I’ve known Rob Hann for about 20 years – my agency licensed his music and celebrity photographs here and in the UK. He relocated to the States about ten years after I did, and I’ve been impressed as I watched him reinvent himself.
I started working as a photographer in 1993, shooting portraits for magazines and record companies. I was living in London and shot over 900 commissions. I have seven portraits in the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery.
In October 2001 I took my first photographic road trip in the US, shooting landscapes and portraits for my own pleasure. I moved to New York in 2003, continued to shoot editorial portraits, and took road trips whenever I could.
By the end of the decade work was very thin on the ground. I was still shooting but not enough. My credit card debt was getting out of control, I was struggling to pay the rent, and I couldn’t afford to go on the road with my camera. A Chelsea gallery was selling my road trip photographs but not enough for that income to be significant.
In August 2010, out of desperation, I decided to see if I could sell my road trip pictures on the street. I bought a small table and set up in SoHo. I had a selection of prints in 11×14” and 8×10” mats.
I thought I was saying goodbye to any aspirations I had in the art world. I was just hoping I might be able to make the rent.
I quickly found that I enjoyed being on the street, meeting people, and my prints were selling well. To my surprise I found that people did not disregard the work because I was selling on the street. Instead I found that if people saw work they thought was good it didn’t matter where that work was.
I hadn’t been on the street many weeks when the owner of nearby Clic Gallery stopped at my table and suggested selling larger, limited edition prints. Clic Gallery is actually more of a store than a classic art gallery and sells books and photography as well as a variety of cool and eclectic objects. Clic has been selling my prints sized from 20×24” to 50×60” in editions of 25 for the smaller prints, to editions of 6 for the largest. Some of the editions have sold out. The gallery is only a few blocks from my table in SoHo and I often send them clients looking for larger prints.
In the spring of 2013 I met the owner of a Stockholm gallery in SoHo. After initially buying a small print at my table he got in touch to buy a number of my large prints. In November the gallery gave me my first solo show and I travelled to Sweden for the opening. The Stockholm gallery is similar to a classic Chelsea gallery and is a little shy about me selling on the street so I haven’t mentioned the name here.
Other good things have come about from connections I’ve made on the street. My pictures will be in a book of landscape photography, being published by Thames and Hudson in September, alongside the work of Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel, and other great photographers.
I’m still on the street four days a week and on a really good day sell more than 30 prints.
I still get the occasional call to shoot a magazine portrait but now I turn them down. I enjoy being my own boss and shooting whatever I like.
What I’m doing won’t suit everyone’s temperament. I work long hours in very cold and very hot weather and I find it tiring. I’m lucky that my photographs appeal to a broad spectrum of people.
I rent a studio apartment in Manhattan but don’t have a mortgage, a car, or even a television, and I don’t have kids I have to put through college. I have cleared my credit card debt, can pay my rent, and am funding my ongoing road trips… and I’m still a photographer.