The wonders of modern day technology meant I was able to catch up with photographer Richard Hodder on the fly from Sri Lanka as he took a train from Ella to Colombo to catch his returning flight to New Zealand. The wonders of modern technology, however, are also making things more difficult for those wanting to forge a career from taking snaps. “I think it’s a pretty good topic for discussion,” says Richard. “I still find it hard to tell people I’m a photographer because a lot of people can take a great photo and, realistically, anyone is capable of capturing a unique and mesmerising moment. I’m confident that whatever happens, as long as I continue doing what I love and being passionate about my work then everything will be fine.”
Richard himself is a relative newcomer to the trade and his photography career was born from the digital revolution. “I didn’t get into photography until 2010 when I went travelling,” Richard tells me. “I made a blog to share photos with my friends while I was away. I shot a lot in black and white, covering the lens with my hand to trick the camera into thinking it was darker so it would overexpose the images. I loved sharing them and got a real kick out of the genuine feedback. It definitely motivated me to continue shooting.”
Since then Richard has developed a significant online following through inthedrink.biz, his personal site. “I’ve learnt that it’s important to get ahead in life before you try to get ahead in social media. You must be true to yourself. Having a catchy handle helps and don’t treat it like a chore but rather an opportunity to interact.”
Richard recently held his Four Corners of New Zealand exhibition: a stunning array of images showcasing some of the nation’s very best natural sights. “I hadn’t really seen many other projects like that before in New Zealand,” says the photographer. “Spending time in our outdoors isn’t new to me and I’ve always favoured it to overseas and we have such freedom to explore it. So, I took it upon myself to pack my car and not look back.” I ask the one-time business manager if he has now permanently swapped the office for the great outdoors. “I thought I had but it’s not quite that simple! There’s a lot of other things involved to get work, share work and make work other than just being in the outdoors all of the time. There’s still plenty of time to get stuck in front of a computer. But, in saying that, I plan on living in a truck this summer and will continue to live and work outdoors as much as possible. Like most things, it’s all about finding the right balance.”
Incorporated into that balance must be Richard’s other great love, surfing. With surfing and photography being such individual endeavours, I presume he’s developed great patience, the type who enjoys being lost in his own thoughts. “Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he says. “Patience is probably a skill I’ve developed over the years without really thinking about it, though I do really enjoy working on projects with other people.” Great moments and fun memories, he adds, are always better shared. “Plus, I have a wild imagination and can go a bit nuts when left to myself! My ambition creeps in and I feel like anything is possible, then I explain my thoughts to others and I realise I might have gotten ahead of myself.”
On a train journey through the Sri Lankan countryside, no doubt anything does, for now, feel possible. And why should it not? Yesterday, Richard may just have taken his favourite ever portrait. He describes Sri Lanka as his most incredible overseas experience: the colours, the contrast, the crazy controlled chaos that, “has kept me on my toes.” He draws great inspiration from those who live the life they want, rather than what is expected, he muses, and we sure could all learn from that.