Pascal Mannaerts is a world-renowned travel photographer whose bold and compelling images have been featured in National Geographic, the BBC and more. Here, he tells a bit of his story and gives us some tips on how to stay true to yourself and your passions in a world oversaturated with media.
How I Found My Voice
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always travelled around the world. First with my family and then, growing up, I started to regularly discover new places, backpacking with my camera and my notebooks.
For over ten years now, I’ve been traveling the world with my camera. I’ve mainly traveled in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East. I photographed more than fifty countries. At the beginning of all these trips, there was a simple and powerful dream: I just wanted to discover the world! I dreamt of the unknown, of open spaces and adventures, of discovering different cultures.
From the very beginning, I combined this desire to discover the world with my passion for photography. Photography reflected this spontaneous desire that I had to immortalize my experiences and my discoveries, to capture their essence and their beauty. When I’m on the road, the encounters and interactions that I have with the local people are my priority. I always place the human being as the main focus in my photographic work. I must admit that in the beginning, I had never thought that photographing the world would one day become my main activity—I started doing it by pure passion, and I didn’t think even further.
“I persevered, although, more than once, I almost completely gave up. It took time and patience, but the strength of my passion for travel and photography, as well as the desire to be able to do what I wanted to do, was there to motivate me against all odds.”
Over time, my photographs have taken on more and more importance in my life. Each time I shared my pictures with my friends or when I started to share them beyond my own personal circle via social networks people got more and more enthusiastic, and it really pushed me to try to go further. Besides the first dream I had to travel the world with my camera, a second dream was born: to turn my passion for travel and photography into my main activity, and to try and make a living out of doing them full time.
It really pushed me to “try” to go further, as I started from nothing. I had no professional network or no particular connection that could have made my job easier, absolutely nothing was gained in advance. I started contacting magazines and agencies in Europe first and then all over the world. Some answered me and were interested in my pictures, while, at other times, I only had a silence in return. I persevered, although, more than once, I almost completely gave up. It took time and patience, but the strength of my passion for travel and photography, as well as the desire to be able to do what I wanted to do, was there to motivate me, against all odds.
Freelancing Full Time
Today, I regularly have requests to cover certain subjects or places, my photos are published and exhibited around the world and I’m truly happy to have them available for sale in my Society6 store. I have always said that my goal as an artist would be achieved if I could share my creations on a large scale and if my works could please and inspire others. I am here today in this successful part of the story, but nothing is guaranteed forever, so I’m grateful for where I’m at now.
As travel photographer and photographic storyteller, I continually have to make the choices that lead me to make and select compelling images. These choices are not easy and in the artistic process, we always ask ourselves whether this will have an impact and touch the public or if it won’t. Doubt has always been a part of my process, it’s undeniable (and fortunately, because it is with doubt that we’re able to grow up!).
“As an artist, I think that the most important thing is to remain true to yourself as much as possible…compromise if needed, but then find the right balance between what might please the public and what your own instinct as an artist tells you to do.”
Things I’ve Learned
As creative artist, sharing my passion and selling my works, here are some humble tips that I would give, according to my own experience. They could be about how to create your art, and how to share and sell it, in the most efficient way possible.
Trust your instincts: Feel what touches you, first and work with this in mind. I personally always try to present photographs which tend to open dialogues, arouse emotions and questions—for me, these are the keys of a powerful work, and I always try to stay tuned to that and to my own feelings.
Remain true to yourself: Today, so many great photographers are able to share great work, it is incredible how the whole photographer community worldwide has exploded over the last few years. However, this means that we are supersaturated with images, everywhere on across all networks. Some photographers are unique. Some just follow the same tendencies and in the end end up being all alike. As an artist, I think that the most important thing is to remain true to yourself as much as possible, because that is where you will stand out, and where the viewer will feel the difference. Compromise if needed, but then find the right balance between what might please the public and what your own instinct as an artist tells you to do.
Dare: This is probably one of the most important aspects of art making. Dare—don’t be shy and don’t put unnecessary limits on yourself. For example, as a travel photographer when I’m in the road, I constantly meet total strangers in totally unknown places. There is no way for me to be reserved, I have to get out of my comfort zone—I have no choice and I love that. When I approach people for my photographic work, I always say that simplicity, authenticity, humility and respect are key. Humor, when it lends itself to it, is also universal and helps. Dare to knock on doors. When sharing and selling your art on Society6, share your galleries with as many people as possible. Share with no limits.
Organize your content: Discipline and rigor are important behind the scenes to organize your work. Classify your different creations in your personal archives and keep them up-to-date. Personally, it was the day I decided to take matters seriously that everything started to really move.
Social media: Of course you should use social media to promote your art, but I’d say focus on quality rather than quantity.
Patience: Patience and perseverance are indispensable. And when you’re in a period of waiting, do not hesitate to get started on other projects and stay active in order to expand your horizons or get other inspirations.