By David Mittelberg ~ May 15th, 2013. Filed under: Current Issue.
Photojournalist Jim Raycroft
has witnessed massive changes
in the yachting industry over 25 years
by Laura Dunn
Marine, lifestyle and location photographer Jim Raycroft lives on his 1984 Albin 43 Sundeck trawler Dauntless and easily splits his time between his Boston and Fort Lauderdale studios. Jim travels all over the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean, shooting yachts, charters, cruise ships, travel destinations, high–end resorts, food, exotic cars, models, and other lifestyle photography. For the past five years, Jim has also worked as a photojournalist, freelancing with numerous publications as a writer and photographer.
While on assignment, Jim sat down with Southern Boating in the Dominican Republic to talk about how the boating industry has impacted his photography and writing career.
Jim Raycroft grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut and served in the military until he was 23 years old. Afterwards, he attended the New England School of Photography in Boston, Massachusetts. His photography portfolio initially consisted of advertising and studio work but soon included the yachting industry.
SB: What got you into photography?
JR: I was playing around with it in the service as a hobby and found out that I enjoyed it.
SB: When did boating become part of your work?
JR: When I was 35, I ran into friends in Newburyport, Massachusetts who I hadn’t seen in years. They had founded the company Ocean Getaways and gotten into yacht chartering, which is something I’d never heard of. They were working in the Caribbean and I jokingly said, “Let me know if you need someone to carry your bags, I can help you out.” The next thing you know, we’re on a plane to St. Thomas for a boat show. I started meeting people, seeing what yacht chartering was about, and the rest is history.
SB: What was the boating industry like when you started compared to now?
JR: In the late 80s and 90s The U.S.V.I. charter show was a big one hosted by the VICL (Virgin Island Charter Yacht League), a big yacht was 60 feet long. Charter shows presented mostly sailboats; there weren’t many powerboats. It was mostly about sailing charters in the B.V.I. and U.S.V.I. So, there’d be Irwin 65s, and that was a big boat. Boats were getting a little bigger every year but I was still predominantly sail. The yacht charter industry back then bears little resemblance to what it looks like today.
SB: How would you describe the boating industry now?
JR: Over the top. Charter yachts have grown into floating palaces capable of global circumnavigation designed to carry an array of creature comforts and toys unimaginable 25 years ago. The business of yacht charter and yacht management has grown into an international industry servicing every aspect of the world’s megayacht fleet in every corner of the globe.
SB: What kind of collaboration do you get involved in?
JR: Given that the goal of my projects is to meet and exceed the expectations of the client, the success of a project requires a coordinated team effort. I have an associate photographer — George Panagakos — who I depend on as a second shooter, in pre–production, post–production, casting, etc. There is also a pool of extraordinary talent to draw from in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area including producers, directors, talent agencies, groomers, helicopter operators, stylists, assistance, travel agents, pro equipment rental houses, boat wranglers, you name it; whatever I need, it’s out there.
Whether it’s a shoot aboard a megayacht or at a hotel or resort, effective planning and communication is key to the outcome. When a yacht captain is fully supportive of a photo shoot, the crew will respond accordingly and it all works like a well–oiled machine. Conversely, if the shoot is not considered a priority, that attitude filters down and can make for a less than ideal working situation.
SB: What’s your main objective when you’re freelancing?
JR: Well, the primary concern is to interpret the client’s product or service through the best illustration of words and pictures possible, but the specifics depend on the gig. We do a lot of charter brochures, and the point there is to present the vessel in the best light possible in terms of what the charter has to offer. We try to show the yacht in a location that showcases the pleasure of chartering as much as possible, which involves getting shots of the interior, exterior, lifestyle, food, service, toys, and overall ambiance.
One of the interesting things about this field for me is that I get to shoot a lot of different things and cover a lot of disciplines. I’m shooting architecture, food, people, and lifestyle, so I’m not just locked into one sort of thing. I’ve gotten most of those experiences in the past through commercial and advertising work, so it’s fun pulling it all together for a boating assignment, where most everybody in the industry is there because they want to be (because they like it). People usually don’t end up in the boating industry by default; most people are there because they want to be.
SB: How often do you combine photography and print?
JR: Over the last four or five years, I’ve done a lot more writing with the stories. As the economy shrank, everybody began looking for ways to save money. Magazines began depending more on their writers and advertisers to supply images or sending out a photojournalist to get a story and pictures, because that saves them the cost of transportation, food and lodging and creative fees for two people.
SB: What are some of the places your career has taken you?
JR: One of the more memorable projects was writing and shooting a series of stories on the charter yacht Golden Compass during her two–year around the world adventure. The owners’ itinerary included a wide variety of interesting ports of call, many well off the beaten path. I caught up with them in the Maldives, the Amazon River, East Timor, Croatia, and Cuba. I would go out every once in awhile when they got to a new place and experience that with them to produce a story and pictures. It’s looking like there will be one more in the works soon, but we’ll see.
SB: What do you enjoy most about being a photojournalist?
JR: I get to write the story, in addition to taking pictures. As a photographer, you tend to concentrate all your time on the visuals when you’re with an editor. But when you are writing the story as well, you’re actually doing a lot more research along the way and paying a lot more attention to the details of what’s happening around you. It’s much more demanding, but it’s also much more interesting because it’s more of an education.
SB: How long have you lived on your boat and what can you tell us about that?
JR: Twelve years off and on — mostly on. Sanity is a relative thing — it helps to be a little crazy to live on a boat in New England in the winter; it’s definitely not for everybody. But if it’s for you, it can be a very pleasurable lifestyle. You’re totally in touch with the weather all the time, it’s your own environment and you’re in control of everything. I don’t know how many people live on their boats, but in my Boston boating community, we probably have 80 or 90 people living there year–round, even in winter. In the summer, that probably goes up to about 130 that live aboard making for an interesting community. You’ve got families, singles, married couples, married with kids, and dogs and cats. There’s blue collar, white collar, no collar. Retired as well as young professionals who put on a suit every day and head off to work. It’s a lifestyle I feel I’m pretty lucky to be enjoying.