There can be no doubt that online businesses have transformed the way we live today. Airbnb has changed the accommodation scene, Uber the way we take a taxi and Facebook the way we consume news. Travelling to exotic destinations is now all available at the swipe of a finger. And now there is a new guy on the block – Loculars – a way to connect with professional photographers all over the world. Whether you are a complete novice or an experienced pro Loculars aims to connect you with local professional photographers in a destination, so that you can “travel, experience and shoot like a local, with a local.” The nuts and bolts of this service is that Loculars offers photo experiences, often in the way of an under the skin view, with locally based photographers. You book your photographer online on their simple to use website and “hey presto” your photographer is waiting for you when you arrive. If you can use Airbnb then Loculars will not prove any more demanding. And now Loculars is expanding onto the Croatian market. After New York, Amsterdam and India, the next location for Loculars is Dubrovnik.
The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Ayash Basu, founder and CEO of this New York based company, to get the big picture (sorry about the pun).
Can you explain a little more about the concept of your services and your website?
Professional photographers usually have deep local insight, access to stories, events, communities that most travellers do not have. They also have some amount of spare capacity that they are looking to monetize. So, they can use this time, not replacing what they normally do photographically, to offer photo experiences for a fee, at their schedule. On the demand side, are travellers and photo enthusiasts, who have a serious bent for travel photography. They enjoy photography, it is a key part of their travel plan and they are spending serious money on equipment, photo tours and workshops. They are looking to improve their photography, but also experience "offbeat locations, communities, events" and so on. They enjoy shooting the popular touristy locations, i.e. the top 10 Tripadvisor list, or stuff that pops up on a simple Google search and they can do that on their own or use some other tourist guide service if they want.
So, if someone is visiting New York - they will obviously do all the common sights like Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square etc, but they might also want a highly immersive local experience such as visiting a lesser known neighbourhood, a hidden market, an event that usually only locals know of etc., in other words a highly curated experience. This is when they would use Loculars to connect with that photographer.
Why would you recommend guests to use your service?
For three reasons. First, by design, a Loculars experience is a locally immersive, offbeat experience. It is not, taking pictures of "the London Eye, Times Square, or the top/popular touristy destinations." The idea is to give them an experience that - they would not know of or find, or even if they know of it, is hard to execute and do without some local insight and access. Second, Loculars offers single group experiences only. Meaning, a photographer works only with your group. Unlike a tour company, there aren't multiple groups comprising of 15 people. An experience is highly personal, and individually catered so you really get to engage with the photographer.
The intent is to have a setup where a small group of people go out and shoot, enjoy the experience and make a personal connection. The maximum group size allowed on a Loculars experience is up to 5 people. Third, Loculars photographers can join by invitation only. These photographers are not anyone with a camera saying "hey I can take you to some places and shoot pictures." These are screened photographers, very often some of the leading street, travel and documentary photographers, whose work and portfolio we have reviewed. So a guest is working with a real professional with credibility.
Essaouira fisherman - Photo by Sandy Gennrich
How does Loculars stand out from the crowd and what makes you different from the competition?
Today, there are two basic categories of photo experiences available, where one can truly work with professionals and not be a part of some tour package or group. First, there are the 8-15 day photo expeditions that companies like National Geographic Expeditions, Lindblad etc. offer, You work with a top professional, but it's weeks of shooting, can cost up to $20k, and needs 8-10 months of advance planning and booking. This is a huge industry and works great but is only for people who have that kind of money and time and don't mind photographing for 2 weeks straight in locations like Antartica, Africa etc. The focus is usually wildlife, extreme nature etc.
The second is photo workshops which typically run 4 to 7 days, are also with top professionals, but again cost $3k to $5k and need a few months of advance planning. The setting can be more learning based but someone's entire trip revolves around photography only. But, what if I want to work with a pro, and I want a few hours, half a day or maybe a day, don't want to spend thousands of dollars, and still have a highly tailored experience. That's where Loculars fits in. So, this can work for people who are on personal vacations, business trips etc, where their entire trip isn't about photography.
I go to Amsterdam for a week, I do a bunch of different things for 6 days, but on one day I want to connect with a local photographer for 3-4 hrs and have a compelling photo experience. I can book it a few days or weeks in advance and am happy to spend $300 for it.
Why is it important to you to be present on the Dubrovnik market?
We want to work with photographers across the world, and open travellers to new destinations and experiences. Dubrovnik is a consistently growing travel market, has lots of local history and flavour. It can also be a difficult place for people who don't know it or are visiting for the first time. For sure we want to work with local talent there who can offer the best of Croatia beyond what's advertised on the common tourist brochures. We've seen that even in the most touristy cities like Paris, Amsterdam and New York. There are many quiet gems, lesser known places, events, neighbourhoods that are waiting to be explored.
Sure, every tourist goes to the Times Square in NY, but then they don't need to pay a photographer $300 to go see that. Or replace Times Square with its equivalent in any city - Google and Google Maps, Trip Advisor, Rick Steve’s, Lonely Planet, and a host of other services usually do a great job in telling people what they need to see or do. To the extent we can bring out those "only a local professional would know this" type of experiences in Croatia, we absolutely want to offer more and more of them on Loculars.
And in Dubrovnik, Loculars have selected Craig Derrick as their photographer. Derrick has been living in the region for many years and over that time has immersed himself into the culture, traditions and way of life; he is also an award winning photographer who runs a successful photo company – Adriatic Images. “I am looking forward to the opportunity of working with Loculars and their clients. Dubrovnik, and the whole region, has so many highlights that it proved a challenge to narrow down my tours.” Derrick is currently offering two different tours in Dubrovnik, check the Loculars website for more details, and is adding a Homeland War tour. “The passion and sheer courage with which local citizens defended their homeland in the war deserves to be in the spotlight and with this new experience I aim to give photographers from around the world the chance to see another side of Dubrovnik, far away from the one tourists see.”
A glimpse into the scars of the Homeland War in Dubrovnik with Craig Derrick