Building your ecosystem with Adventure photographer and filmmaker, Melody Sky

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We continue into our third month of looking at different industries and how entrepreneurs can learn from others when asking themselves important questions on building their ecosystems for growth and success.

This month it was wonderful to catch up and interview a long time friend, Adventure Photographer and Filmmaker, Melody Sky. I’ve always known her passion for telling a story in every photo or film she takes.

She travels the world capturing inspirational moments, whether it be expeditions, athletes at their limits or
stories of the incredible world we live in. 

In today’s world, where storytelling plays a leading role for every brand, she is drawn upon even more to use her ability to capture that exact story in one moment and yes she even once made me look cool on skis! Those that surround her are essential for her to get that winning moment which can sometimes mean being perched on a remote mountain slope 1500 m in the air.

The beautiful thing about Melody is that she never feels she is saying anything, when she is saying everything, so enjoy Melody in her own words.

Your photography and filmmaking tells inspiring stories, when we see your pictures I am sure we are all thinking “living the dream” however, you need to get to the stories and sometimes in extreme situations. How do you build your team as an adventure photographer and filmmaker?

It begins with circulating with people, I think it happens naturally for me: I do what I love and therefore, in a way, this attracts people who share values and the outdoor spirit of adventure. I am a social person and this of course helps, it’s beyond this though, it’s about how you turn up in your community to both events and everyday life.

I do what I love and therefore in a way, this attracts people either into my projects or me into others. I know what I do brings joy to others, therefore this becomes the sense of who I am when I have my camera, how I interact and what I look at in my surroundings.

I think it’s important to turn up as your best self at every one of these moments, and authentically. This is something I have learnt over the past years as you discover who you are and what your profession will bring to others. When I was starting out it was very much the other way around, I looked at who I was in my photography and filming from the perception of others, what I think they wanted me to be for them.

I think that’s the same as many entrepreneurs out there; as you gain confidence and clarity, you end up trying to be the person you think others perceive, someone else’s identity. 

It still makes me smile, emphatically of course. These struggles at the beginning of your journey are the moments where you gain clarity, trust me, as painful as it can be to work out your frustrations you eventually realise it’s happening because you are fighting your true purpose. It was worth it to develop a true inner voice about what I was going to do and why.

What did that clarity and change bring you?

It was the beginning of building a network of incredible people and being in it as me, sharing the adventure. It’s funny that building my network didn’t start with going to more events! Once you are clear about your mission and your journey I no longer have to sell myself. Everytime I turned up as my authentic self, it gave me the confidence to circulate more, get more involved in the way I was best at doing.

So how did this clarity bring you more opportunities?

It supported me to place myself in more situations with people who shared a want to explore and push the limits. Once you are in this position, your natural way of being has its rightful space to shine. 

I enjoy understanding people’s stories and once you are clear about who you are, the imposter syndrome dilutes, giving you the space to hear others better. I truly believe everybody has a story to tell,  I now had the space to be curious about people’s journeys and became a part of many.

Building trust is about meeting everybody equally. I never ask a person for a job title, this prevents seeing people as people, it’s what they wish to do that connects me, their stories that make me curious. 

 I believe in always meeting people without a goal in mind, is the most important thing for me, every person I meet I connect with getting to know them, seeing myself as a positive story teller with my camera regardless of whether it’s a defined job or just capturing being a part of a community event and this is where it begins.

So how do you ensure you stay true to your purpose when your project ecosystems are so transient? 

I am curious about other people’s want for adventure, within everybody in some way and this is the connection I create which makes the relationship real. I never have to find people now for projects as I never meet people for now. I meet people as people which means we have a relationship beyond the moment. Trust me if I am camping at 1500m at night in minus conditions I want to be next to someone I’ve met more than because of their job title. 

My network feels like a flow that sits around me, integrating and maintaining interdependence. This way I keep my journey open and it ensures that I am never playing too much of the same tune year after year and always looking for new ways to see and capture the broad picture of adventure. 

Urgent requirement of people, “I need someone” is where you can make mistakes and link with people who don’t share your adventure, ending in perhaps clashing on the end in mind.

What’s the best piece of advice to a female entrepreneur building their ecosystem/ team

Certainly in my line of work, I would always advise women to be women and not try to be or compete with men or try to be men. This almost says that we are not comfortable and confident being a woman or that we feel we have to work harder as a woman to be ’up there’ with the men. I work in a male dominated environment and I have never felt different. I know in the very beginning of my career I did try and ‘prove’ myself. I would always carry all the heavy camera equipment, dress in unisex clothes, push myself physically more than I should. But that did nothing but leave me with lifelong injuries. As soon as I felt comfortable being a woman, it worked. Men and women respect me equally. I think if you feel ‘a lesser’ person in anything you do, people will see you as a ‘lesser’ person.

So just be who you are and it will reflect back on you.

You will then attract the kind of people you want to attract. And treat everybody how you want to be treated. And also share! In adventure photography, there can be a lot of competitive people. It’s the nature of the game. I have always stood by admiring, complimenting and recommending other photographers in my profession. Many times I have turned down a job as I think someone else is more suited or better than I am for that job. I always put the client and their needs first and if it means me losing the job, so be it. More often than not I find these clients coming back to me at a later date for another job and I also find that photographer recommending me for a project when this is something you wouldn’t normally see them do. That’s actually two pieces of advice, ha ha!

Melody Sky, adventure photographer and filmmaker 

Feel free to visit Melody’s website
and follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn

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