“I am travelling to all seven continents of the globe trading my services as a photographer for life’s basic necessities. No currency, no contracts, only my camera and an eager smile.”
These are the words of photographer Shantanu Starick, who shares his experience with living the Pixel Trade project in this fascinating presentation:
Starick is a generalist. He doesn’t specialize in anything in particular. You don’t have to specialize in anything in order to be a great photographer. But people—clients—tend to go for the specialized photographers, because they usually believe that’s best bang for their buck. As a result, generalists tend to get marginalized and earn less.
Starick wanted to take a different approach. He started trading with people instead of charging them. He trades his photography services for housing, a good cooked meal, or transportation. The goal is to visit all of the continents through bartering alone—he doesn’t use cash.
One stipulation that’s helping the project along is Starick’s rule that if he doesn’t have another trade lined up after the current one ends, the current trade needs to find him a new one so there is no gap.
When Pixel Trade became fairly well-known, people started joining forces in order to get him to different parts of the world to trade with him. Flying him from Australia to America isn’t cheap for one person, but when you have 10 to 15 people who want to trade, the transportation cost becomes insignificant. Starick is visiting more and more places without spending a dime, and his clients are getting the pictures they need.
So far he has reached five continents, completed more than 150 trades, and gained vast amounts of experience that he didn’t have access to before his project came into existence. Along the way he’s photographed food, weddings, fashion, helicopters, furniture, flowers, dancers, indigenous communities, and more.
Starick has learned that the relationship he has with the people he trades is totally different when compared to his clients. When somebody takes you into their home, cooks food for you, and lets you sleep there, the relationship changes. You’re treated as a friend. Barriers come down.
“It is the absence of money. Money creates a different kind of value. A different kind of different kind of interaction with people. One of the only points of tension in the creative process is often money. However the practice of equal exchange cancels that out. It is the two parties that decide what the value of the creative output is. It promotes collaboration and it takes the focus off gain.”
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