We recently connected with Jim Cline and have shared our conversation below.
Jim, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Earning a full time living from one’s creative career can be incredibly difficult. Have you been able to do so and if so, can you share some of the key parts of your journey and any important advice or lessons that might help creatives who haven’t been able to yet?
I began as a professional travel photographer. I realized a big reason that I was successful was that I had a knack for the travel side of things. I was good at connecting with the local people, and finding the best unique photo opportunities – deeper into the local cultures than typical travel photography. I made a name for myself in San Diego and began offering photo tours to some of the places I knew best, and had great local connections. The tours were very well received, and soon I had a loyal following of people who wanted to come on more tours with me. At first my tours were low priced, but due to their popularity, I was able to raise the prices, so I didn’t have to concern myself with selling my photography anymore. Soon after I began, my photojournalist friend Karl Grobl, joined me and began leading trips. He possesses the rare combination of talents – a great photographer, a savvy traveler, and a terrific people person who took great care of the clients. We then had many more destinations to offer, and the business really began booming. I only with that I would have begun offering my tours even sooner in life.
Jim, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I continue to run my company, Jim Cline Photo Tours. We take people on cultural-based trips to countries in the developing world. We bring only small groups – with maximum group sizes between 7 and 10 participants. We only travel to locations that we know well, so we know the best places, and the best times to visit. We have many inside connections with local people we have known for many years, allowing us access that other photo groups just don’t get. The majority of our participants are repeat clients, or have heard about us from our loyal clientele.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
For me the most rewarding aspect of my journey is that I’m able to develop and maintain great friendships with people in countries around the world whose lives are so much different than ours, but in the end we are all so much the same. I bring many photos back to the countries to give to my friends, and at this point have been doing so for close to 20 years. These photos I am able to give to people who never had the opportunity to have photographs of their children growing up, etc. I have friends who are weaving families in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru, and families in Cuba who are poor farmers. What brings me the most joy is to see the smiles on their faces when I show up with another group of clients. I admire these people very much, as their lives are so much more difficult than ours, but they value the simple things in life so much more, and always have a smile on their face.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
In running our tours to many different countries in the developing world, we have had to be very resilient. Prior to trips, situations have arisen in countries, such as mass demonstrations in Thailand, terrorist attacks in India, crime against tourists in Guatemala and Papua New Guinea, political upheaval in Oaxaca, Mexico, the swine flu in Mexico in 2009, terrible storms with flooding in Peru, and many more. We have had setbacks during tours such as cancelled and diverted flights, trains being stalled on the tracks for hours, major boat problems, and participants being injured or becoming ill during a tour. Most of the people who were injured or sick have returned on other trips with us, due to our diligence and caring in dealing with their issues. Thankfully we were able to overcome most of these situations, with only a couple of trips being cancelled. The biggest hurdle we have faced has been the Covid-19 virus. We have had to cancel all tours for the past two years. But we are now close to resuming operations to many countries. Our clients believe in us and trust in our integrity that we put their safety ahead of running a trip if it’s not safe. We currently have almost 180 people signed up for trips for later this year and well into 2023. We believe that we will come out of this stronger than ever, with increase loyalty of our clients and many exciting trips planned for the coming months and years.