As the founder of The Creative Exchange, Charles Etoroma reached out to Lomography USA wanting to help us tell the world about Lomography. He was deeply inspired by the creative spirit of the community and of course, our Ten Golden Rules. We couldn't wait to see what he would create with all of his passion and enthusiasm. He shot with the classic Diana F+, and offered some thoughts on making your own path, no matter what.
Hi Charles! Not only do you have a really cool personal Instagram account, you’re the creator of @thecreative_exchange. Could you tell me a bit about what it’s about and how you got the idea to start it?
So, The Creative Exchange is a digital marketing agency with a high focus on utilizing social media to help companies connect with their audience and grow. We have clients all over and love creating new and out of the box solutions through social, to connect brands, companies, and people with different audiences. Anything social media related, we've got you. I guess it's been a long time coming. The company was more or less conceived in August of 2015 with my best friend and cofounder Anna Sullivan, she is literally the best.
Neither of us like working for anyone else and both of us were heavily involved in entrepreneurship. Marketing, in a lot of ways, kind of fell at our lap. So, being very much of an opportunist, I took the chances I got and created a new path for my life in something that I happened to be good at.
How do you hope to inspire change, and people, through The Creative Exchange?
Through the work with The Creative Exchange, I hope to inspire others to follow their own path in life. I am an engineer and political scientist who turned himself into a social media/content marketer, photographer, writer, co-founder, fashionista, etc. Anything is possible if you find what it is you were born to do.
The only walls that keep you where you are, are truly the ones you build around yourself.
I also think the work that we do, from a business standpoint, is the new wave of what agencies need to start doing, which is offer far more transparency to clients and customers as well as remember the roots behind social media. Social media is about being social first and media second. That's our focus in all we do and our goal is to inspire others through that and connect them better because of it.
Have you shot medium format film before? How did it compare to shooting digital?
I have dabbled a little in film. My dad actually was into photography when I was playing sports and I guess he gave me my first taste. I always thought it was weird and now here I am, years later loving photography as much, if not more than he did. He has a mini collection of nikon film cameras so I had taken them out for a spin a few time but never got any film developed. Actually hah, still haven't till this day.
I love shooting film because it allows me one thing I don't get enough of, to "Don't Think, Just Shoot." I think that's why I found Lomography at the perfect time. I can still remember when I was first learning about photography. It was never about the likes, the edits, or even the glory. It was about the love. Just the whole artistry of pointing my camera or pointing my phone in one direction and trying to capture a moment.
Everything was just about shooting. I never thought. Fast forward to today. I still try to hold on to that but there is far more thinking involved. Film, quite literally, frees my mind and that for me makes all the difference vs. digital. It has also taught me to value each shutter. With digital you can rattle off so many shots without a care but with film everything is intentional because you have limited film. I've really grown to love that part. Learning how to be intentional with what I am shooting. That's priceless.
Did your process change because you were using film?
A little bit. I still try to find the more creative things but now there is no pressure of showing it to anyone or having people comment, like or share. I can take photos of things that wouldn't necessarily do well on social. I can appreciate simple things around me. I can take a photo of leaves or my messy room or a can on the side of the road.
My processes hasn't changed, my mindset has. There is less restraint.
So are you planning to shoot way more film in the future?
Oh yes! Absolutely. It's funny, my digital camera recently broke and I haven't had time to get it fixed so I have been using film a bit more and it's been liberating actually. I will never give up film because of how it makes me feel.
I saw on your site you went to school for mechanical engineering and political science. Is there anything you’ve learned from those degrees that has been applicable in your life as a photographer?
Ha yea! People are always shocked that that is what I went to school for and looking back I am light years from where I was at that point in my life. I think, for me, the best thing those disciplines gave me was the lack of "know how." I am self taught with photography and the advantage with that is, that I don't know what is "not possible."
I am always looking for fresh and new ways to express my creativity and I am always willing to try new things. Failure isn't something that I consider. If something doesn't work, I just adapt and keep moving. Magic can always be made if you have the right eyes to see it.
I think the other thing they gave me was more of an understanding in managing angles and minute details. A lot of times I can't explain why I do what I do but subconsciously I know I can see an angle, see a shadow, or a specific color that makes me stop and capture the moment. That's an incredibly powerful thing that have.
What’s your favorite thing about running The Creative Exchange?
My favorite thing about running The Creative Exchange is that everyday is more different than the last and it is I who get to decide (well most times) how it will go. Running your own company is incredibly difficult and demanding. I don't sleep much or have time to hang out with friends but the reward is so high.
I have been able to meet incredibly talented people that I would never have even been able to come close to if I had continued down my engineering path. At the end of the day, to be able to say that I was able to build something alongside my very best friend Anna, meet amazing people along the way, and help change the lives of many of our clients and their customers is something that keeps me going each and everyday.
Let's close with your ten word advice to all of your fellow creators here in the Lomography community.
"You are powerful, when you accept that, you will thrive."