Hi guys and welcome to the Make Your Break podcast. I have an awesome episode lined up for you today. I’m talking to wedding photographer and educator Fer Juaristi from Mexico. Today’s interview is one of my favourites in a long time. Fer’s tagline is ‘be grateful for what you have and fearless for what you want’. This really sums him up perfectly! Honest interviews like these are one of the main reasons why I started this podcast. So let’s get straight into it!
Fer Juaristi is an amazingly successful wedding photographer, but it took him a long time to come to terms with the idea that, as an artist, it was acceptable to make money. The stereotype of creatives is that they’re going to end up living with their parents. Money doesn’t have to be a scary thing. But Fer feels it’s very hard to break out of that mindset, especially in South America. Going to workshops in the U.S. and expanding his horizons has helped Fer empower himself and his art.
Fer believes you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed. Instead of thinking of life as a game where you only have one life, think of yourself as having four, five or six lives. Give yourself the space to fail. It was also important for Fer to rise above the embedded ways of thinking in his culture. For example, instead of changing his car every two years like the people around him, he made do with the same car for a number of years.
Mexico teaches people to be humble all the time, which Fer feels is connected to the strong religious presence in the country. He also points out how many people in Mexico love soap operas and thinks that they could spend their time watching TED Talks or listening to an awesome podcast. There’re no excuses anymore. But too often education is seen as an expense, rather than an investment.
I totally agree. Not all spending is the same. We like to spend money on instant gratification, not on long-term investment like website design or your brand.
Sacrifices in any kind of creative career are hugely important. Would you rather get to where you want to go even if you have to make a small sacrifice, or would you rather stay where you are right now? Change in your life will require a sacrifice. Fer believes you have to have faith in yourself. In Latin America, people are content to sit back and watch their heroes as opposed to being the hero themselves. But it’s about making a movement from this mindset. Conferences can be a great place to expand your contacts and creativity; I actually met Fer Juaristi at one of these events. I was impressed by his work beforehand, but I was also impressed by how he took the time to chat with me.
When Fer started his wedding photography, he found the older generation were jealous about the upcoming photographers and closely guarded what they knew. He wants to change that and inspire the younger generation instead. He doesn’t want to ever stop learning; he’s learned to shut the f*ck up and listen more (even though it’s hard).
Listening and acknowledging other viewpoints while reconciling your own is definitely a skill. Fer used to go to conferences and see other photographers discussing business. He used to think these people didn’t know what they were talking about, but as time went on, he realised the business side was as necessary as the creative side. He’s still trying to make peace with that and finds it a constant struggle.
Business practices all over the world had to change thanks to COVID. Fer has seen more educational courses crop up in recent months, which is great. I love the idea of people being able to access educators they can emulate. They don’t have to waste a lot of years in college, they can go straight to the source. College is not always worth the huge expense, especially when you can access so much awesome info for free in the form of podcasts.
So many people are at home right now losing business. For many people, it’s their first recession. I was interested in what kind of challenges Fer has faced during his career, and what kind of resilience he’s had to show in response. Fer thinks that the first step is to have the courage necessary to chase the goal and take the first step. When he was first starting out, he and his family didn’t have the income to provide for themselves, so they had to stay with Fer’s parents-in-law. You have to rely on your family to support you. Value people on their energy and aspirations.
Another big change for Fer was changing his website from Spanish to English, even though his peers thought it was a bad idea. He has also forged strong relationships with wedding planners who appreciate his work. Fer Juaristi has been a wedding photographer for 14 years now, so he’s experienced many failures and many successes, as anyone who strikes out on their own must.
I was interested in the biggest event that’s defined Fer’s life or his career. In Mexico, you ask for a 30-year loan to buy a house. His wife told him that they were going to own their house in two years once he started on his path to being a wedding photographer. Although he didn’t believe her at the time, he worked so hard over those two years and his wife’s prediction came true.
Fer finds his biggest challenge is to believe in himself. He finds it easier to believe in other people. That resonates with me so much, as I have the same relationship with my own wife; she believes in me more than I do most of the time. Everybody wants to make the right decisions, but you also need the willingness to take the wrong ones, because these are the ones you learn most from. Fear can paralyse you or push you.
I really liked Fer’s gamification metaphor from earlier in the chat. It’s something I also believe wholeheartedly, that we have more than one chance at life. I was wondering if that’s how Fer also views his own career and art. Does he like rolling the dice?
Fer was never used to the good life, so he’s never chased luxury. He still feels weird when his wife takes him to a fancy restaurant. Because he has very specific goals for his business, he wants to keep everything as low cost as possible so he has room to experiment with his craft and art. This is how he chooses to roll the dice. I love that mindset and it’s something I implement in my own life.
The hardest thing to change is survival mode, in Fer’s opinion. If you leave your ego behind, you can shift this mindset. You should do whatever it takes to give you peace of mind. Social media is like high school in a way, but no one fundamentally cares what you do. Fer doesn’t want to monetise his talent on every job. He finds a balance between doing what he loves and what is necessary.
I recently closed down my studio as we’re under lockdown in Australia. Someone asked how I could be successful when I couldn’t even open my studio. But all I could see was them projecting their anxiety on to me. But with a shift of mindset, you’ll see that no one cares about you. They care about themselves. You need to let go of that ego and learn to thrive instead of survive.
You also need to redefine what success means to you. It’s a huge challenge, but Fer thinks we have to take that risk. He knows rich people who are not that happy, and also poorer people who always seem delighted with life. When Fer realised this, it allowed him to switch his mindset. Waking up with a smile and empowering other people gives him much more gratification than another zero in his bank account.
I define my success as my willingness to do and fail. I think about this all the time. If I organise a workshop and no one turns up, I’ll still have a smile on my face because I put myself out there. That’s why I create so many things with the aim of helping people. I always face failure with a smile because I know it’s all part of my success. Knowledge doesn’t represent mastery. It is far better to try and fail, instead of not doing anything at all and simply commenting on the efforts of others.
Fer’s final message is to not be afraid to contact the people you admire. He finds the wedding photography industry to be one of the most humble he’s known. Try and honour that. Don’t be a bad human, don’t ask for things; instead, try to solve each other’s problems.
I want to say a huge thank you to Fer Juaristi for sharing his insights and stories with us. Thanks for listening guys, until next time!
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