When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, Raul Touzon really takes it to heart. A documentary and natural history photographer who has worked with many large publications such as TIME, U.S. News, The New York Times, National Geographic Society and the National Geographic Magazine, Raul has been a full-time educator and instructor, for over twenty years, producing and leading his own workshops and photography expeditions around the world.
What makes Raul different from the competition, and other photographers that are popular on the internet, is his concentration on how traditional photography can intersect with social media’s influence. With the pandemic, Raul has seen his industry shift significantly, and while he’s pivoted and flexed his business to stay afloat, which has been a necessary response to diminishing interest in photography as an artform, and an increase in smartphone photography.
Above all else, Raul specializes in making images that communicate the “eternity of the moment”, as he has coined it. He has extensive experience traveling to seldom visited corners of the world, including the Northwest Passage, Franz Josef Land, the Russian Arctic, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Ross Sea in Antarctica, Greenland, Melanesia, the Aleutian Islands and Madagascar.
“I was motivated to enter the industry by my love for photography, teaching and traveling. My work has brought me opportunities to be associated with key brands such as National Geographic, TIME, and The New York Times,” Raul says.
While his work has been well-received and well regarded by those in the industry, Raul admits that being in business for a long time means facing challenges that comes with a shifting industry. In the face of challenge, however, he’s been able to position himself in a unique selling place that allows him to focus his education on small groups, between five and ten participants at one time.
Raul has been in the business for 20 years, and cites that today’s challenges mostly surround advancing technology. As more and more people have cameras in their smartphones, and platforms to share these images like Instagram, Raul says surviving in the industry that feels like it’s losing value can be really tough.
“People don’t appreciate or understand the value of photography. Being able to take high quality photos now is a given, all the technology to do so is on their iPhone. Their phones can now create the images for them,” Raul says.
The skill and artistry that comes from years of experience can easily be overshadowed by the quick nature of smartphone photography, despite the fact that smartphones often mean we think less about the quality of our images, and more about the quantity and speed at which they can be posted.
“The diminishing interest in photography as an artform and the proliferation of smartphone imagery are big challenges for photographers like myself that need to be addressed. I try to concentrate on the future and not the past,” Raul says.
Raul also cites challenges in being a travel-based photographer. Primarily, the travel industry has been changing in recent years, as travel agencies and agents are becoming more and more obsolete, changing the nature of Raul’s role in documenting these places. In addition, he also mentions finding new clients is, by, far, the biggest challenge.
“I have a solid and loyal roster of repeat customers, but finding new ones to start a professional relationship with is often difficult,” Raul says.
Despite these changes, Raul took the challenges head on, reinventing his business, pivoting to education and instruction when production of photographs wanes. In a shifting industry, the flexible survive – especially those that are financially focused.
“Stress these days is mainly financial, although I have to say that I did a pretty good job in reinventing the business and finding new ways of generating income during times where the travel industry has been hit hard. These days, I think I am over the fame and recognition part of the equation. Because of the pandemic and a shrinking industry, I am extremely focused on revenue generation. The goal is to sell more images and go on more trips,” Raul remarks.
Being able to focus on revenue generation prolongs the longevity of Raul’s business, allowing him to sustain his family and have funds saved for leisure and the future. In the near future as travel opens, he’s looking forward to resuming normal operations in terms of travel and photograph sales as they were before the pandemic. In addition, borders and markets opening will allow Raul to explore new avenues of revenue, just as he explores new corners of the world.