of intellectual property. And we will showcase everything that we talked about in this conversation at Tim.blog/podcast, where you'll be able to find the show notes alongside show notes for every other episode. And until next time, thanks for listening. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend?
What would David's death row drink/order be? (02:26:16)
And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com all spelled out and just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by LegalZoom. It's a whole new world out there and we're all facing new challenges. You may need legal help to overcome some of yours and that's where LegalZoom fits in.
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Thrive Market (02:28:08)
This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market. Thrive Market saves me a ton of money and it's perfect for these crazy times. Thrive Market is a membership-based site on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. You can regularly save 25 to 50% off of normal retail prices with member-only prices for anything you can imagine, really. Whether it's keto, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, whatever, you can sort by that. You can find all types of food. You can find supplements. You can find non-toxic home products, clean wine, dog food, just about anything. And let me give you a personal example of just how much you can save. So my last order, I ordered Primal Kitchen mayonnaise, which is made with avocado oil. It's delicious. Justin's Almond Butter. And the first was 25% off. The Justin's Almond Butter was 30% off. Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce, which is awesome, 26% off.
Membership details (02:29:03)
All said and done, at the end of my shopping, I saved $39 on my order. So members, and I'm a member, can earn wholesale prices every day and save an average of $30 on each order. I'll come back to that. And through Thrive Gives, their one-on-one membership matching program, every paid Thrive Market membership is matched with a free one for a low-income family in need. And you can try Thrive Market a few different ways. They have the monthly membership, which is $9.95 per month. They have the 12-month membership for $5 a month, which is billed at $59.95. And right now, this is exclusive to you guys. You can get up to a $20 shopping credit when you join today. Now remember that I saved $39 on my order. So basically, with one or two orders, I pay for the annual membership, which is pretty sweet. So go to thrivemarket.com/tim to give Thrive Market a try. You can, like I said, choose between the membership models you'd like to test out. If it doesn't work for you, you can cancel for any reason within 30 days for a full refund. And on top of that, you will make back your membership and savings, as I have, or they give you credits to make up for the difference. So it's really win-win-win all around. And I would suggest you check it out. Go to thrivemarket.com/tim. You can receive up to $20 in shopping credit. That's thrivemarket.com/tim for up to $20 in shopping credit, plus all of the other great stuff that I mentioned. One more time, check it out. thrivemarket.com/tim.