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Religion, Refugees, & Racing: The First Years of Freelancing

Currently based in Dakar, Senegal, Daire Collins studied history and political science before becoming a freelance documentary filmmaker…
Religion, Refugees, & Racing: The First Years of Freelancing

Currently based in Dakar, Senegal, Daire Collins studied history and political science before becoming a freelance documentary filmmaker and journalist. Born and raised in Ireland, he covered the refugee crisis in Southern Europe for the UN’s International Organization for Migration in 2015. Last year, Daire documented life along the Ganges River in India. We spoke with him about his Storyhunter Instagram takeover and his current project in Dakar.

Storyhunter: What were your projects about?

Daire Collins: ‘Along the Ganges’ was part of a trip to India, during February 2016. It was a partially funded by a commission from an Irish magazine, which allowed me to tag on some extra days in places to cover some more personal work, namely a short travel style video and a series of shorts on Indian street food. India is a fascinating place and people are so open toward the camera. The excitement and energy that one experiences does come at a cost — it was a pretty grueling trip in some ways. Next time I’ll go in with more structure and contacts in place as I feel I did miss out on some valuable time there with avoidable day-to-day problems.

‘Refugees in Transit’ was my first real foray into the freelance world. After a summer internship at a production firm I decided to take a chance and head to Southern Europe. I spent three months between Austria, Slovenia, and Greece trying to seek out the lesser known stories of the refugee crisis. It was a steep learning curve, experiencing such a crisis firsthand with no formal training was a shock. I was trying to fund freelancing without many commissions coming in at first. However, I soon found my feet. I don’t know if I believe that we make our own luck, but to a certain extent it has been true for me. After sticking at it for a while I managed to scoop a decent contract which made up for the weeks I was going broke before. I learned some really valuable life and career lessons from that trip.

S: What is your favorite picture from the Takeover?

DC: The featured photos from an ongoing project in Dakar are my favorite. Being in the freelance game for less than two years, I’ve learned a huge amount and I hope I’ll never stop. I do look back at some previous work and cringe, but it makes me excited to keep moving and producing more videos and photos. Senegal has been a great location to get to grips with West Africa. There’s a strong freelancing community here which is very welcoming too, which makes it easier to get settled and find the lay of the land. Yet as with my time covering the refugee crisis, the first few weeks are slow anywhere if you’re going in as an unknown. You have to be prepared to put ten projects out there and see one come to fruition. Thankfully I’m just about getting to that point to see filming and the groundwork beginning to pan out.

S: What draws you to the freelance life?

DC: Freelancing has allowed me access these incredible parts of the world in ways which many people don’t or just can’t. It’s fueled my belief that the most incredible stories are true, and that people all share the same fears and hopes the world over. I listen to a lot of podcasts from other photojournalists and filmmakers and one thing that is consistently repeated is that the camera acts as a passport. It allows me into places I couldn’t go before, by giving me purpose. Sometimes this purpose makes it more difficult, especially as a white European in Dakar, but even that is a great lesson. The need to build trust with my contributors here has made me a better storyteller I believe. Storyhunter gave me my first start, allowing me to start freelancing occasionally during my final year of university. This encouraged me that it was feasible as a career path, that you could just pick up your camera (and audio gear) and go.