“I enjoy each trade in different ways – the mix of location, people, and the work itself takes various forms.”
Richard travels the world through his international photography project, The Glass Passport. He trades his impressive photography skills for three currencies: food, lodging, and transportation. He’s photographed events all over the world, from London to Singapore and everywhere in between. He documents his adventures on theglasspassport.com. Richard took time out of his busy schedule to chat with G&T:
How did you come up with such a creative idea to see the world?
I had read about other examples of people who exchanged various forms of work for food and board. I went to university with musician Josh Savage, who would stay with people and perform small gigs in their homes. I also heard about another photographer, Shantanu Starick, who traded his photography on this scale.
These influences all came together when I was figuring out what to do with myself as a recent graduate and had limited funds and experience. The concept allowed an opportunity to remove food, lodging, and transport as limits. By removing money from my day-to-day life and interactions it allowed me to simple start then focus on creating more and more work and see where it led me. It’s finding out what happens by existing simply off trading the value I can offer for what I need.
Tell me about your background (with travel and photography).
I bought my first camera a couple of years before launching this project at a time when I had just fallen into the working world as another twenty-something struggling with a lack of direction. From my growing interest in photography, I developed a desire to travel and work for myself (I had little experience in either). It wasn’t an overnight process – these interests came at a time when I was reflecting and reestablishing my priorities. Getting out to experience more of the world and doing so through work – that meant something to me and became my goal.
Your first trade was in England in July 2016. Now you’re more than 90 trades in and have travelled the world. Do you have a favorite trade? And why?
I enjoy each trade in different ways – the mix of location, people, and the work itself takes various forms. Certainly Trade 62 (photographing the Uganda International Marathon) was a fantastic blend of all three with half the time spent hanging off the back of a motorcycle with camera in hand. The charity that runs it will fly me out there again later this month for round 2.
How much of your own money have you spent?
I don’t spend money on my core needs I’m trading for – food, accommodation, and transport – while travelling. I spend/earn a little when I stop home in the UK every now and then to catch up with friends and family but I’ve always been able to find hosts while travelling… even if it was a bit last minute sometimes, I haven’t broken the streak yet!
Do you have an end date in mind for The Glass Passport?
Once I reach every continent is the most defined end point I currently have in mind.
Rarely being in one place for longer than a week, meeting a new set of people every time I switch roofs, and catching a flight and constantly being tasked with new forms of photography/subject matter – most of my time is spent in new situations and outside my comfort zone. So, that’s the answer to both sides of that question. It consumes a lot of energy and it’s a lot of work catching up on past projects, focusing on current tasks, and planning for future steps.
However, it is also exactly what I wanted to draw from the project – to be challenged to continuously create more. That’s where growth comes from. It’s only a difficult thing when I’ve occasionally lost the balance of it all – like any freelancer might deal with – or if I’m just terribly jet-lagged.