This week we received the news from the publisher that Classic Tramping in New Zealand was sold out for the last time. Finito. Never to be reprinted. Ah well....it was 16 good years. Life moves on.
There was no sadness in this for me, or I suspect Shaun. All good things come to an end as the saying goes and nostalgia shouldn't be confused with sadness.
Instead I found myself reflecting on the idea of collaboration. The same day I got this news, I ended up in an interesting conversation with another friend about the very same idea. In the course of this conversation, my friend put forward the theory that not only were the next generation of photographers adapting far better to the fast paced, ever changing digital world of commercial photography, but he also felt they were far better at collaborating with other photographers. This he felt was driving their work ahead in leaps and bounds, while some of the older more established photographerscontinued to work in a more insular fashion with mixed results in the new world. Like most generalisations, there was an element of truth to the theory, even though I can think of a number of well established photographers who have incorporated the idea of collaboration into their business model.
Collaboration has not just been an important part of my working life, it has also been a key component of all the most satisfying things I've been involved in with work. Achieving things as an individual is a different sort of satisfaction, but for me it doesn't compare with how a group of people can work together on a project and achieve something far more than the sum of their parts.
Classic Tramping was the first project Shaun and I formally collaborated on but in many respects the process started a number of years before when we were at University in Palmerston North. We exited University in the early 1990's right into the midst of Ruth Richardson's mad economic policies and the 'mother of all budgets'. The result was 10-11 percent unemployment and getting an interview seemed like a stroke of luck, let alone a job. There didn't seem much good about what was going on in New Zealand at that time and escaping to the hills seemed a welcome relief from the very negative process of finding a job.
Eventually we did find jobs, but during all this time we never stopped encouraging each other in our photography, writing and generally following our passions in life. For the next few years we would meet up once a year to do one big tramping trip and little did we know that almost by accident we were collecting together half the photographs that would later be needed for the book.
Shaun went overseas for most of 1997 and during that time I vividly remember doing a washed out trip to Arthur's Pass with the publisher Robbie Burton (who is one half of Potton & Burton Publishing, formally Craig Potton Publishing). On that trip we talked about the idea of this book as a follow on from Craig's successful title 'Classic Walks'. By the time Shaun arrived back from his travels he was already roped into the idea and we set about converting ourselves from part time magazine writers into book writers (which is a different state of mind).
As we slaved away over it during the summer of 1998/99, we couldn't have predicted how successful it would eventually become. It sold very well in the first year and went on to sell over 16,000 copies. The year following publication it won the Environment section at the 2000 Montana Book Awards. Perhaps most pleasing of all was the feedback we got from people both inspired to head off on their own adventures, or just quietly happy that a part of New Zealand culture that they highly valued was being celebrated in book form. It gave both Shaun and I the confidence to tackle more ambitious projects, both individually and sometimes in other collaborations.
A few years ago we did a major revamp of the book and added in the Frew Saddle-Toaroha Saddle trip. It was one that we had wanted to include in the first edition but the publisher hadn't heard of this area. By the time we included it in the second edition though he was fully aware of what a gem this place is and that wandering through that history was leading to another interesting project....but that was another story and much more work.
And what will replace Classic Tramping in the publishing world? Who knows. So much has changed since then. None of us were thinking in 1998 that we would be making photographs on anything other than film, no one had heard of an iPad, cell phones were not truely portable and not seen as a main stream item. Photography and publishing has changed out of sight since then.
My instinct says it is time though for the next generation of keen young trampers to pick up the reins. We've both moved onto other projects that fit in with where we are in our lives. We both have young families now and so the freedom isn't there to scamper off to the hills for a summer. But I hope some keen young trampers are out there with ideas of their own. Putting together something like this is a young person's game and good luck to them whoever they are. Follow your dreams and have some fun along the way.