Brimacombe acknowledges that while his cameras may not have the highest speeds on the market, it doesn’t matter when it comes to his shooting. “I don’t have eight frames per second, but I don’t need eight frames per second,” he says. ”Two or three frames per second works just fine for me. Today, the fastest thing I’m shooting is a cruise ship or people walking. I shot sports before autofocus lenses were even available, so I’ve become quite good at hand-focusing. I know when to click—I can see that peak coming.”
Transporting his equipment in an inconspicuous Tamrac backpack-style camera bag, allows Brimacombe to hop from continent to continent without attracting unwanted attention.
“I used to come stumbling into Rome through customs with all my bags,” he says. “When I come through now, I look like a tourist or an amateur photographer because it doesn’t even look like a camera bag: Fully padded with sections, it’s much preferable to a typical shoulder bag.”
When you’ve been around the block as long as Brimacombe has, you learn a thing or two about the people you work with. Based on his own experiences, he now works directly with clients and doesn’t dabble any longer with stock agencies.
“I was one of the founders of the Image Bank,” he says. “Then they got themselves into huge trouble, spending money like it was going out of style. Kodak rescued them at the last minute—they were ready to go right down the tubes. I watched that whole picture change when Getty and Corbis came along, people selling all their rights to their images and on the CDs they sent out. To me that is utterly stupid. Any photographer worth his or her salt would never do that. I really don’t have any need or desire to involve myself in that. I see what they’re trying to peddle, and I’m not interested.”
He concentrates his marketing efforts on branding himself on his studio materials. “I don’t bother advertising anymore,” he says. “I ‘advertise’ on my envelopes, my invoices, my letterhead—those are all wonderful opportunities to show your work. I design all of this myself. I also have a beautiful business card that I design, with a photo I change out every so often. Right now I have an image of Vernazza on the Italian Riviera.”
Brimacombe’s website is a driving force for his bottom line, helping him to sell the fine-art giclees he always wanted to concentrate on. “This was an area I had always wanted to pursue, but never really had the time,” he explains. “Now I do extremely well off the website. It’s gone beyond my wildest dreams in terms of bringing in business. I get several emails per week praising my images and my site. Frankly, I don’t even want assignments in magazines anymore. They call when they have some need for stock images, and that’s all I want.”
His work with interior designers is just one facet of this branch of his business. “I just sent a $2,000 giclee out the other day to an interior designer in Maryland,” says Brimacombe. “I have my own printing setup with a big Roland Hi-Fi Jet Pro 40. I print everything on Arches Infinity or Crane’s Museo paper. I use the Museo to fill in one of the size gaps that Arches doesn’t have, but they’re both beautiful papers. They’re heavy and they’re certainly archival.”
Brimacombe’s book projects also help keep him busy and self-sufficient, and he’s learned from his own mistakes. “One book I did that’s now out of print, Travels in Canoe Country, was a pictorial on Minnesota’s boundary waters in canoe-area wilderness,” he says. “I collaborated with a writer on that book, and that was the biggest mistake I could have made. For the two books I’m working on now, America’s Shores: Special Meetings of Land and Sea, and Ports of Call: Gateways of Discovery, I’ll do all my own text. I have a substantial library on both subjects.”
There’s also Heaven on Earth, a special edition of Life magazine that is currently in major bookstores nationwide, featuring 100 must-see destinations, and a whole series of Brimacombe’s images.
“All these projects do add to my bottom line, but it’s also a labor of love,” he says.