We paid our photographer by shouting him a hair cut… Well it was a part of our trade. We traded a hair cut along with sorting his travel and some other basic necessities in exchange for some exceptionally crafted images.
You might expect a man that has travelled from continent to continent for three years without spending a cent to look borderline homeless, fatigued and probably malnourished. However, Shantanu does not.
Some say, there are people that ‘like cool things’ and those that ‘do cool things’, coming into a new year Shantanu’s story is prompt example of actioning those ‘cool things’…
In 2012, Shantanu began the Pixel Trade Project, setting out to travel to each continent purely by exchanging his skills behind the lens for life’s basic needs. 1,238 days later, having spent no money at all, he’s completed his endeavour by trading his way to the last stop… Antarctica.
Whilst now a global citizen, Shantanu grew up in the hills of the Northern Rivers, and on a rare trip back home we caught up with him to talk through the project, his craft and where he’s going next…
He is a trailblazer and a remarkably talented craftsman.
Where did it all start? (Physical location, influential people, places and events)
It all started in the mountains of the Boarder Ranges. My vegetable growing parents made sure I ran around naked as much as possible, climbed trees and became immune to ticks, fear of snakes and spiders.
The attitude of ‘off you go’, pointing to a forest and saying, ‘see you for dinner’ made up most of my earlier years.
Influential people is a strange one. I think I’ve been influenced by people who really get under my hairy skin as much as people I look up to. At the time I don’t appreciate it, but later in life I find myself wanting to walk up to them and thank them for being such a prick or idiot at the time.
Growing up in the area, what do you love most about coming home from your travels?
It’s so easy to slip around the Northern Rivers without running into anyone, if you choose. This is gold to me. It’s also a place where the tourists flood to a few spots but have no idea about all the incredible hidden places just over the hill.
In a world where travel bloggers, magazines and companies try to find every hidden spot you start to really appreciate this.
What got you into taking photos?
Curiosity. Photography allows you to slip into almost any environment in the world. I’m as curious as they come and I now have a reason to go anywhere and immerse myself in any culture or place.
Photography has changed a lot with technology, how do you maintain that handcrafted element?
I try to photograph things as they ‘feel’ when you’re there rather than trying to make them into a kind of prestige oversaturated reflection that disappoints people on arrival. I admire people who do a lot of post-production but I try to spend as little time on the computer, which I guess is the thing that we associate with killing ‘handcrafted’.
Favourite time to shoot?
This can come at any time. Depends on how playful the light is being.
… and with what camera?
I started out with Canon and because of years of investment in that brand I’ve stuck with them all along.
How did the Pixel Trade idea come about?
A big mix of personal things and outlook on the creative industries. It also had something to do with an incredible girl, who I had to say goodbye to, and decided to say goodbye to familiar living in general.
Was there a moment that changed it from an idea into a reality?
Some evenings when I jump into the sheets to sleep I get a sudden burst of inspiration and off I go for a few hours exploring an idea. During one of these explosions I thought about the entire Pixel Trade project and knew how and when I was going to commence. The next morning it felt real.
The project is beyond impressive, most people wouldn’t dream of being able to travel to each continent without a cent or they’d be confused by the idea of not having money… After the Project do you believe less really is more?
Which places resonated the most? Or intrigued you the most?
Ireland is my go-to with this question. Whilst I feel intrigued by many parts of the world, Ireland has had the most profound effect on me because of the people I met and the landscape I’ve come to be very familiar with. It’s a country where I think ‘enchanting’ fits like no where else.
What was the first thing you purchased upon completion?
A seasonal vegetable chart from Grown & Gathered. I watched the making of this during The Pixel Trade but knew I didn’t have a home for it. I bought it when travelling back to Australia right after being in Antarctica.
Where will your next adventure be?
During The Pixel Trade I always tried to bring the focus back on how accessible the world has become and how I would like to remain as international as possible. I’ve met A LOT of incredible people and been part of brands that I want to delve into with a lot more time on my side. My next adventures will therefore remain greatly global for now.
For you what imagery or interpretation comes to mind when you think of ‘The Way it Should Be’?
Sitting with a few friends in the garden after picking all the food you’re about to eat for the evening. The Way it Should Be. (I’m still a hippy at heart).
Favourite place to have a beer?(At the pub, by the ocean, riding a horse who knows…?)
The place is not as relevant as the person. I have a friend who goes by the strong name of Harrison and we seem to have shared a beer on almost every continent. He is my go to brother for a beer experience.