There can be little doubt that Croatia is one of the most photogenic countries in the world, if it were a model it’d be a super-model. It’s probably the diversity that is a key factor, combine snow-covered mountains, sandy beaches and dramatic weather conditions and you have all the ingredients to make a photographer’s mouth water.
And whilst Croatia is forgiving to amateur photographers, offering them the chance to take a glorious image, to really get the most out of the country you need some knowledge, inside knowledge if possible. This week we caught up with Jordan Banks, a photographer with not only a portfolio that includes National Geographic, Lonely Planet and The Sunday Times, but also unique local knowledge, Dubrovnik is close to his heart, in more ways than one.
Yorkshire-born Banks has recently been on a family/working trip to Croatia, a place that he once called home. Banks now lives in Berkshire in the UK.
You have strong connections to Dubrovnik and Croatia, how did they come about?
I was working in Marrakesh and had met some travellers who told me that I just had to visit Croatia. In fact, at the time I was looking to buy a property and decided to check out the real estate scene in Croatia. So basically I came to the country looking to buy property and headed to Dubrovnik rather blind to the beauty that awaited me. Funnily enough I ended up meeting my future wife whilst trying to find a home, she was the daughter of my real estate agent. This was back in early 2003. I was blown away with the city. A few years later I actually started actively working as a photographer in Dubrovnik and the rest of Croatia.
Unspolit nature of Croatia - Photo Jordan Banks
As a professional photographer how inspiring is Croatia for photographers?
Incredibly inspiring. Of course Croatia holds a special place in my heart, obviously I spent a long time living in the country and my wife is Croatian, as well as my children starting to speak two languages. You could say that my photography love affair with Croatia started with the old cities and the amazing architecture, the influence of the Old City of Dubrovnik, which for me is the most beautiful city in the world, clearly motivated my first images. In fact, many of the cities along the coastline are a dream for photographers, with the stone work, the crystal clear sea and soaring mountains to frame everything. Recently I have moved more into exploring the sights off the beaten-track. The unspoilt nature, the gorges and mountains, getting back to nature. And this has opened up another side to the country for me, it seems that for a photographer Croatia is a country that just keeps on giving. It truly is never-ending.
Croatia is a country that just keeps on giving - Photo Jordan Banks
How difficult did you find it working in Dubrovnik? Was there much competition in the photography industry?
Yes, at that time it wasn’t so easy finding work. It was challenging at the start. Everyone was really friendly but there was a fair bit of competition.
Generally, how tough is it to make a living as a photographer?
Yes, it isn’t easy. You’ve got to have a lot of natural talent to actually take the photos and then you need a lot of hard work to actually push through to the next level. I guess it’s like any job really, you need to work hard and concentrate and be prepared to be rejected a lot. I haven’t really done anything else, so I can only presume that the same is true for most jobs, if you work hard and are dedicated 100 percent to what you are doing then you’ll be fine. Rejection is just another part of the job. The profession kind of suits my lifestyle, I am never going to be living in a mansion and driving fast cars, but I will have travelled the world and seen and worked in some awesome places. Photography is more of a lifestyle job. One piece of advice that I would give is that you’ve got to have good contacts and be prepared to put yourself out there in the market and be forever hustling. I have just done a major job in Montenegro in a hotel resort and I got that job through my connections.
If you are ready to work and take anything on then you have a chance of making a living. Of course my ideal job would be shooting an editorial for National Geographic or Lonely Planet where I am left to my own devices, but life doesn’t work like that.
The hidden beauties of Croatia - Photo Jordan Banks
And you came back to Croatia this summer to create, amongst other things, a coffee table book. Do people still buy coffee table books?
I would say yes, especially in tourist locations. I want the book to be really special. If I just did yet another coffee table book, then probably there wouldn’t be as much interest. I want to stand out from the crowd. I think that such a book would open a lot of eyes as to the hidden beauties of the country. I originally came with a plan was to put together a story book to pitch to a magazine, maybe look into calendars and books in the future. Trying to actually get under the skin of Croatia. There was a lot I’d seen over the years, but there was also an awful lot that I hadn’t. So I wanted to spend some time doing some of the lesser known highlights of Croatia. Trying to explore more into the country.
Getting a fresh perspective on Croatia - Photo Jordan Banks
Are you concentrating on landscapes or portraits in Croatia, what images of the country are you trying to capture?
I would class it as travel documentary. So it includes landscapes and the people of the country. I also used a drone a lot this time. So much of Croatia is absolutely perfect for drone photography. Drone photography has really come on in the photography industry and I wanted to get a different perspective of the spectacular nature.
So much of Croatia is perfect for drone photos - Photo Jordan Banks
Because of the rise of social media everyone is a budding photographer. Is social media affecting that amount of work you are getting?
No, not really is the short answer. There was a time when it all started when there were stories about people making millions from social media and being influencers. But the reality is when you go to professional picture buyers they can see that many of these photos on social media are unoriginal and even copied. Big publications and big tourist boards are really looking for professional photographers, and are looking to use people who have a body of work with major companies behind them. If anything I have got more work since the rise of social media. In fact, I use social media like Instagram as a research tool, and it has proved very useful. If I get a job in Bali I can’t go there for two-weeks before hand to get the lay of the land and find the best angles and best times of day for shooting, however Instagram helps me research some ideas. For example, I was supposed to be doing a job in New England this autumn, so I followed some Instagram accounts from the region so that I’d know when autumn hits, so then I could jump on a plane and be there in the height of it.