"I THINK GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN IS QUITE COOL"
– Vinesh Kumaran
Mapping Creative Hustle is a series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs connected to the Māngere Ōtāhuhu area. The interviewed were conducted by Ema Tavola with portrait photography by Vinesh Kumaran.
In your own words, what do you do for a living?
I am a creative artist, I love taking photos and I work in a visual medium. That’s my full time income / job, and how I make my living, I make photos.
Why do you do what you do?
I tend to ask myself that a lot of the time. I guess it’s something that I love, something that I like doing. There’s a sense of achievement when I’m involved in a project or when I create something that I can sit back and think ‘Oh wow, we’ve definitely achieved something’.
Have you had an epiphany that has led you to this path in life?
Not really, there wasn’t really a turning point or indicator that I wanted to be a photographer, I guess I just kind of stumbled into it. When I was in High School I had the choice of pursuing an IT engineering course or going to art school and I thought art school would be something a little bit different and out there.
The way that I got into commercial photography was at the end of our last year in art school, we had a commercial photographer come in and talk about what he does and his practice, and I kind of fell in love with that which led me to going on and assisting him. That led to discovering this whole world of freelance assisting, and I guess I learnt so much and I got so involved with assisting that it turned out to be a career where I was working with a lot of top commercial photographers and travelling quite a bit.
Then me taking the step and realising I had to go out and draw a line in the sand, kind of happened after I got married; I thought, ‘well, I’ve got to try and make the next big step’, which was to be an independent photographer, freelancing and trying to make money / revenue / income out of commercial photography.
If there was one thing you could outsource to help you do more, or be more effective, what would it be?
I don’t think it’s outsourcing, I think its sourcing within. I think a lot of it is motivation and being able to go out there and make things happen, which I’ve slowly begun to learn. I think that you can make all the excuses and not actually produce anything… I think it’s when you think positively and you realise that you can make things happen with little to no budget, or you can get people together with the right talent to make things happen. So I guess it’s not outsourcing, but sourcing within.
What is something you wish you could do/find locally that would support you as a creative entrepreneur?
I know that the simple answer would be trying to find a hub for creative people to come in and nurture their practice, I think that’s the normal answer that people give but for me I think it’s not that… you’ve got to make things work for you, you can’t rely on your local community or internationally or anything like that, you’ve got to make sure that you create that fire within and think you’ve got to create something and make projects happen on your own because its hard but you've still got to give it a go.
What do you wish you could change in societal attitudes that would enable you and other creative entrepreneurs to thrive?
When going through art school people tended to think, especially my parents, ‘why don’t you go and do a normal course’. Traditionally we’re meant to go out and get the 9-to-5 and I don’t know what the solution is for trying to get rid of that mindset, but I think going against the grain is quite cool. I love being able to tell people that I freelance. I don't just have a 9-to-5 and work five days a week. I could be on the best job of that month or I could have no work, but that's what makes my practice exciting.
What do you love about living and working in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area?
It’s the area that I’m quite connected to, I’ve spent most of my life in Māngere and I think I’ve got this home connection to the people of Māngere. I feel quite comfortable and I think I can tell stories that reflect my space through living here and the connections that I’ve got here. So I think it’s the fact that I feel comfortable in Māngere and Ōtāhuhu.
Would you work or practice be different if you lived somewhere else?
Totally, because most of my work is about the people that I live with and around and I think that if I was elsewhere then it would be totally different. So, my work generally has a certain vibe around it and it’s influenced by where I live, which is Māngere.
What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?
Finding that purpose is what I draw back to. I always ask myself what’s the reason and why I’m doing this, and the fact that there’s only one opportunity to do it. I always think if I was 65, would I be happy with myself if I hadn’t given it a go? And that’s motivation for me, thinking that I’m here for a reason and that I’ve got to give it a go, and if I fail then at least I did give it a good shot.