It may come as a surprise to people unfamiliar with traditional print journalism that the culture of daily newspapers is one of fierce competition. Both journalists and photographers alike vie to showcase their achievements in what all would agree are too few pages.
As a young photographer, Darryn Lyons’ ambition was to get his images published on the front and back pages of the Geelong News, every day.
He acknowledges that this fierce work ethic played a big part in his ongoing career success “but I also took risks,” he told a recent Entrepreneurs Geelong’s In Conversation Breakfast audience.
Like the time he became the front page news when a work colleague photographed him getting too close and personal as he was trying to capture an image of a rhinoceros at the newly opened Werribee Zoo. And later, when he was thought to be the first Australian photographer working on London’s Fleet Street, he said “if there was the potential to be killed, the editor would send me.”
So it was he built his reputation behind the Iron Curtain, over the Berlin Wall and in various war zones, thereby paving the way for his initial business success as a paparazzi and founder of a global business which specialised in photographing the rich and famous.
Years earlier it was selling signed photographs of his cricketing hero, Dennis Lillee, to school mates which pointed to the entrepreneur that the youngster from Herne Hill was becoming by the time he returned to live in Geelong. Business interests in nightclubs, property development and hospitality were balanced by a wish to serve the public which saw him directly elected as Mayor of Geelong.
Of his early career he says “working in the press was an incredible drug. It was exciting to get up and go to work.”
Admitting to “no negatives in his DNA”, Darryn Lyons took his camera and flak jacket on three tours of the Bosnian uprising which he describes as “a bit like World War 1 being fought with .303 rifles and the occasional AK47.”
“War is exciting and a sense of mortality didn’t come into it,” he said, even though he acknowledges that accepting the smell of death is bizarre.
If Uber and Airbnb are labelled disruptive to the traditional travel and accommodation sectors, then the label might equally have been applied to the unfulfilled niche market that Mr Lyons saw in the print media industry-namely photographing the rich and famous.
“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with a roll of film costing £2 and I might capture images that with worldwide syndication would garner £50,000 in sales.”
If this was the big picture of an emerging market, Darryn Lyons also knew that to sell them, editors would want to see more than miniscule images on a 35mm colour proof sheet. He became a very early adopter of the technology to print 8 inch by 10 inch images which left editors in no doubt about what they could buy.
So, at its height Mr Lyons photographic syndication business would draw on the skills of more than 1000 photographers scattered around the world’s celebrity hot spots.
Almost forty years into a busy life, and having returned the mayoral robes to the coat hanger, he admits to having worked as hard as ever but not without learning it was a mistake to try and do too much.
Delegation is very important as is the need for an entrepreneur to have good financial advice as well as the opinions of someone opposite him to keep him grounded.
“And, don’t be greedy. Share your dream with like-minded people.”