Carterton Events Centre, Wairarapa

14/10/2017 - 14/10/2017

Production Details

Created and presented by Shantanu Starick

Between the 25th June 2012 and the 25th November 2015 Shantanu Starick successfully traveled to all seven continents of the globe trading his services as a photographer for life’s basic necessities.

“No currency, no contracts, only my camera and the curiosity of a cat.” In exchange for his skills as a professional photographer, each subject provided a roof to sleep under, food to keep the stomach happy and a ticket or ride to the next trade. Shelter, food, and transport traded for whatever photography work was needed.

After 1238 days of continuous shooting, Shantanu set off for the final 10-day trade to Antarctica, thus completing the Pixel Trade Project.

Every continent without spending a cent of money on anything in the process.

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Carterton Events Centre, Holloway St, Carterton, Wairarapa
Saturday 14 October 2017 8:30pm
Buy Tickets Additional fees may apply
Phone Sales: 0800 BUY TIX (289 849)

Website: Kokomai Creative Festival

Theatre ,

A different kind of global trading

Review by Janet Davies 15th Oct 2017

There is a small group of around forty people waiting patiently for Shantanu Starick to begin his talk. I’ll admit to having no idea about this show, other than it’s based on photography and travel. After observing the empty stage save for a lectern and a white projector screen, I am struck by a dreadful feeling that I am about to spend the evening with Uncle Dave and his holiday snaps of the latest cruise he went on.

My fears are allayed when Shantanu, an unassuming man, enters and without further ado, begins. He talks of embarrassment and how this feeling should be celebrated instead of hidden away because when people are embarrassed, they tend to be more truthful, open and honest. He then demonstrates this by regaling us with an anecdote of his early teenage years, involving a Barbie doll and his mother’s precipitous entrance to his bedroom. I consider this to be a great ice breaker and not nearly as dull as Uncle Dave’s holiday snaps. 

He is Australian, for which I can forgive him because his nasal twang is muted from living in Ireland, though his parents are German and he grew up in an unconventional household. This goes a long way to explain (a) his name and (b) why he did The Pixel Trade Project. He grew up full of curiosity (see Barbie) and fell in love with photography. Shantanu feels that photography is an accepted way to observe other people’s lives and cultures without being intrusive. 

His one complaint, though, about photography is that it suffers from specialisation and Shantanu wants to know what’s wrong with generalisation. He explains his notion with a very poor analogy (his words) but essentially he is championing being a jack of all trades. And this has worked well for him. His interest in anthropology combined with his photography leads us to the main thrust of the Project.  

How far and how long could he travel the world without spending a single cent of his own money? What would happen to him? Could it be done? From 2012 through to 2015 he did just that and this talk is a culmination of that experience. He tells us that it still affects him even to this day, so what did he find out?

A trade works like this. Shantanu offers his services as a photographer (his trade) in exchange for something he may need. For example he did a trade with Squarespace and now has a website, for free, for life. He’s taken photos for restaurants, artists, dancers, musicians, fashion shoots, architects, weddings, social and web media and so on. He is a specialist in generalisation. The people trading with him will look after him for at least three days – food, shelter and if necessary, clothes, are all part of the trade – then they help him move on to the next trade. In return for all this, they get professional, sometimes arty, photos at a price they can afford.

This goes on for three years. Shantanu admits to fatigue during the second year – all the travelling and associated stresses that go with it finally catch up with him – but since each trade is short, he moves through it. In amongst it all he meets his current partner, which adds an interesting twist to his trades. His trades now have to include his girlfriend and he tells us that sometimes he became a little sneaky and dishonest in some trades to ensure she could be a part of it too. 

This leads to the culmination of the final project: a trip to Antarctica. He got twenty-five people to help him get there in exchange for limited edition pictures. So what came out of all of this? Shantanu believes that the reason this works so well is because of perception and curiosity. People’s perception of what photography is and can be mixed with curiosity. He states that in most of the trades he found himself trying to give more because they were doing so much for him but the traders themselves were feeling the same way. Each side gave more because they felt they were getting a good deal. This is quite a profound reflection.

Shantanu says another effect of The Pixel Trade Project is that the traders start to trade amongst themselves and it becomes a sort of ‘pay it forward’ thing where everyone benefits. I get this, since I am currently trading myself: I traded my time and writing for seeing his show for free.

The talk ends with a question and answer session in which I cheekily ask him if he traded with the Kokomai Festival to be here. He smiles and vacillates with his answer. I no longer feel as if I’m watching holiday snaps but now feel like I’m attending a TedTalk. If you’re interested, go to to see more. 


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