A Word in Your Shell-Like


A quick snap from a trip I made to the bank this morning

… From a dusty old hotel room in Southern Pakistan, I would just like to say many, many thanks to those of you who have been sending me incredibly kind messages since BBC News ran an audio slide show of some of my photographs from Human Planet a couple of days ago. I really appreciate all your comments… they really do make it all worth while, so thank you for taking the time to spread the love.

Amongst all the emails there have also been a few recurring questions, so I’ve summarised my answers here for future reference.

1.  Is there a book of these images?

Yes.. Amazon appear to be selling it at the best price… Click HERE

2.  Do you sell prints?

Yes I do… Click HERE.

3.  I want to quit my job and do what you do, any words of advice?

Speaking from experience… Do it!

I quit my job at a British Newspaper a few years ago and bought a one way ticket to Delhi.  Just me, a Canon 5D, a few prime lenses and a huge smile.  My biggest concern at the time was my mortgage.  So, I sold my apartment and cut my overheads down to the bearest minimum.  A year and a half later I returned home with some great pictures and a revitalised passion for both life and my photography.  Meanwhile, whilst researching story ideas for the series, a fledging Human Planet team stumbled across my images from NE India on the web and the rest is history.

There are two important points to acknowledge here.  Firstly, trying to predict the future is futile.  However, as human beings we are all blessed with an inbuilt mechanism that tells us when we are moving in the right direction in life.  It’s called enthusiasm, and in my opinion it forms the necessary essence of any fulfilling, creative lifestyle… in whatever line of work that might be.  Enthusiasm is the gift that allows us to live in the moment without worrying about what lies ahead, so if you’ve got that niggling feeling in the pit of your stomach and you’re looking for a change in life then why not trust the feeling and let something that really enthuses you guide you in a new direction?

Second point…  Whilst I was in India having the time of my life, I was spending a fraction of the money that I would have been parting with had I have remained in my well paid job back home.  Relatively speaking, I was far better off.  More importantly, I had the luxury of time again… something that gave my passion the space to naturally unfold once more. The space that I literally couldn’t afford back home.

If you are lucky enough to be reading this on your own personal computer then I am guessing that you also have access to sufficient funds to make the kind of trip I am talking about.  You don’t need a state of the art camera.  If you shop around a bit, a second hand mark 1 Canon 5D will set you back as little as 400 quid these days, and you can get hold of a used 50mm f1.8 for about 50 quid.  Both these pieces of kit were my work horses on that trip along with the great value for money Canon 85mm f1.8.

The moral of this story…  Without sounding too corny… follow your heart.  And for those of you that think that a statement like that is too wishy-washy, then I’ll rephrase it to… persue the vocation in life that you feel most enthusiastic about.  You know?… the one that you’d do regardless of how much it pays you.   In my experience, if you live this way then no matter what transpires, you will be walking in the right direction in life.

The likelihood is that nothing will turn out the way you expect, so I would recommend not bothering with any expectations of the future.  Just concern yourself with enjoying what you are doing in the moment.  That’s the place where all the magic happens.

… and if you have discovered that photography is your passion then think yourself very lucky.  Many people go through life never knowing such a feeling.  Don’t waste it.

Get out there and meet your world

BTW.  The photos in the BBC News slideshow were not chosen by me.  For those of you interested in my own personal selection of favourite images from Human Planet, please click HERE

I have written a little more on the subject of becoming a photographer in my FAQs HERE

You can watch the audio slideshow HERE

Still reading?  Join in the discussion on my Facebook page.

20 Responses to “A Word in Your Shell-Like”

  1. Danni says:

    Hi Timothy, i am reading Human Planet at the moment and your photographic work is amazing i was wondering how you got the perfect shots and how they made you feel? and how they became meaningful ( if you found meaning to them).

  2. […] a look at the picture which crowns the post I pulled this from. Be sure to read the […]

  3. Ashton W says:

    Hello timothy, wow you just gave fresh meaning to what i have bin thinking about for so long. I cant express how much i appreciate the knowledge on life so true the future will never be the way we expect it, and i for one experience this as a kid growing up and things have changed so much technologically as well, your blessed with the eyes to see, when i see your images its more that images they appear as windows of the times to me, at the times they were taken and i very much respect your work, i haven’t seen to many some from natgeo and here on the site, but they are master pieces, I can tell they are as is no addons no image manipulations just pure beauty of the real world and real experiences and the energy of passion flows through them all. Your living the life many will never have the chance to in a life time, its called living life not life living you, I dont know what to say other than thanks a million, you speak very clear and straight to the solid ground. This is the direction I see myself but i know it will not happen until im ready for it, it scares me a bit thou, cause even thou im in a exciting city with nothing much to shoot other than sky scrapers and a few people, nature and culture is my life its all i think about, real and strive for. But I will follow my heart and let the universe guide me along the right roads. Man this is great that I found your site, your images are unique they just breath, I have heard from others all the time thou than you have to learn how to see and take notes, I will just follow what I feel and try to put it in the window. I got to say, thanks many times over and your gift of being there and sharing it with the world is priceless, I have bin to a few countries myself and the words are not enough, you know what im talking about. thanks for being there, with the people and the world, continue bring us more of this beautiful planet and I wish you all the very best of life, thanks again. A.

  4. terra D'agua says:

    Yeah, living the dream, follow your heart, that’s the way to do it, at least for me. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pics and words.

  5. Aneet says:

    I am happy to know that India played such a vital role in the life of one of my current favourite photographers. Going through your pictures have been an inspiring experience. If you ever in India and need an assistant, then lemme know. I would be more than happy to travel around with you.

  6. Harry says:

    Great photos, love the BBC slideshow! I am currently based in Beijing so if you are ever shooting in China and could do with a interpreter / beer let me know!

    On a reply to an earlier comment you mentioned photos you took while in India went into you ‘archive’, would you mind saying which archive(s) you use?

  7. Julie says:

    Your pictures have allowed me to ‘feel’ people and places that I have not yet met… Almost as though I can ‘see’ the very soul of a person or place through your eyes.
    Thank you.

  8. […] was reading Timothy Allen’s recent blog post just now on his responses to questions he received after the BBC ran an audio slideshow of some of […]

  9. […] thank you to all the visitors who dropped by due to my comment on Tim Allen’s blog the other day. I hope you enjoyed what content is here so far and I hope you enjoy what I have […]

  10. Teagan says:

    Absolutely stunning.

    I’m only 23, a fresh college grad wet behind the ears, but I can already feel the truth of what you’re saying about the importance of enthusiasm in one’s life. It’s been quite recent that I’ve started learning and experiencing photography, but the more I involve myself the more I lose myself in it – like you said, that “inbuilt mechanism” is at work. When I have an opportunity to spend time with adolescents and literature, that same thing kicks in; I don’t care what the salaries are for the teaching positions I’m applying for, all I can do is imagine what the students are like there and daydream myself into their classrooms. You worded it in such an elegant way.
    Thank you for your photographic gift to the world – helping us know and see humanity as it is in all its celebrations and tragedies.

  11. This post is as brilliant as your photographs! I actually feel guilty when I see so many who don’t pursue their passions. Life is too short. Better… it’s too important. When we follow our enthusiasms, we win. When we don’t, we barely manage to fit in our lives on the weekends.

  12. Mark Griffin says:

    Hi Tim,

    Amazing images and amazing website, it really is truly inspiring, makes my daily commercial photography here in Perth seem so very boring…

    Between yourself and David DuChemin you guys are giving me very itchy feet!

    Thanks again for sharing such beautiful work.

  13. Sharon says:

    Fantastic images, I am blown away. Thank you for sharing your story and insight – very inspiring! I’m curious, did you work while in India, or just photograph all day? I thinking of taking the leap myself, but of course the logistics of “how will I live” freak me out. Thanks again, love your work.

    • Timothy says:

      Respect for making the distinction between work and photography! No, I didn’t work per se, but the body of work I produced went into my archive which has been generating enough royalties to live off for quite a while now. I’ve always been very strict about keeping copyright on my work over the years.

      More importantly though, believe it or not, on that trip through India I was only spending about 500 dollars a month… even less in the North East Frontier States where I was staying with families in their homes much of the time due to the absence of guest houses. Traveling that way takes a bit of a leap of faith and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s by far the best way to really immerse yourself in a place.

      If you’ve never been to India before, you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once. It can be a love/hate place for some people, but nobody ever leaves without a story or two to tell. For me, the only way to do it is with a backpack, no itinerary and 6 months to spare. Independent travellers have been exploring India for years, so you can start by flicking through the pages of the Lonely Planet guide for some ideas, then ditch the book and take off on your own personal adventure. It’s a life changing kind of place.

  14. Ed says:

    Tim, Thanks for sharing so much of your work as always. Somehow I missed seeing your audio slideshow on the BBC until, as Flemming saw too, Matt Brandon featured it. An absolutely stunning set of images, I just wish we could have watched Human Planet over here in the US. That’s one thing I miss over here, the Beeb.

    Thanks also for sharing such an excellent personal story too. You are right about following your passion. The left side of my brain is slaked by interest and work in science. Fairly recently my right brain has discovered the joy of photography.

    • Timothy says:

      Cheers Ed. BTW, The Discovery Channel have re-cut Human Planet to a 6 episode series and it will be airing in the US in the not-to-distant future. If you get a chance though, watch the original British version on DVD… it’s much better.

  15. I learned of your work through the Travel Photographer and just watched the stunning slideshow on BBC. Incredibly good and fascinating images, they are absolutely amazing. They are exactly the images I try and strive for in my travel photography, I am deeply inspired.

    I am also inspired by your personal story – thanks for sharing! While BBC has yet to call me (here’s hoping hehe!!!) I have done somewhat the same. About two years ago I embarked on a nomadic journey as a photographer intent on building up a good portfolio hoping that at some point in my life all this hard work will translate into great opportunities, into someone wanting my services as a photographer. And along the way I get some amazing experiences! It is inspiring to hear your story, that following the dreams and the heart can work! I am so happy I found your website.

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