An Evening with Jim Richardson from National Geographic

I had the great privilege of facilitating a Skype interview with National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson at this week’s Yampa Valley Photographers meeting. Jim offered some great advice on everything from ethics to gear to photography business management – all from his “Small World” studio in rural Kansas.

I first met Jim at Bethany College in 2009. He was photographing several of the recent graduates, most of whom didn’t realize the distinguished skillset of the man behind the camera. We had both just come out of the commencement address by Vint Cerf, a man some call the “father of the Internet” whose has family in the college’s town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Both of these examples are proof that big things can happen in small towns.

When I discussed the upcoming interview with Jim, it became clear that he was not only passionate about photography itself but really wanted his images to tell stories that others had perhaps ignored. Two of these categories include feeding a hungry planet and the culture of small towns in America.

I grew up in a very small town and took a particular interest in his  “Cuba Kansas” project.  Jim has been photographing this small town in central Kansas for over 30 years, and he has a perspective few can replicate. We talked about ethics and compassion in photojournalism – like how you had to first participate in the rocking chair “Rock-A-Thon” before you could properly photograph it. Jim’s honesty throughout the project is refreshing:

“Most casual visitors will swear time has stopped dead, that the only thing growing faster than the wheat is boredom. They’re wrong, just as I was when I first came barreling into town.”
National Geographic article

Also of interest to the crowd of photographers in Steamboat Springs, Colorado – located in rural northwestern Colorado some 3 hours from Denver – was how Jim runs a global photography business from the middle of Kansas. Obviously, the Internet helps. But Jim provided great advice about how to market your work as more important than your geographical location.

Thanks again Jim for being our guest.

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