In conversation with: Lior Sperandeo – Part II

Continuing their conversation, Lior and Ryan delve into the role of social media in his success, the power of self awareness and the top 3 individuals inspiring Lior right now.

*This interview was transcribed from The 88’s podcast interview with Lior.
Consequently, the content has been edited where appropriate.

How much has social media changed the way that you work?

It’s amazing.

However, I was late to social media – and was late for two reasons.

First, I was dissing social media. I thought I was this big photographer whose work should be in galleries. And now, I think that was just stupid and arrogant. Earlier on in my career, I was also attached to a channel/platform, so I wasn’t the only owner of my work.

But when I became a freelancer, I decided to use social media as a way to stop chasing editors and begging for people to publish my work. I said okay, if it wasn’t going to be published, I’ll publish it.

And that’s what I started to do, and was amazed! I was amazed because I didn’t expect so many people to care about what i do, and the reaction to be so big. It makes me happy that people are not just fans. They care about the content, they read the descriptions and stories, and they engage.

We have a community, and its perfect.

We’re going back to the start now. You mentioned that it took courage to make the decision to go freelance and do your own thing. What was that process like?

Well, everything changed when I became freelance. If im sick, nobody cares. Weekends, holidays, nobody cares. It’s either you work or you don’t.

The courage comes when you begin to do what you want to do, even if you know when you’re gonna lose money when you start doing it.

When I started freelancing. I would fund my own projects because I didnt want to waste time begging magazines to fund my projects without even knowing me. I just went and did them, spent a few thousand dollars keeping in mind that it might fail. But knowing that I’ll be happy with the work, the stories and contributing to a worthwhile cause.

It’s not easy. When you’re alone in the field you have to get out of your comfort zone.

But when you do that two really good things happen.

You have to overcome your fears, you can’t run home.

You start talking, to other people, to locals. You’re getting into the story. And that is a part of the job, to be a part of the story and bring something to the story.

I’m not spending 24hrs a day doing what i want to do. I still take jobs I’m not necessarily in love with. But it helps me do what I want to do later down the road.

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How important is it to do work without the expectation of money? Was this an important part of the learning process for you?

Honestly, the best things that I’ve done, I did without earning a dollar. Opportunities like getting published with Nat Geo – I didn’t ask for money. It was simply a huge opportunity.

Also, people act funny talking about money. But on the other hand, people need to live. So it comes down to an attitude, a specific approach when it comes to money.

I always tell people that if I’m getting rich doing what I’m doing, covering what I’m covering – I’m not doing justice to the people I want to help.

So money is not my first, or even in my top 5 priorities. I want to live well and have a nice life, but I don’t want to consume too much, or for money to take over my job and my choices.

It’s a balance.

The priority should be to go do what you want to do, go with your heart and your instincts. A lot of people want to succeed really really fast. To tell you the truth, I am not running anywhere. I know where I’m going, I don’t know what i want to become, I know my path but I’m not in a hurry.

I’ll get there.

Be patient and keep doing. Keep asking yourself if this is what you want to do. A lot people do things they think they should do, or do things for an audience they have built too fast. For me it is important for my community, that they get the best of what I do and that I don’t fool them by doing what I do, for them.

Self awareness is a big thing for you then. But how important do you think self awareness is for young people, for anyone in general?

It is very important.

You have to know your strengths and weaknesses – and you can’t think you only have strengths! Getting to your goals alone, will take much more time and I don’t think we were born to be alone or work alone anyway!

I think it’s good to find people who are smarter, and have a set of skills that you don’t have. For me, the language was always a barrier. My mother tongue is Hebrew!

I was always looking for a writer, who could help me in that field because it is very important to provide context for people when it comes to photography.

You could get lost without the details.

A photo can be a 1000 words, but 1000 words might not be enough to tell the story. I want to put the people on a pedestal, because they are heroes.

Top 3 pieces of advice for young creatives?

  • Know what you want to do
    What story are you trying to tell – what interests you
  • Be focused
    Know what success means to you
  • Inside access is everything
    I met local ethiopian photographers who complained that they didn’t get opportunity like foreign creatives in their country. But I said to them, I wish I had your access – the language, knowing your country, moving around quickly, having time – normally the best story is right under your nose! Use your access!

Top 3 people that are inspiring you right now?

  • Jimmy Nelson
    His approach to photography is really good and important – he goes to huge extents to get his stories.
  • Jan Slatkov
    My mentor back when I did weddings with him – he always had little, photography cliches that were so true. One time, he told me ‘get closer.’ But this wasn’t only referring to a physical proximity, but to become more invested and interested in the story.
  • An unnamed Israeli man
    I did a film about this guy who moved to Ethiopia from Israel. He’s been there for 3 years helping local farmers to grow tomatoes. He brings Israeli technology but he doesn’t change the way local farmers work and instead employs their methods.

    He does as they do! Without anyone knowing for the past 3 years, he brings more opportunities to the locals of Ethiopia and that is really inspiring to me.

    These are the people I want to be surrounded by.

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Final question – Three bands or musicians you’re listening to right now?

  • Jack Johnson
  • A-WA (three Israeli sisters of Yemeni heritage)
  • J. Views

Find out more about Lior’s amazing work ~

Site: Lior Sperandeo
Instagram: @peopleof

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