David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All (#443)

David Yarrow

“I must never again put myself in a position where my work ethic can be undone by things totally beyond my control.”  — David Yarrow

In his genre, David Yarrow (@davidyarrow) is one of the world’s best-selling fine art photographers. Most recently, he has focused on capturing the animal and human worlds in fresh and creative ways, with philanthropy and conservation central to this drive. In 2019, charitable donations from the sale of David’s images exceeded $2.5 million.

David’s photography of life on earth has earned him a large and ever-growing following among art collectors, and he is now represented by some of the top contemporary fine art galleries around the world. In the last two years, three of Yarrow’s works have sold for more than $100,000 at Sotheby’s auctions in London and New York, and UBS has appointed David as its global ambassador.

In this conversation, we’ll talk about his photography but also touch on how his double life as a hedge fund manager informed his art.

You can buy David’s #1 best-selling book with a $50 discount and a one-year free subscription to his new quarterly photographic journal at davidyarrow.photography/Tim

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Brought to you by Honey, Thrive Market, and LegalZoom.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#443: David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear an episode with another photographer who approached art from the world of finance? — Listen to my conversation with Humans of New York’s very own Brandon Stanton in which we discuss biographies as history, a history major’s philosophical take on the stock market, obsession, striving for improvement, and much more. 

#321: Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans
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SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with David Yarrow:

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook 

SHOW NOTES

  • Why is it smart to only publish heavy books in Scotland, and what happened to David in Mexico in 1986? [06:05]
  • How did David’s lucky experience of shooting what turned out to be an iconic photo of Argentine football demigod Diego Maradona set him on a path of self-improvement, and where did he go from there? [19:41]
  • What David took away from shooting the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. [23:12]
  • Keeping an uncertain eye to the future with nary an artistic role model in his field of vision, what made David decide to accept a job that delighted his parents? [26:28]
  • David talks about his relationship with his father and a conversation they had that he’ll never forget. [30:11]
  • What did David learn in banking that informed his later exploration of photography? [33:23]
  • Where was David on 9/11, and how did its aftermath affect his life over the months that followed? [37:38]
  • How did the downfall of Bernie Madoff lead to David’s own exit from the glamorous world of finance? [46:06]
  • The difference between selling hedge funds and pictures of elephants. [49:08]
  • As someone who once made a living speculating, what did David foresee for the world in the months to come when we recorded this back in March of 2020 — just as COVID-19 was beginning to be taken seriously in the US? [52:18]
  • Thoughts on Paul Tudor Jones’ observations and predictions about the market at this point in time, and why David is relieved he’s not handling other people’s investments right now. [1:01:56]
  • On the connection between Steven Spielberg, a breaching South African great white shark that almost made David give up photography as a career, and a Texan attorney who made it worth his while. [1:08:026]
  • David used to sell photos in the London Underground for £20, and his claim to fame was the time he got spat on by John McEnroe at Wimbledon. [1:19:55]
  • How professional photography is more collegiate and cooperative than a zero-sum game that others need to fail in order for you to succeed (and vice versa). [1:22:09]
  • What does David mean when he says he’s using “the wholesale market” to sell his art? What are the terms, benefits, and costs that can be expected? [1:26:57]
  • How did Dallas come to be David’s “number two” market? What challenges exist in some markets that make others more viable to an artist like David? [1:29:08]
  • How did David come to be represented by a gatekeeper who had rejected him five times before, and what can you learn in a resort town? [1:37:45]
  • Is Palm Beach an important market for revenue to David, or is it important symbolically? What about the rest of the US? [1:43:06]
  • FIGJAM versus third-party affirmation. [1:46:43]
  • Why David believes Breaking Bad should be studied by visual artists as well as economics/business students. [1:50:43]
  • On the value of being tougher on yourself. [1:52:38]
  • What is David’s fascination with the Netflix business model, Montana, and ghost towns? [1:56:07]
  • David is known for collaborating with others — often celebrities. How did he land his first celebrity collaboration, and what has his experience been like working with celebrities since? [2:06:15]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:17:31]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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19 Replies to “David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All (#443)”

    1. I second Nolan’s request. “The Smart Way To Monetrize Strong Photography” would be excellent to read if it is publically available. My search didn’t turn up the article either.

  1. Tim, thank you so much for the amazing content you consistently provide! You are my go-to for most if not all lifestyle questions!

  2. Dear Tim,
    I just wanted to give you a HUGE thank you. I entered into your book contest (via Google Forms) a few weeks (or was it months?) back. Time has lost all significance during the pandemic.

    Anyway, I opened up my mail today to find the most wonderful surprise – Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind”. You made my day! I’ve been having a really rough time the past few weeks and have been plagued by fevers and other nasty symptoms so this was so much more than just a welcome surprise. It was a spark of joy, and even a kind reminder for me to take care of myself. And all this after a friend just so happened to remind me of this book just a few days ago and I had intended to get my hands on a copy! What are the chances!? Anyway, I’m rambling. You just made me so happy!

    I hope you’re happy and safe.
    I wish you all the best!
    Dora

    P.S. keep up the great work you’re doing and publishing all that wonderful content!

  3. What I love about the interview, is how a person who is an amateur can become famous. As long as you are at the right time and right place and know how to play your cards right. Everyone is an amateur until the right time comes!

  4. Hi Tim, first off, I understand that you may not see this and you’re only human so no hard feelings if I get no reply.

    I’m 23, I suffer from depression and anxiety, I see a counsellor often. I am one of those people who are into a million different things at once and have a very hard time sticking to one thing, I am working shitty jobs and I am just about to start a degree in exercise and sport science. I’m also highly creative and find myself feeling very unfulfilled when I cannot be creative. Do you have any advice for somebody like me? I keep hearing that I need to pick one path and all of the things I am into are vastly different from each other. Sorry about the long winded question.

  5. Tim,
    This was another excellent interview. I love the Line “Rock bottom is a solid foundation on which to build my life “! I related a lot to many David Yarrow’s experiences and the lessons learnt. Thank you so much. I think you will win the Nobel Prize one day for your efforts to better humanity!

  6. Loved this episode! As an Argentinean living in South Africa, it was particularly special to me.
    Tim, your podcast has taught me so much, and every time I listen to an episode that gives me a new perspective or helps me move forward, I wish my Spanish speaking family and friends could also benefit from it. I would love to translate some of the podcast transcripts into Spanish, and transform them into articles that can be shared with the Spanish speaking community. What do you think? This will allow you to reach and share your work with a much larger audience. Let me know if you are interested!
    Thanks for sharing your work!

  7. Hi, In your interview with David Yarrow he mentions his manifesto ‘The Smart Way to Monetise Strong Photography’ by David Yarrow. Please can you send me a link to this.

    I enjoyed that interview so much. Two eloquent people at the top of their game. Round 2 please.

    Geoff Langan

    1. Hi, Geoff –

      David’s manifesto is not available, but thank you for checking out the interview!

      Best,

      Team Tim Ferriss

  8. Tim and David, what a fun long listen 🙂

    David, I’m a long time Ferrissofan orbiting happily in Ferrisospheres of learning and influence…and so cool to “meet you” via this episode. I too was at Edinburdge University, studying Economics and Business 1994-98 in the nasty looking William Robertson Building. So great to hear the Scottish lilt and the finest British turns of phrase being thrown at Tim. Stay healthy and safe and sane, both of you!

    Kevin

  9. Tim!

    You featured a song I worked on in your most recent 5-Bullet Friday (Dance Monkey), which is fortuitous as I don’t think I ever could have scaled my business to the point where I was able to work on it in the first place without the help of the 4HWW and the incredible treasure trove of knowledge and podcasts you’ve put together over the years.

    Just wanted to share a sincere thank you for all your work, hopefully I get the chance to pay it back one day!

  10. Submitting my Part 2 request, paired with a favorite scotch: Balvenie Doublewood 12 year. Balvenie exhibited at the American Craft Council show, where I was stunned to see a mass of people actually enjoy scotch tastings. They gave out 1 dram (about 1/3 of a shot) with an option of mixing 50/50 with water, which gave a lighter buzz and more flavors. For Part 2, I’m wondering if you might ask about the relationship between galleries and auction houses. Are auctions also seasonal? Are they mutually beneficial or competitive? A few more questions I’m curious about: What is the easiest way that his art enters the world? What is the most satisfying for him personally? How about professionally? Is the most profitable venue also the one he’s most proud of, or are donation/passion projects more gratifying? Where might David see opportunities that haven’t been explored by artists? Are there any ambitions he still harbors for the future?

  11. I look forward to your second interview with David Yarrow. As a photographer I am interested in how David prepares for his wildlife or his urban shoots. I would like to know how he used collaboration: with animal scientists/behaviourists, Location Scouts, what team does he work with on the day.
    Does David do his own post production (photoshop etc) of his shots?
    David’s photographs have a distinct style and look. Does he feel confined to this? How would he approach the introduction of a new look, for example using colour?
    When Davis approached the ‘Gallery in Palm Beach’ for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th times, before he was accepted, how did the encounter go? From preparing for the phone call to packing his folio away and saying goodbye.

  12. There is so much bs in this interview. He really plays up and romanticise his Scottish heritage, talking about his Scottish accent. It’s not remotely Scottish, more like West Country (Bristol, near London). Talking about carrying around whisky to bribe someone with… come on. And since when was Greenock a “village”… it’s a bleak town, far from a village, I should know I’m from there. It really makes me think so much of what he says is embellished/ made up for the sake of a more interesting story. It’s all marketing nonsense. His photos are good but not special by any means, they sell for high prices because of marketing, and that’s exactly what this podcast is an example of. Americans will eat this stuff up, as a Scottish person… cringe.