Podcast with Mike OToole

His work has drawn accolades from The Association of Photographers (Uk) and Communications arts (USA) as well as The New York Food Film Festival. In the field of commercial photography his work has been featured in the highest profile publications internationally, from Conde Nast TravellerThe Wall St JournalThe Washington Post, and many more. More meaningful achievements include marriage to the immensely talented food stylist Anne Marie Tobin and their creation and ongoing curation of daughters Sally & Hazel. He lives in County Kildare and as a working photographer since the age of sixteen, feels very lucky to love what he does. Some make a living through the lens, he likes to think that he has made a life.


[00:00:00] - Mike O’Toole
For people to focus on their inner life, their inner spirits, their values, and their vision, if we do that with employees and people in the workplace, then I think you’ll get more out of people.

[00:00:20] - Doug Foulkes
Welcome to Episode 38 of The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future. We release two podcasts a month featuring industry experts and thought leaders discussing how work is changing and evolving. The future of work is now. In this episode myself Doug Foulkes and WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar meet Mike O’Toole, a widely respected and vastly experienced photographer, filmmaker and creative tutor. Twice recognised by the Lürzers Archive as one of the 200 best advertising photographers worldwide.

Mike’s work has drawn accolades from the Association of Photographers in the U.K., and his work recently received an award of excellence at the 60 second annual Communications Arts Competition here in the U.S.. His commercial photography is regularly featured in the highest profile publications internationally. Mike lives in County Kildare, Ireland, and is a family man married with two daughters. This show is brought to you by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and RocketFuel. WNDYR are Productivity and Human Behaviour Specialists whose mission is to break legacy behaviours before they destroy your team’s professional productivity and personal health.

And you can check them out at WNDYR dot com. That’s WNDYR dot com. Our podcasts are available on all main platforms. If you find this content of value, please follow and share. As we will discover, Mike has found a way to remain relevant in an ever changing work environment. It’s these insights that we’ll explore in this podcast. Specifically, it’s about following a passion, always looking to make more from what you have to be interested in everything and not necessarily an ultra specialist and finding strength by looking inwards rather than searching outwardly for acceptance, and being prepared to do the hard work, especially early in your career.

But first, Mike tells us what has helped link the various stages in his work career.

[00:02:21] - Mike O’Toole
Well first of all, I started my first business at 16, so I became a photographer. No one forced me into it, my parents didn’t force me in any direction. So I just started doing the things I loved, which was taking pictures. And over the years, I just follow my instincts and I follow my inner spirit exactly. So I suppose the one thing that binds it all together is this idea of transformation. So like if you’re a photographer, you take random elements and you make them into pictures, or if you’re making a video, the same thing, you bring things together and make them more than what they are.

And it’s the same in teaching or coaching. You’re basically trying to make more of what you’ve got. And that’s what excites me. That’s what I like to do.

[00:03:08] - Doug Foulkes
I want to just play, almost like a devil’s advocate. In reinventing yourself and finding new ways to develop your career, that can be seen as striving to develop new skills, but a lot of people also look and say, well, maybe just a jack of all trades, just flitting from one thing to another. How do you rationalise that? What’s your say? Do you have a particular mindset that helps steer you in a certain direction?

[00:03:33] - Doug Foulkes
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, because to be called a jack of all trades is, it’s almost something derogatory. But I actually love it. And I’m actually completely against the idea of over specialisation. Like as a photographer, I get to go into lots of different companies. I go to multinationals, I go to small, I go to government agencies, and I see lots of people at work. So I spent half a day or a day in different companies.

And when I see these people and they’re sitting at their computers and stuff and they’re specialists in certain areas, I feel a bit sorry for them in a way, because they just do one thing and they get locked into that and the companies don’t develop them as people. So I’m actually happy to be a jack of all trades I grew up in a shop in a store, and my grandfather was like a storekeeper, a fisherman, watch repair, gardener. He was so many different things.

And I’m kind of happy to be someone that is interested in everything. One of my designers said, Mike, you’re interested in everything. And that became like a kind of slogan for me. I suppose the mindset for me is always be starting something new and every day you get up and you’re starting something new, then you’re excited. And if you get up and do the same thing every day, it’s very boring. And I think all of us as creatives know that we like starting things.

[00:04:55] - Claire Haidar
Mike I want to zero in a little bit on your food photography journey because that’s, you know, so you’ve just shared with us that you started this photography business when you were 16.

And it’s definitely developed into a very real passion for you today. I mean, you’re one of the world’s most recognised food photographers and as you say, I mean, you work with everything from government agencies down to multinationals, down to small start-ups and individual chefs. How has technology helped to develop this love in your life? Because one of your areas of interest, which is photography, happens to be one of the career paths that has actually been the most threatened by technology, whereas you very much have been one of those people that have actually embraced it as part of your journey and part of your growth.

Talk to us a little bit about that and how it’s actually helped you become better at what you do.

[00:05:53] - Mike O’Toole
I’ve done food photography for so many years and this is pre-digital. So I’ve always kind of worked in that area. My wife’s a food stylist and she’s one of the best food stylists around. So we work together. And then I move from food into restaurants, which was natural, then move working for hotels and then tourism and I’ve shot lifestyle as well. So I tend to broaden out in that way. One thing leads to another.

You can shoot food then you’re shooting for restaurants and hotels and stuff like that. That’s really kind of how I’ve broadened out from the food area. And then eventually, due to digital technology, you get to shoot videos. And lately I’ve shot a couple of TV ads as well. You’re right about technology. And now everybody’s a photographer. And you look at Instagram and everybody is doing some interesting work and there’s a lot more people out there. But the same things applied that applied in the very beginning, which is you need to do good work and that hasn’t changed.

[00:06:50] - Claire Haidar
There’s something valid that we should call out there is that very often people don’t view their career and their career planning as a series of steps. And, you know, you start small, but it’s a climb. And each piece is, you know, a little bit bigger, but still very much related to the piece. Below it, you see in young people coming out of colleges and things like that, that they don’t understand how important that really early, gritty, almost non sexy work is because it’s those critical first few steps.

[00:07:27] - Mike O’Toole
You know, I probably play it down a little bit, but I worked with some of the best people in London when I started out. So I went through the process of walking around London with, you know, not very much money, knocking on doors, knocking on more doors, in fact, knocking on a lot of doors for a year and a half and then getting to work with some amazing people and getting to travel with photography. But sometimes I forget about that side.

I forget about, you know, it’s like having the baby and then you forget about the labor. So I forgot about the hard part. And maybe that’s human nature. We want to forget about the hard part. Yeah and you’ve got to put the work in. I think you’ve got to be passionate about photography, food photography. You’ve got to eat, sleep and drink food photography. If you want to be really good at it.

It’s got to be something that excites you. It was interesting recently I was doing some work for a hotel group, and they’re owned by a US billionaire. He bought this castle and hotel in Ireland and he brought it home to me when he said, and quite forcefully because he was like, this New Yorker. He said, your photographs are the first thing people will see on our website that was really telling me this has to be really good. They want the best.

[00:08:36] - Claire Haidar
I’ve really enjoyed reading your series on Facebook where you’ve spoken about those early days of your journey. And like you’ve just shared with us, you literally went knocking on doors and you were willing to start at the bottom, but then constantly reinvent yourself to remain relevant. Share with us a little bit of the specifics of how you did that.

[00:09:01] - Mike O’Toole
I haven’t really ever considered myself trying to remain relevant. I’ve always just tried to do the things I’m interested in and passionate about. More than that, I think I’ve tried to encourage other people to do the same through my teaching and coaching, and stuff. For people to focus on their inner life, their inner spirit, their values, and their vision. If we do that with employees or people in the workplace, then I think you’ll get more out of people and it’s better for their growth.

And growth is a good word, you used growth earlier. That’s something I’m passionate about because that’s why I teach and that’s why I developed myself and that’s why I’m interested in coaching and other things. Growth is everything to me and constantly starting something and growing and changing and embracing that journey always. And that also means things don’t always go right. But actually, at least you’re doing something. You’re not just sitting, you’re actually being active. I think that’s really good for your career, but I have always been very driven, I think, from starting at 16 to now.

I’ve just been driven to keep going to keep reinventing myself, keep and do new things. It’s not like a reinvent every year or two years. It’s reinvention every day.

[00:10:14] - Claire Haidar
I love the fact that you’ve called out the fact that you feel remaining relevant isn’t actually the point, because I think what we’re starting to see in today’s culture and you see this outside of the creative industries, you see this happening in, the more you know what I would call the knowledge work industries as well, is people look at their peers and they look at people around them. What they’re basically doing is they’re looking outside of themselves trying to find what it takes to remain relevant.

And what you’re saying, which can so easily be dismissed, is you don’t remain relevant by looking outward, you remain relevant by looking inward and pursuing your own passions relentlessly. There’s a lot of power in that.

[00:11:02] - Mike O’Toole
Exactly. And I suppose it’s something that people are afraid to do, just thinking about it now. But any development that I’ve made, you have to look inwards to find your strengths and what your values are. But you also look outwards towards other people inputting into that process, especially in a coaching process. You take other people’s views and they feed into you and you create this new idea of yourself. And I think that’s really exciting.

[00:11:30] - Doug Foulkes
Mike, I’m going to sort of bring it a bit more up to date. And we’ve spoken really a lot about the early days of photography and that passion. How is the influence of the pandemic in the last, say, 12 months changed the way that you do business? Has it changed your product offering at all?

The pandemic has actually not changed what we do at all. In fact, it almost feels bad to say that because a lot of people are suffering and stuff like that. But we’ve actually been busier from the moment the pandemic started and we work at home. So my wife’s working on some movie projects, so she has to go out to different film studios and stuff. In fact, we’ve had probably more work since Pandemic started because we work from home. There’s some amazing things from the pandemic.

You know, if you want to think about the no commuting, you know, don’t have to go to meetings, you know, working remotely if you take away the health crisis. I think it’s an amazing experiment, the pandemic, because a lot of things will come out of this, particularly working remotely. And that’s something as freelancers we’ve always been able to do anyway.

[00:12:38] - Claire Haidar
I think people are realising that it’s not all about just in person the customer experience, the client experience, the consumer experience very much does get conveyed outside of what you’re presenting in real life. And I think that’s why you’ve seen a boom in your business and in what you guys are doing, because people are placing dollars where before they were, but not to the level that they are doing it now.

[00:13:05] - Mike O’Toole
There’s more planning involved. And so essentially ready to do more work. They’re putting things in place and some people are getting funding as well for this new promotions and marketing campaigns, so I think that’s maybe why it’s really busy. They’re not so reactive now because their businesses are not really active, but they’re planning for the future and we’re booked up until the summer, so that’s pretty good.

[00:13:30] - Claire Haidar
You’ve shared with us that you really like, you know, remote work. I mean, you and your wife have always worked like this in many ways and have always been very good at it. What are some of the things that you’re very happy to be leaving behind that you actually feel have made your work better in this environment?

[00:13:48] - Mike O’Toole
I think more about the kind of things I am happy to keep. Definitely the things like the quality of life and the fact that we spend so much more time closer to home and going for nice walks by the canal and stuff like that. And just having like preproduction meetings by Zoom, it’s much better than having to travel for a couple of hours to a meeting and spend time sitting in a boardroom. So, you know, there are things I really hope we keep.

There’s not a long list, short list.

[00:14:20] - Claire Haidar
Let’s zero in on that the meeting piece, because that’s something that translates across the globe for work, irrespective of the fields, so in your guys case, it’s you know, it’s pre-production meetings happening in a boardroom. Just a question there, which I’d love to understand your thoughts on. Do you believe that a lot of those agencies and production houses that had very beautiful facilities, offices, that type of thing, do you believe that they will be embracing remote work as a permanent state, or do you see them going back to the way it was before and bringing those production meetings in-house again?

[00:15:00] - Mike O’Toole
All along we knew we could work remotely and now we’ve been forced into it and it’s worked. I ask everybody I work with, you know, how is it for you? And 90 percent of people are saying they much prefer working remotely. They much prefer working at home. I don’t see a lot of people rushing back to offices. The meetings we have are quite good. In fact we’ve done a whole shoot like a TV shoot with like five people on Zoom while we’re shooting.

So we had the clients, the agency, the creative directors, all the people on Zoom and while we’re actually shooting. So it’s all possible. I don’t see, you know, people rushing back to it. I think this is the new normal. This is the future.

[00:15:42] - Doug Foulkes
Mike, I’m going to move the conversation on. I’m going to ask you for some tips and maybe some advice. You are regularly, as Claire mentioned earlier, acknowledged as one of the top food photographers around the world. What can you give us as tips and advice for helping people to reach the top of their particular field?

[00:16:00] - Mike O’Toole
I would say you’ve got to be passionate about it, which is a bit of a cliche, but you’ve got to eat, sleep and drink what you’re doing. And because I’m married to a food stylist, we do spend a lot of time talking about food and eating food and eating out. And we have like a props library inside and it consumes a lot of our time talking about the work. And if you’re passionate about it, I think that really helps.

On a broader sense. I’m just about to finish writing. I have started writing and but to finish writing a book which is like Culture who you are. And it’s basically about my five kind of principles that I think about being a freelancer. And that came about in fact, one of my old assistants reminded me I used to have this kind of slogan on my tripod taped to it, with a bit of masking tape and the slogan, then I developed it into a book.

And those principles I keep looking back at. And they’re the ones that guide me. And basically, if you want to hear what the five headlines are, they’re basically raise your game, which is number one. The second one is about mastery. The third one is about, you know, telling your story, showing who you are. And the next one is about go see the actual face to face meetings, like having a coffee with people, knocking on doors, still very relevant.

And the last ones about enthusiasm. So I look back at those because as a freelancer. You don’t have anyone telling you what to do. You don’t have any company guidelines. So I just look back at those and I kind of think. Yeah, I need to do that. I need to concentrate on that. If I do all those things, everything is working out fine. And that’s kind of my own kind of madness.

[00:17:42] - Doug Foulkes
When is the book coming out?

[00:17:44] - Mike O’Toole
Well, I’m supposed to finish it in the summer because I’ve got to go on a two week job and I’m going to be staying in a hotel for two weeks. So I plan to finish it when I have peace and quiet in the hotel, like in the evenings, but it’s more or less done.

[00:17:57] - Doug Foulkes
I’m just going to take a ten second break to ask you if you’re finding this podcast of value, if you are please follow us on your platform of choice. Remember, we have new content published twice a month.

[00:18:08] - Claire Haidar
What I love about those five points, I jotted them down while you were, you know, talking us through them there. What I love about those five is that they completely, like this doesn’t only relate to freelancers, like this is essentially you could relate this to any career, you know, whether somebody is trying to become a CEO who IPO’s a company or a first time Start-Up CEO who’s having to raise money for the first time or a freelancer just starting out or even a doctor wanting to become a surgeon.

These five points are relevant.

[00:18:44] - Mike O’Toole
Absolutely. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to say these are my guidelines. That I am not saying these are guidelines for the world, you know, and if other people follow them, great. But if they don’t, they may have their own guidelines. But I just know if I’m not doing some of these things, I don’t progress. And even down to having those meetings, like most people I work with, I’ve had a coffee with. I’ve met them before in real life.

So that’s still important. Apart from the PPM meetings and Zoom, I still have to meet people in person, so I haven’t met anyone for a year.

[00:19:19] - Claire Haidar
Can you give us some practical examples? Are you saying that these five things are things that you’re consistently doing in your own work and in your own career for yourself? Can you give us some practical examples? Like what is one of the ways that you’ve recently raised your game? What are you trying to master at the moment? How are you telling your story, etc.

[00:19:38] - Mike O’Toole
Telling your story, that’s part of becoming the best version of yourself.

It’s about releasing to the world, you know, who you are, what your journey was. So you start to create more kind of connection with people and you start to reveal yourself. You’re not trying to hide anything. So I started to put some stories out about where I grew up, my time in London, different things, my journey in photography and setting up a business at 16 and so on. I try to put those stories out there and I’ve got amazing feedback.

I mean, it’s been incredible, the feedback. And that wasn’t really the point. The point was so people could build a better picture of who I was. And if I’m working with any company or any brand or if you’re a marketer working with the company, you should be getting in and getting the real information from your clients, like who they are, what they’re about, what makes them unique, where they come from. That’s the real gold, it’s creating the stories around the brand.

And I’m just creating stories around my own brand, which I’ve never done before because I’ve always relied on images. So that particular point I talk about as being the best version of yourself, don’t be anybody else because everybody else is taken.

[00:20:50] - Claire Haidar
Talk to us about raising your game. What are you doing at the moment? Like what area are you specifically working on?

[00:20:56] - Mike O’Toole
When you even say the word raise your game, it gives you like a lift and you actually think, yeah, I got to do this, I gotta do better. I got to do this better today. That’s almost all you have to do but raising your game comes from like even sports coaching, where if you want high performance, you’ve got to really focus on high performance. You’ve got to think about getting better. You’ve got to think about the details.

How can we make each bit better? I was just doing that from small things like just buying new camera batteries and new cards or buying new lighting or everything, just making that thing a little bit better. And I remember once meeting great South African photographer in London, Conor Duffy and he was all about that. He was all about making every little bit of his process better. How can you get the best out of this? How can you have the best equipment how can you have the best studio and so on?

You apply that to anything and you talk about raising your game every time you go out, you just want to perform better and it gives you energy. So I think. Does that make any sense?

[00:21:55] - Claire Haidar
It makes total sense, yeah. And it actually it ties back to research that I did for my master’s degree ages ago. It feels like a different lifetime at this point. But one of the things that I actually looked into was I asked the question like the basis of my thesis was what makes the best entrepreneurs, the best entrepreneurs? You know, like why do you see certain, you know, entrepreneurs really, really excelling in their fields where a great majority of people don’t excel at those same levels?

And one of the areas that I actually dug into for that research was I went into the medical field because there’s been some really interesting work done around, interestingly enough, tennis players, which is, you know, the sports of the coaching area that you’re referring to, but also surgeons. So, you know, people have asked the question, you know, how are certain doctors and surgeons able to, in some cases, diagnose a disease that they’ve never seen before accurately because they don’t have that history and tenure of seeing the same thing over and over and how are surgeons are able to perform such intricate minuscule surgeries in cases where they’ve never dealt with something like that before.

The common thread like what research has actually uncovered and shown. Is that, for example, if you look at the tennis players, that the number one tennis players in the world literally spend hours trying to affect a twitch of their wrist, or a certain group on a handle, it those minuscule things where you actually start breaking the sport or the career that you’re focussed on or in your case, photography, actually breaking it down into its micro pieces and picking each piece up and studying it from so many different angles to see where you can be better in that area.

[00:23:45] - Mike O’Toole
I remember seeing a thing about tennis coaches and they were talking about any young player that turns up at the tennis academy says they said, oh, I want to be the best in the world. And the coach goes, Yeah, OK, that’s great. But are you prepared to do the work that’s required? And that’s a completely different thing. And the work usually means the hard work, you know, the bad days as well as a good day.

So I kind of see myself still a bit of an athlete. Maybe that’s because I’m kind of like interested in sport.

[00:24:16] - Doug Foulkes
It’s quite interesting, Mike, you say. I also in a previous life, I was a squash coach. I used to coach sport and I actually now make video. But I have got no clue on taking stills. So I’ll leave that up to Claire Haidar.

[00:24:31] - Claire Haidar
No, we’ll both leave it up to Mike.

[00:24:35] - Doug Foulkes
But my comment is, and you actually mentioned it earlier, is that everyone is a content creator today, everyone has an Instagram account or a YouTube channel. I mean, I’ve got a new phone. It’s got 8K video on it. Where is it going? How do you see this affecting what what we do from a work perspective in the next few years?

[00:24:55] - Mike O’Toole
Yeah, that’s a really difficult question because, like I always think I’m as bad at predicting the future as the next person, you know. Definitely the technology is there. But everyone’s got the technology. For example, everyone’s got like what’s it called GarageBand, or they used to have it on their computers. But where was the new bands? You know, where was the new music? And we’ve got all this technology. We can do everything on it with our technology, with our computers.

But you still need the basics, you need the passion you need to have, the standards you need to put the work in. And yeah, I agree with you, everyone is a content creator and that’s OK, because I think for someone like me, it makes me want to work with people like that because of bringing the kind of teaching and coaching side out of it. I want to be able to participate with clients. So I will basically even teach them how to do stuff.

I think that’s going to be the future for professional photographers because you can’t stop people taking their own pictures. We do a lot of campaigns for people and then two weeks later, they’ve taken a picture on their own phone and put it on to their Instagram account. And you go, oh, my God, you know, that’s not really at the standard. So what can we do? I mean, we need to work with them and make things better.

[00:26:11] - Doug Foulkes
The one thing that I’ve always said for video is you have to have content. You can always see someone who’s just got a new editing suite because they’ve got, you know, every different fade and dissolve. But actually, what is the content that they’re producing?

[00:26:26] - Mike O’Toole
Exactly. Yeah, that opens up the whole thing. That kind of is a very difficult question. You know, you have people with all these tools, but where is their portfolio, you know, what have they done? Where’s the stuff that they’ve created? And you’ll often find that people create amazing things without much technology as well. We need the fresh content and you need to be obsessed with whatever you are doing, passionate I call it.

You know, it’s very it’s a very strange time, right. Because so many things have been given away for free on the Internet. The whole models have all changed. Everything’s been broken up. It’s a difficult time for professionals like video makers, photographers and different people to actually get their value from the business.

[00:27:12] - Doug Foulkes
Just before hand over to Claire Haidar, as you were talking there, just one thing came into my mind. And it’s really, and we haven’t spoken really much about it at all.

But you have a program for mindfulness where you actually use photography to help bring that out. Just talk to us a little bit about that. How do you work with people and use, say, the global language of photography to help develop more mindfulness?

[00:27:36] - Mike O’Toole
Yeah, that’s really interesting. It was another one of my projects, which I think this idea of starting something new, if you have really cool projects, as Tom Peters used to say, he was a business guru, if you have cool projects, then they lead you somewhere. And one of my projects was to fuse photography and mindfulness together. I just finished putting a course together on photography and mindfulness around the time of when the pandemic started.

So I think mindfulness has been kicked out a little bit now out of the zeitgeist, but I always saw photography as a kind of an interesting tool to explore mindfulness, so you’re going for a walk. You bring your phone with you, you usually have your phone anyway, so that’s your camera and you may observe something, you may see something it forces you, if you want to take pictures, it forces you to see closely. It forces you to see more clearly if you look at things you might never have looked at before, packhorse is finished, but I need to rebuild it to put onto a different audience.

[00:28:36] - Claire Haidar
I’m again going to change it up. And I’m actually going to share a story, Mike, I mean, you know that you have influenced my thinking, but I don’t think you realise what a big impact you actually had. Can you remember that coffee that we had in that coffee shop in Powers court just off of Grafton Street there one day where actually I was going through a career transition. So I had exited out of one business and I was very much at that point where I kind of had like shiny balls syndrome where I was like wanting to go in very many different directions.

And you actually said to me in that coffee date that we had there. You were like, pursue your passion relentlessly. And the interesting thing is I actually had two very, very clear passions at the time. It was food photography and it was business building. And I pursued both of them relentlessly. And I mean, I niched so deeply into my food photography at that time that I got into such a niche that nobody else was playing in, that I immediately pretty much got right to the top, was working with really big customers, some amazing elite athletes and, you know, some of the best magazines that niche into that really, really wild element of, you know, sports, food, photography.

But what I realised because I pursued that passion of mine so relentlessly and I essentially followed your advice, I actually ended up having a business that was growing exponentially and food photography business that was also growing at a very, very fast rate. And I needed to make decisions because I wasn’t able to spread myself that thin. You know, the reason why I actually chose to step away from the food photography business and to pursue the technology business was I realised in that process of pursuing both of these passions that I enjoy the act of enabling people more so than the act of doing business and creating imagery.

And it was one of the biggest lessons that I took from that period in my life was that from a career perspective, I need to be pursuing things where I can build teams because that’s my actual passion. And photography is actually a place for me to be mindful and be quiet. It’s kind of like my soul restoration place. That conversation with you really was a crossroads for me. I don’t think I realised that at the time. But looking back, I can very clearly see that it was a significant crossroads for me.

What is it that you’ve done in your career to be quiet and to recognise those critical learnings? Because you’ve shared with us in this conversation today, you know, you should be consistently raising your game. You should be pursuing interesting projects because they take you into new places. But a critical piece, which I know you also do very well, is actually looking for the lessons. How do you do that and how do you capture those lessons?

[00:31:34] - Mike O’Toole
Well, I think you’ve said it yourself there very well, that you did the hard work and you went into, like, the reflection about yourself, what was the bit that you enjoyed most. And that’s what a lot of people don’t do. It’s reflection. And I think the reflective part is something that comes easy to me in a lot of ways. And I’m passionate now about how we can bring visuals more into business and more into personal coaching and so on.

I got into making vision boards a few years ago, you know, so you take a lot of pictures and you put them on the wall and you’d say, you know, this is the kind of place I want to travel to. This is the kind of photograph I want to take or this is the kind of car I want to have or whatever. I started creating these vision boards and they all came true they were like a kind of visualisation.

It’s something I continue to do. And I’ve made more vision boards. But the reflection, you have to think, OK, I’m very careful about what I put into my vision board. It has to be right, exactly the right picture, a picture that really inspires me, that’ll motivate me in that direction. I think it’s something we need to do. We could do a lot more of in businesses. We could help people work with visuals because a picture is the first thing people, you know, comes into people’s mind.

You know, that’s how we’re designed behind me on my wall. I have, my vision board. It’s not that big, but the pictures on it are very powerful. They’re very energetic. They’re very motivational. And that’s what I work towards. I really believe that visuals can bring people somewhere. It’s like having a specific image in your mind and anything you put into, you know, into your mind, basically that’s what manifests itself.

You did the hard work. You went into yourself and you found the reflective part and you decided this is the kind of bit that I enjoy. And that’s what we all should be doing. We all should be just going towards the little bit that we enjoy most and the bits that we don’t enjoy so much, well, we should kind of leave them to decide.

[00:33:40] - Claire Haidar
Mike, it makes complete sense. Again, thank you for coming in, sharing your wisdom, sharing your time.

It’s hugely valuable. And I’m excited to hear that you’re putting your mind into a book because I know that the world can benefit a lot from it.

[00:33:55] - Mike O’Toole
Thanks a million. Yeah. Great talking to you. To Doug as well.

[00:33:58] - Doug Foulkes
Mike yeah. Thank you. Very nice to chat to someone who’s taken that passion to that level and success. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us.

[00:34:07] - Mike O’Toole
Thanks, Doug.

[00:34:08] - Doug Foulkes
I think that just goes to show that you don’t have to be on the corporate ladder to offer valuable career advice and experiences that translate into the future of work. We hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we’d appreciate it if you’d follow us on your preferred platform and share this with your friends and colleagues. Just a reminder, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services that they supply, you can visit our website. That’s WNDYR dot com.

And so, as always, from me, Doug Foulkes and Chaos & RocketFuel. Stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

New York ? London..

I wrote to Henrietta Brackman, a top New York photographer’s agent, and asked her what I should do to become one the top people in my profession.

Five years later she wrote back to me, by that time, I was in London. She apologised that she had mislaid my letter. The advice that she gave me I was already implementing. 

I kept a small notebook, I wrote all the photographer’s names down and their telephone numbers. And I’d add to that list more names as I would get to know more people .I used to buy a phone card, which is a card with credit on it to make phone calls. And I’d go to the phone box, and stay in the phone box until I phoned everybody or until someone was waiting outside to use it. Mostly I would leave messages on their answer phones, or maybe one or two photographers had a mobile and you call them looking for assisting work, looking for a job in photography. And I was doing this day in day out, then going home to my cousin’s apartment, to live on chocolate biscuits and KFC. 

Eventually, I started freelancing, I started to get a couple of gigs. I bought a pager so people just contact me when they needed me. Their number will come up on the little pager. Then I would go to the phone box to call them back and get details of the job. I think at this time, I was very determined and very ambitious to work with the best people.

It was probably a year and a half until I got a full time job. So learning for me became about learning on the job and learning from the best people .

 In memory of Sean Carty, a fellow student at DIT and talented photographer from Dublin who was making his way in London at that time . 

Mike OToole is a Photographer, Film maker and Creative Teacher. Lürzers Archive recognised him twice as being among the 200 Best Advertising Photographers Worldwide, and he has won awards for his work from The Association of Photographers (Uk) and  Communications arts (USA) and The New York Food Film Festival. His work in the field of Commercial Photography has been featured in publications ranging from Conde Nast Traveller , The Wall St Journal, and The Washington Post . 

Starting my own Business at 16

Starting my own Business at 16.

I started off taking photos of local events and posting these pictures on a bord into the shop window and people would see them and they would contact me and they would basically buy the prints. I was getting paid for photography for the first time.

I was then being commissioned to do more portraits, more local events and more weddings and lots of different things. So at 16 I decided to make it into my business. And I took it very seriously. I was very optimistic that I was going to succeed . I had small office at the side of my parents shop which I could use to invite people in to book me and to look at my work and stuff like that. So I was really lucky to have that. 

One of the first weddings I was asked to photograph, I had to get my mother to drive me to Virginia County Cavan  because it was before I could drive myself.

Another early wedding I shot was in Dublin. I remember the priest giving me a lift there and he also gave me a lift back. I remember his cynicism about marriage, moments after leaving the church, he was striking a different tone about weddings, which I found very hypocritical. I would be available for photographing communions and confirmations. However, when it came to some of these events, there were some pushy salesmen / photographers that arrived down from Dublin to solicit work and I was a bit shy, so it wasn’t very easy for me to compete with them. I also would photograph debs dances and would come home my pockets stuffed with cash.

One couple came to me and seemed kind of interested in having me photograph their wedding. But they never called me or they never booked me or confirmed it. And then, one Saturday, I got a call saying where are you ? They’re all waiting for you, the bride has arrived, and there’s no photographer. So I had to jump in my car, go down to the local chemist shop to buy the film and drive to the church in the next parish. And of course, it was, you know, the most embarrassing thing in the world being late for someone’s wedding. 

I had a lot of success taking photos from an early age and I felt that I had a talent for taking pictures and reassured by those around me. So I was quite optimistic that I could do well as a Photographer.

Mike OToole is a Photographer, Film maker and Creative Teacher. Lürzers Archive recognised him twice as being among the 200 Best Advertising Photographers Worldwide, and he has won awards for his work from The Association of Photographers (Uk) and  Communications arts (USA) and The New York Food Film Festival. His work in the field of Commercial Photography has been featured in publications ranging from Conde Nast Traveller , The Wall St Journal, and The Washington Post . 

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