When we first heard of what Australian Shantanu Starick, a.k.a. The Pixel Trade was doing (traveling the world on zero dollars, bartering food, housing, and transportation for photography), we immediately jumped on the opportunity, then kicked ourselves in the ass for not thinking of this ingenious way to travel. The next thing we had to consider was what we had to barter with. We offered him food and one of our outerwear pieces since it was December in New York, but outside of material goods, we thought we’d share with him one of the greatest things about living in Brooklyn - the chance to spend a lazy Saturday in Brooklyn with two of our designers.
We started our day at Allswell in Williamsburg for a leisurely brunch, then wandered the neighborhood. While we weren’t sure if he’d find Williamsburg interesting enough to shoot, Shantanu assured us that no matter how normal your place of living seemed to you, people halfway around the world are always absolutely intrigued by it. His adventurous spirit led us to somewhere we never thought to go before in our own neighborhood - underneath the old Domino Sugar Factory. After a stop off at our headquarters in Dumbo to show him the design studio, we cleaned up and brought him to our company’s holiday party in a Boerum Place apartment. With a warm coat, neighborhood experience, and a full belly, we sat down to ask the intrepid photographer a few questions about his project.
What was your original inspiration for this idea?
I guess everyone comes to a crossroad in their life, pick ‘this’ or pick ‘that’. I chose to pick ‘that’, which was completely focusing on photography. Shortly after I chose this I had many people expressing their concern about choosing one path and the risk of money it had. This is when PART of the idea originated, to fight against what people thought to be of absolute value.
What’s the biggest difference between working through barter rather than financial transactions?
The biggest difference with bartering is the relationship you have with ‘clients’. Money can stress people out so when you remove it the work setting becomes relaxed and experimental in a way, this is a lot more like working with friends. So it changes the whole work dynamic to something where everyone involved is relaxed and not concerned with their watches indicating one hour longer and who was paying for that hour.
What’s the most interesting barter you’ve done so far?
Brooklyn Industries of course! Ha! To choose the most interesting trade is not possible. Every single trade has added something pretty amazing to this whole project, I know that sounds corny but it’s the simple truth.
There was a particularly interesting time in New York City when I was trading with about 3 different companies at once and I realized all the necessities were covered for an entire week and that I could sit back after the trades were finished and just enjoy what I had with no involvement of money. I chose however to continue trading because I didn’t want to miss a good subject.
Are you really traveling strictly through barter? What do you do when you need to buy something like a $3 pack of Ex Lax?
Absolutely. If I broke it even once, for the smallest things, I wouldn’t feel like I really accomplished the project to perfection. What this frame of mind does is really makes you realize what you NEED compared to what you WANT. I’ve got everything I need. As for Ex Lax, it’s not a need or a want. But if I want a tube of toothpaste I’ll ask the trade if it can be included in our exchange. In fact I have a full tube sitting next to me right now because my current trade just got me one.
To view all of Pixel Trades so far by Shantanu Starick (pictured below), visit his travel log here.