Who is James?
James Tuckerman is the founder of Australian Anthill, one of Australia’s largest online communities for entrepreneurs, business builders and innovators (initially a print magazine). Anthill aims to aid the development of innovative private companies, fuelled by passion and their own genuine global potential. James created Entrepornography.com, a resource for helping budding and aspirational entrepreneurs find motivation in the experience of others. He also helps these entrepreneurs take their inspiration and turn it into action by teaching through The Not-so-freaky University where business operators gain practical instruction in how to take the freaky parts of business and un-freakify them. Anthill is a fun media company with a serious economic purpose.
In James’ words ‘Business can and should be fun, right!’
Where is James positioning himself?
James is building a profile as a thought-leader in the online entrepreneur space in Australia. His mission is to transform the entrepreneur culture in Australia. Currently it’s believed to be a risky, fringe side-project but James wants to see it considered as a valid career path. Words that describe James include funny, quirky, creator, smart, innovator, switched-on, enigmatic, unpredictable, clever, engaging, and deliberately and cheekily ‘un-professional’. With a finger on the pulse of business, he is grounded, lives in Melbourne, is urban, hip, funky, and has one foot in the past with respect to valuing education (hence, Not-so-freaky University).
Words vs. photos
There is a sense of ‘James’ infused through his particular use of language in all his content including webinars, events, videos and awards. To reinforce his position as a thought-leader James regularly uses self-portraits. Even though he knew the cliché a photo speaks a thousand words, he had underestimated the value photographs could have for his business. This means he was using casual images from his smart phone as the visual accompaniment to his carefully crafted written words. James realized the power images could have in helping to deliver his content, telling stories to, and connecting with, his audience in an on-going way. He decided to up the ante by expressing his brand story through professional photography.
James’ brand portraits
James’ unique personality and communication style (his brand) is expressed naturally through everything he creates. Who you meet online is exactly the same in person. Every element that was selected for his photo session was chosen for its capacity to help communicate his brand story.
Location James selected a textured, urban lane-way in downtown Melbourne with a quirky sign reading ‘commit no nuisance’, inside an elevator and at the grand entrance to a beautiful old Victorian building.
Clothing James wore his signature beret cap – a respectful nod to academia. He kept his outfit smart urban with textured layers and hip sneakers.
Posing, mood and expression James focused his mind on living and breathing his natural self. He allowed the camera to see who he is and to capture his realness. Through conversation, an open mind and a willingness to explore, a collection that expresses his quirky professor persona was realized.
Excerpts are taken from an interview with James following his photography session.
James ‘It’s funny when you Google your own name and see what comes up in the photos section. It will be an array of images that were uploaded over the years, without any thought given to the fact that they become your digital footprint. You are who Google says you are and there I am from eleven years ago from a whole bunch of random places that mean nothing to an outsider. And then there’s a shot I’ve used for ages that someone took of me at an awards night on their smart phone. I was with a group of people in the photo, so we cropped out the other people and left me in the frame.
Photography is like insurance – it’s something you wish you didn’t need to have, but down the track, when you look back in time, by which time it’s too late, you wish you’d had photography done. I look back at my old Google photos and lament that I didn’t have a professional photographer there to capture the milestones along the way.
Without photography, it’s like it never happened. For example if I think about the Cool Company Awards (a big milestone) it’s a foggy memory that only lives in my mind. But if I had great photography done of the event, the images would reference through Google, show the event in its best light and could have been shared on social media to continue the brand story conversation. And in the big picture those images would have had that emotional component too – that they become a record of my business journey as it unfolded in real time.’
Beth ‘So where are you going James, in the big picture?’
James ‘I’m on a mission to change the culture of entrepreneurship in Australia. At 26 I held this lofty goal, and through my activities I am slowly creating that. If I had worked a full time job and quit at 39 and announced the same goal, people would say, yeah right, good luck with that. I’ve built credibility over many years but the story is not over, I’m still on that path.
I’ve observed how the Australian food culture has shifted dramatically in the last ten years via shows like Masterchef. So I know my mission can be achieved.
Changing the entrepreneurship culture in Australia defines ‘brand James’ and the way I do it is by solving entrepreneurs’ problems through educational products, courses and a membership site.’
Beth ‘James, here’s a before-and-after screen shot of one of your programs where you used a fun photo from your smart phone to help sell the product. Now let’s see the same collateral with the new image dropped in.
James ‘Yeah right! Wow…I can see how my choice of photos are important to realising my big-game goal. In the process of reaching that goal I have thousands of people eyeballing me all the time. I want the people out there to take me seriously.’
Beth ‘So the question is, why haven’t you gotten around to presenting ‘brand James’ through professional images?’
James ‘In the beginning it was the bootstrap mentality – but in the back of my mind I was always thinking ‘do you want to play a bigger game?’ We had a professional photographer around all the time during the print years of Anthill and I only had one or two done. Then we went to digital and they were tough times. I had my big picture vision to change entrepreneurship culture in Australia. But over the years all that was out there was ‘corporate head shots’, which visually represented what I was against…cheesy smiles, white backgrounds…
Professional photography should be thought of as a vitamin – it’s going to help me. I need to do it, it’s something I need in business, I have this next important moment coming up, photography goes with it.’
Final thoughts from James
‘I always took my photos on my smart phone because I thought that was the only way I could come across as real.
I thought professional photography meant being portrayed in a way that wasn’t really ‘me’. I didn’t realise that authentic could also be professional until I worked with Beth.
Beth looks deeper… she sees deeper… she often understands people better than they understand themselves.’
Can I help you to commit no nuisance through photos that support you and your core messages?
It’s worth a chat to find out.
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