Kim Haughton is an award winning photographer based in Dublin, Ireland. She’s captured political turmoil, poverty, and civil unrest across the world including countries like Haiti, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. Her powerful and personal photographs have appeared in major news publications like TIME, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, and The Financial Times.
Kim was inspired early on to combine her passions for photography and writing when she began working in the darkroom of a local newspaper. While working at the paper in January of 1999, she was captivated by the ongoing Sierra Leone Civil War and the perspective than an on-the-ground story could provide the world. So she pitched a story to the newspaper and after contacting an NGO working in Sierra Leone , she headed off to complete her first assignment as a photojournalist.
“The experience was incredibly eye-opening,” Kim says. “The war was still happening and the city was literally burning down. There were bodies on the street and the rebels had just retreated so the danger was very real. I was captivated by the resilience of the people and I wanted to tell the story of how they were surviving the chaos. What I saw and what I learned on this trip inspired me to pursue a career as a photojournalist.”
Now traveling the world as a full-time photojournalist, Kim thanks PhotoShelter for providing a strong structure for her business. “PhotoShelter is integral to my whole workflow. I use it for everything,” Kim says. “Regardless of if I’m working for a private or corporate client or for an NGO, because of PhotoShelter I’m able to send along direct links to my galleries so clients can browse and download photos immediately.” Typically, after Kim returns from a trip, she will upload photos directly to PhotoShelter and create galleries of the “best of the best” for existing and potential clients to see.
“PhotoShelter has also greatly impacted my SEO,” Kim says. “For example, after I uploaded and keyworded my last gallery from a recent trip, within 24 hours I had an environmental association contacting me after they found my images through an online search. I hadn’t even done any outreach yet and I was already being approached by a potential client!”
Kim recognizes that visiting war zones and capturing civil unrest and poverty is both emotionally and physically taxing and not something necessarily everyone could do. “I believe I’m able to do this type of work because I don’t react emotionally to what I photograph until afterwards, typically when I get home and start editing the photos I’ve taken,” Kim says. “This helps me stay focused on the story and bond with those whose stories I’m telling, and produce great work while I’m there. But not everyone copes that way.”
Today, Kim brings in revenue by working with NGOs all over the world, as well as through grant funding and her own freelance assignments. And regardless of if she’s on assignment for herself or working directly for an NGO, she definitely has a plan before she gets there. “I truly believe you’re only as good as the last assignment you do,” Kim says. “That’s why I diligently plan before setting out on a trip.”
Prior to traveling, Kim establishes an itinerary, but leaves room for flexibility in the schedule because things can easily pop up once she’s there. She also stresses the importance of being culturally aware of her surroundings before she arrives. “One of the things I most enjoy about being a photojournalist is learning new cultures and understanding how people live in challenging environments. I always do my research to learn essentials about the country I’m visiting including basic phrases and customs. I’m a visitor and it’s very important to me that I am respectful wherever I go.”
To keep assignments coming through the door, Kim has a marketing strategy that is grounded in the relationships she creates through her travels, working with NGOs and with journalists. Although a fan of Twitter and Facebook, she prefers to be direct with her contacts and reaches out to them only if her work is relevant to their needs. “I also think it’s very important to stay friendly with people I meet along the way,” Kim says. “I believe word of mouth marketing is still one of the most effective ways to bring on new clients, so it’s important to stay connected with those who know my work.”
So what’s next for Kim? In 2012, she’s already planning two trips to Burma and Gaza, both of which she will finance herself. “When deciding where to go on my own, I always pick places where there’s a story that needs to be told. For instance, I’m going to Burma because there’s an historical election coming up and there's already a great sense of change. My goal is to be bear witness to the lives and issues facing ordinary people and to bring their stories to a global audience in a real and meaningful way.”