articles/Profiles/bjornthomspeakercorner-page1

Bjorn Thomassen - Speakers' Corner - part 1 of 1

by Bjorn Thomassen Published 01/11/2009

We don't believe there's ever been a speaker line-up quite like this before at any photo convention - anywhere. At the pioneering eight-day long 2011 gathering, our broad church of professional and aspirational photographer visitors will have a truly enormous choice of seminars to be delivered by 100 top-rated experts from across the globe. (We just wanted to make quite sure we had covered every subject under the imaging sun!) Of course it would be impossible to produce personal profiles for every single speaker given obvious Imagemaker pagination restrictions, so we've drawn some of these key names out of the hat to give you an exclusive 'cross-section' profile snapshot. We asked them all similar questions - and here's the result.

Imagemaker: Tell us a little about your background.

BT: I was born in England to an English mother and a Norwegian father. I followed in my father's seafaring footsteps and spent a while on the high seas before working as a harbour policeman. I was also a crew member and helmsman at The Royal National Lifeboat Institute where I was fortunate enough to be honoured with an award for my contribution to saving life at sea.

Then I stepped ashore to pursue my real passion: photography.

My first pro camera was a Bronica 645 and I achieved my first professional qualification in 1994.

Why photography?

I am very enthusiastic about the arts and I am passionate about working with people. Photography enables me to fulfil all these ambitions and desires.

Film or digital?

The debate of film versus digital still rages in certain quarters, but for me the transition was fraught with anxieties about the inevitable and immense learning curve. However, the switch led to the pure thrill and excitement of boundless new creative and business opportunities.

Tell us about your capture and output devices.

I work with Canon DSLRs but I still use conventional RA4 processing as a primary source of printing through a professional lab. Having said that, I have no problems using digital output in the form of inkjet prints too.

Bit of detail about your own studio set-up/staffing. Why (as a customer) would I choose you?

I am away a lot of the time but I do have a small studio. I believe in the 'unique selling proposition' concept to help outpace rival photographers. I do this through a continual programme of personal development and by consistent presentation of new portrait styles to clients.

The problem with professional photographers today is...

Photographers often don't invest sufficiently in their own training or in training for their staff. We are all working in a hugely competitive marketplace and training is absolutely key to success in the long term.

What's the worst commercial error you have made to date?

I used to completely underestimate the importance of specialised marketing relating to my business. Whilst it was obvious that marketing and PR would play a big role, I didn't acknowledge how important and specialised it needed to be.

I also recall that my first ever professional shoot ended in a humiliating disaster when I realised I had loaded (and shot) three rolls of 645 film, the wrong way around.

How did you rectify the mistake?

To resolve the marketing and PR shortfalls I attended as many marketing seminars as possible. Then I commissioned experts to analyse my wedding and portrait strategy.

The lessons learnt?

Many lessons were learnt. Some existing markets were brought back into a growth pattern plus the subsequent stimulation of new markets.

Are you excited by the evolution of imaging?

I confess I am very excited about the evolution of digital photography and emergent technologies. It enables us to continue to stimulate and dazzle prospective customers.

Is it getting harder or easier to make a decent living?

I know there is a rewarding career and a life in photography for those with a pro-active approach and the right application.

How do you stay ahead of the game?

Staying ahead of the game and ahead of competitors, whilst still exciting new customers is a constant challenge. But these are challenges that can be very rewarding as success enables us to immerse ourselves fully in our work and enjoy this compelling profession.

How do organisations such as The Societies help?

The Societies are simply an amazing organisation. They thrive on very strong educational values and their growth has been unparalleled through a dynamic and cohesive concept - to support photographers and take them all to another level.


Why is The Societies Convention such a big deal for photographers? Is it primarily about the chance to learn from the experiences of imaging icons?

The Societies Convention has seen a meteoric rise to become the largest in Europe. It provides inspirational speakers from all over the world, covering key subjects that are essential to our success, and delivered at precisely the right time - the start of a new and exciting year.

Your own mentors (living or dead)?

Stu Williamson is my number one mentor. He has been a good friend for many years. This man's talent and drive are quite exceptional. Other mentors include the late Bob Carlos Clarke and recent newcomers, Victoria Sims and Lara Jade.

If you could pick just FIVE seminars to attend at The Societies Convention whose workshops would you attend?

John Baikie, Keith Thompson, Damian McGillicuddy, Marko Dutka and Tony Worobiec...but my list could go on and on. I intend to get to as many seminars as possible at The Convention.

What do you think will be the next big thing in the industry?

I think the merger of beautifully edited digital stills with moving images will play a role in the future of certain aspects of imaging.

Would you want your own children to take up the reins of your empire (or have they)?

Yes, I would love my son to take up photography. Why not? What could be more rewarding?

Your plans for the next five years?

I want to carry on learning. I want to travel more and I want to see more photographers fulfilling their own aspirations through training


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