Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All | David Yarrow on The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Sports journalists are really just fans with typewriters
  • Even though David Yarrow was successful and had $1 billion of assets under management and dozens of employees, he wanted to leave banking because everyone was trying to get a piece of his time
    • “There was no real time for me…I wasn’t a happy person” – David Yarrow
  • “I must never again put myself in a position where my work ethic can be undone by things totally beyond my control” – David Yarrow
    • David moved from selling hedge funds to selling photographs because he disliked that he was selling investment products he couldn’t guarantee
  • Photography isn’t a zero-sum game
    • “I don’t compete against other photographers. This is not a zero-sum game job. I think you’ve used that expression. Just because you’re doing well, it doesn’t mean that someone else should do badly and vice versa.”David Yarrow
  • Being famous just magnifies your personality
    • “Just like alcohol in the sense that if you’re a small-time asshole, you’re going to become a big-time asshole. And if you’re kind of heart and jovial and compliment people then you’re going to become probably a magnified or exaggerated form of that.” – Tim Ferriss

Intro

Books Mentioned

Life As A Sports Photographer

  • Sports journalists are really just fans with typewriters
  • David bribed one of the security guards with some whiskey to get on the field of the 1986 FIFA World Cup
    • He took the iconic photo of the Argentine football demigod Diego Maradona
  • At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, David was assigned the task of photographing Eddie the Eagle
  • In his mid-20s, David has a quarter-life crisis and started to question his path as a photographer
    • There were no senior photographers that David looked up too as an idol or role model
      • “I didn’t really see where the end game was…There was quite a lot of fairly unhappy pressman on tour” – David Yarrow
  • David got two job offers with the same salary: One was to work for Getty Images, the other was to work for a bank

Life As A Banker  

  • David made a ton of friends in the banking world 
    • “I made a lot of friends…I encourage younger people these days to remember that friendships and the people you can call are so important” – David Yarrow
  • He moved to America and worked at Wall Street for a while
  • Around 1996, David left investment banking and set up his own fund managing business
    • He was 31 at the time, he also got married around this time
      • They had their first child in 2000
  • Even though David was successful and had $1 billion of assets under management and dozens of employees, he wanted to leave banking because everyone was trying to get a piece of his time
    • “There was no real time for me…I wasn’t a happy person” – David Yarrow
      • After the first plane hit the Twin Towers, David decided to sell all of his assets 
    • “There was no skill in it, it was just instinct” – David Yarrow
      • The first plane didn’t affect the markets at all because everyone thought it was an accident. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that the stock market fell.

How Bernie Madoff Shutdown David’s Business

  • When David heard about the downfall of Bernie Madoff he didn’t really care, but once he found Madoff had invested in David’s portfolio, things got complicated
    • The next week, investors asked to pull out $600 million from David’s fund
      • “That was it” – David Yarrow
        • David had to shut down his business 
  • An important lesson David learned that day:
    • “I must never again put myself in a position where my work ethic can be undone by things totally beyond my control” – David Yarrow
      • That’s why David moved from selling hedge funds to selling photographs
        • “Selling investment products is a very tricky compromise. It’s a difficult thing to get right because you cannot make an aggressive sell because you cannot guarantee. You just have to say, I promise to do my best.” 

Getting Back Into Photography

  • David looks up to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg
    • Spielberg shot Jaws when he was 25 years old
      • David became obsessed with great white sharks after watching Jaws
        • He would fly down to Cape Town, South Africa for the weekend and spend his time trying to photograph great white attacking seals
          • Each trip cost him about $10,000
  • “So at the height of everyone in London going and getting blasted in Glastonbury or watching Wimbledon tennis or whatever, or being on holiday in Ibiza or Mykonos, I would be shivering my arse off in their winter on my own trying to photograph a shark breaching out of the water.”David Yarrow
  • David ended up taking some amazing pictures and sent them to an agency in London
    • The next week, his photos were in over a hundred magazines and newspapers around the world
      • He earned around $17,000 for his photos
  • One day an attorney from Texas called David and ordered 3 of his shark photos for $10,000 each
  • About 35 years ago, David sold photographs for $20 each in the subway. Today, some of his photos sell for $200,000 a picture.

Life As A Photographer

  • Photography isn’t a zero-sum game
    • “I don’t compete against other photographers. This is not a zero-sum game job. I think you’ve used that expression. Just because you’re doing well, it doesn’t mean that someone else should do badly and vice versa.”David Yarrow
  • Selling your photographs wholesale means using galleries
    • “Number one is you can go to the best galleries in the world that one week might be selling Picassos or Warhols or Basquiats or whatever. Or photographic galleries and say, “Here’s my work.” And they’ll take 50 percent, they will take 50 percent of the sale. That’s standard.” – David Yarrow
  • Having your photos rejected from galleries as a young artist is part of the game
    • “Everyone has different responses to it. I’m a great believer that you have to experience those times to get better.”  – David Yarrow 
  • There are galleries that aren’t high status but you can still make a lot of money from, and there are other galleries that are about status and even though you don’t sell a lot of photos, it’s important to be there because of the tastemakers that visit
    • “There are galleries that we show at that might not ring the bell in sales all the time, but the fact that they are part of your dream team and that they rep you serves two purposes, direct sales and also the provenance that someone that is seen to be a scholar in the art of the selection of artists has for whatever reason deemed to include you in their squad.” – David Yarrow 

Additional Notes

  • Bizarre things are happening in the world right now 
    • “The fact that the DOW should have it’s biggest run since 1933, at the very time that New York is being considered the epicenter of this virus…if you were looking from another planet, you’d really think that humans are quite mad.”David Yarrow
      • It’s one historic week after another
        • America is an economic powerhouse, but COVID will put it to the test
          • “The next 12 months are going to be tough” 
  • David says that corruption is rampant in Africa
  • FIGJAM: Fuck I’m Good, Just Ask Me
    • Some photographers are so famous that they don’t need to go to a gallery to sell their work, they are the art gallery
  • Being famous just magnifies your personality
    • “Just like alcohol in the sense that if you’re a small-time asshole, you’re going to become a big-time asshole. And if you’re kind of heart and jovial and compliment people then you’re going to become probably a magnified or exaggerated form of that.” – Tim Ferriss
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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