A few days ago, I received the wonderful news that I was accepted as an Emerging League Member of the International League of Conservation Photographers!! It means a lot to me, and I have worked very hard over the last few years to make this dream a reality. It is a very competitive fellowship, and only a few new members are taken under the wing of the iLCP, and after an unsuccessful application last year, I am very happy I finally made it!
I really couldn’t be much more excited about this. The iLCP is a fellowship of less than 150 international photographers that strive to have an impact on conservation through impactful and ethical photography and filmmaking.
All iLCP photographers and filmmakers are combined in their dedicated efforts to bring about positive conservation change and tell stories about problems wildlife, ecosystems and cultures are facing but also covering solutions and how we can move forward in a more sustainable way.
Fort members, the iLCP offers a number of advantages, such as its huge network, help in realising projects through grants and helping obtain them, providing a platform for professional development and growth, and a large following and partners throughout the world. Some of the world’s best nature photographers are part of the iLCP and it’s truly humbling and an incredible honour to be among them. I am excited for what is to come!!
When I handed in and defended my master thesis in 2016, I was still very much at the crossroads of either pursuing a career in academia and continue my shark studies in Fiji in the form of a PhD or dedicating my efforts and the time to full-time photography and filmmaking. Then, the same year, I won the German Prize for Science Photography for a series of images depicting my fieldwork in Fiji.
I was invited to several radio shows, had a small feature on the local German TV show, and gave almost a dozen interviews to various national and local magazines. Every single time I had the opportunity to speak about the prize and my work, I also spoke about my shark research in Fiji and spread the need for shark conservation as far and wide as possible.
I was honestly amazed by the genuine curiosity of people and how many I was actually able to reach through these photographs and all that resulted from them.
During those months, I also worked on a scientific publication about my work and eventually published it in 2018 (Yes, it can take that long!!). While it was very important for me to publish the paper in an open-access journal to make my data count and advance actual conservation efforts on the ground, I also realized that scientific papers in most cases have a very limited amount of readers excluding scientists themselves.
The need for improved science communication became more and more apparent to me. One, that includes impactful visuals as well as an easy-to-understand summary of the research and one that could bridge the gap between scientists and the general public.
I decided I want to devote my life to do exactly that and instead of doing both, science and photography and film at the same time would solely focus on the visual storytelling side of things. In January 2017, I finally registered my sole trader ship in Germany and started my journey as a full-time photographer and filmmaker.
Fast-forward to the end of 2021, and so so much has happened along the way. I put in so much work, sweat and tears and believe me when I say there were many weeks and months engulfed in uncertainty, anxiety about the future and doubts about my decision. But in the end, I couldn’t be happier about what I do.
Being freelance has many advantages, but of course, also comes with disadvantages and every year I learn a little more about how to run a business (in my country Germany as well as abroad here in Fiji where I live now), acquire clients, maintain long-term working relationships, pitch personal projects, communicate my images and films, and so on.
I am sure any fellow freelance photographer or any other self-employed professional in fact will know how difficult that can be. Mistakes are part of the journey, as failures and disappointments. But with hard work and dedication and a vision of where you want to be, there will be a success. Of course, luck always helps, too 🙂
It is no secret that 2021 was a rough year for the entire world. The Coronavirus and all it came with has made life very different for (almost) everyone. And while professionally, this was surely a rather slow year, there were also lots of good sides to it (and still half of it to go!). I was lucky to still be able to work on a few projects and I am currently still working on several long-term projects. One of them, for example, is for the Wildlife Conservation Society for whom I document fishers and fish vendors during COVID times here in Fiji. Another one will be for Conservation International and documenting their support for a turtle tagging program in Fiji’s remote Lau Group.
No one really knows when this is all going to end or at least when times are becoming a bit more normal again allowing us to travel and realise projects, but I remain hopeful. I am super excited for my upcoming photo book crowdfunding about the Shark Reef Marine Reserve here in Fiji, one of the other long-term projects that I have been working on for more than three years. I am currently waiting for my first proofing copy from the, and cannot wait to hold it in my hands! Stay tuned for more news if you like and until then, stay safe!
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Tom Vierus is an award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist based in Suva, Fiji Islands. This blog is dedicated to his assignments and to sharing some behind-the-scenes footage.