“The Decision to move to Spain was made based on curiosity, restlessness, and most importantly, love.” This was the answer I received when I asked our now Spain-based photographer, James Rajotte, why he decided to pick up and move across the ocean.
James had been living in Rochester, freelancing and teaching photography at RIT, when he got a local assignment from the New York Times. They asked James to photograph a group of theater performers reviving Broadway’s biggest flop, Moose Murders. After the play, James met one of the actors at the cast party, a Spanish woman in a teaching exchange program at the University of Rochester.
James fell in love. The two spent the next two years planning their move to Spain. One issue was that James spoke not one word of Spanish, so he enrolled himself in an intensive language program. Then last August, he picked up and moved to Madrid and began a six-month work hiatus to concentrate on learning Spanish and to acclimate to a new life.
This also meant that he had to start his photography business from scratch in a new country. I asked James about getting his business back on track and working in a foreign language,
Immediately after the language course, I started to try to get meetings with publications, editors, other photographers and agencies here in Madrid. The first place that I contacted was El País Semanal, the weekend magazine for the nations biggest paper, El País. That same afternoon, one of the graphics editors called me to meet and go over my portfolio. A few days later, I had my first assignment. Since then, I have done many portraits and stories with El País Semanal including a story about gestational surrogacy (which is illegal here), which will be my second cover story.
Language has been an obstacle in a few circumstances, such as trying to get the specifics of an assignment in a phone call and trying to make small talk, but overall, people here have been patient with me and I think they appreciate the effort that I put forth with the language.
Another challenge is figuring out the nuts and bolts of operating the business side of the things here. In Spain, there is a fee to be a freelance or Autónomo as it is called, and this fee is a monthly charge that is anywhere from 200 to about 400 Euros. There is also a 18% sales tax that you charge clients and payback to the government monthly. These factors make Spain not that freelencer-friendly and probably account for the low numbers of photographers that are based here. But as far as my business practice goes, it has not changed much. Things have picked up a lot in the past few months and I’m actually doing better now than I was in the States.
James also discussed one of his biggest obstacles,
The most difficult thing about starting a freelance career here is actually being able to stay here. Most ex-pats that are here have come to work through a company, or are working for a company here that sponsors their Visa. Others are married to Spanish people. In my case, I have come with my significant other. While we are not married yet, we are in the process of obtaining “Pareja de Hecho” status. This literally translate to “factual couple,” and the status gives me most of the rights that I would have if I were married to a Spanish citizen.
James started documenting his new Spanish life on his blog, Vivo en Madrid. He uses the blog as a record of his learning experiences and to keep his family, friends, and colleagues back in the States up to date on his life. It was also a good way to let his old and new clients know about his new location.
When asked if he had any advice for photographers who wanted to pick up and move to another country, James replied,
Do it. But make sure you have a good reason.
See more of James’ work on his website.
Read more about James on our Published blog.
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