The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast Transcripts: Erick Hercules on How to Price Your Art, Breaking Creative Blocks, NFTs For Photographers, The Curse Of A Niche, Meditation & Tools to Optimize Life


Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Erick Hercules.

Erick Hercules specializes in non-photoshop levitation photography and is an Ecuadorian commercial photographer. His photographs are featured on billboards in Times Square, have been auctioned at the Guggenheim Museum, and published in Hypebeast, HighSnobiety, and other periodicals. Erick has previously worked with fashion and streetwear companies including Nike, Converse, Swatch, FILA, and Alpha Industries.

In 2013, he launched the “#WeLevitate” movement, a global community of aspiring levitation photographers and content creators that partners with World of Dance, SONY, Nike, and other brands.

In addition to his campaign work, Erick serves as an official SONY Alpha Ambassador and educator. He currently leads his own visual and strategy agency called Hercules New York and is the Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of INCMMN. 

I highly encourage you to listen to the entire episode because we’re sharing insights about discovering and staying in love with an art form as an artist, how to beat procrastination and other excuses in creating content, and many more. You’ll also love Erick’s practical advice on how to charge according to your value and how you can benefit from the democratization of the economic side of creativity.

Please Enjoy!

Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!

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

Pierre Lambert: Good morning podcast, and welcome to a new episode. My name is Pierre T. Lambert, and today I have an amazing guest. My guest is Erick Hercules. Erick is a photographer who helped redefine a new genre in footwear and lifestyle photography, and his subject and angle choices have become viral ideas that transcend digital media. His photographs have appeared on billboards in Shanghai and Times Square stores like Foot Locker, auction at the Guggenheim Museum, and published in magazines internationally. So he has some cache and some proof of work right there. He's a self-taught photographer. Erick's musical training provided a useful framework for his non-traditional path into the world of still photography. And that's something I think is going to be very interesting to dig into. Currently, Erick is a Sony Alpha ambassador, World of Dance contributor, and educator for the next generation of digital photography. He currently leads his own visual and strategy agency called Hercules New York and is the Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of INCMMN. I think I got that one, right? A new age B2B agency bridging the gap between creatives, agencies, and brands. Pardon my accent; it goes all over the place, sometimes. As an advocate, Erick is also the Secretary-General of the Influencer Council of America, where he leads creative first conversations directly with digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. He has spoken on leadership panels at American colleges and universities and consulted with brand agencies and places like the White House to help communities move forward. Erick, this is not a short bio. I love it. There are so many aspects where I'm like, let's dive into this angle. So I think it's going to be very interesting. We've got a few things to talk about. For personal note, before we get started, Erick and I met in 2019 at a condo in an event organized by Sony. And we hit it off, not interesting conversation debates even and shot some Levitation Photography, which you are known for, without Photoshop. So Erick, welcome to this podcast.

Erick Hercules: Thank you so much for having me. It's good to see you, Pierre.

Pierre Lambert: It's awesome to actually flip a little bit the discussion because we met in New York City recently, and we had tons of conversations, but when you go through the podcast aspect, I'm able to do a little more background search and find topics where I'm like, okay, let's dig into just that. Whereas, if you're breathing it up in the middle of the street, it's kind of weird sometimes.

Erick Hercules: I agree. But I'm excited to dig deep. So, ask along.

Pierre Lambert: Alright. Erick, I'm very curious about something that you wrote down. You actually studied business, and there was a component of opera in it and music. Can you tell me a little bit about your origin story and how you went from that to falling into the photography world?

Erick Hercules: Yeah, man, I think it was a very organic transition. I started singing when I was eight. My dad is a mariachi singer. He represented Ecuador in the Mariachi Festival in Mexico every year, which was super interesting. Yeah. So I always looked up to my dad and his musicianship and how much he gave into his art. So obviously, I started singing at a very young age, and my voice was discovered super young. So my mom really took that seriously. That's why we actually came to America. My parents wanted to give me really good training for voice in South America. I don't think art is regarded as something that you do. If you want to make a living, they don't take it seriously. And so, they wanted me to have a bigger goal in life. And so, they've been supportive from the start. I came here, I immediately joined the school choir, and by the time I was 10, I was singing in this choir called the Young People's Choir of New York City, who introduced me to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden. And they allowed me to perform in all these major projects. So as a young kid being trained in voice, I thought I was going to be the next opera singer, so I went to high school for singing. Then I went to conservatory for singing and three and a half years into my conservatory career. I realized something. I realized that I wasn't really happy. And the reason why I wasn't happy, I came to find out in hindsight, was that I was doing it because everybody told me I was good. Not because I really wanted to do it for a living. During that time, I started doing this t-shirt brand and needed to do photography for this t-shirt brand. I was about 19 or 20. So I bought this cheap camera, Nikon D80, and I started shooting with it everywhere. And at that time, Instagram was just coming along, and I was just posting a bunch of iPhone-only images. So I met a couple of friends there who also had a vision for photography, all of those amateurs. And I started hanging out with them. Photography really started to become my love there for the freedom it gave me. Opera is a very rigid art form. You need to sing in a certain way if you're singing Baroque, or if you're singing romantic, you do certain things. There are certain parameters that you need to think about every time you pick up a piece of classical music, but with photography, the world is in your hands, and you don't really get to say what's right or wrong. You just do something because you feel it. So I started discovering, we did puddle grounds back in the day and then slowly evolved into levitation with brands. But eventually, business school fits into this equation because I had to quit opera, but I couldn't tell my mom, “Hey, I'm just gonna quit opera and pursue photography.” So what I did is I quit opera three years and a half into my career, and I went to business school. So I studied business for three years and a half again. In the second half of the last semester of my business school career, one of my biggest campaign opportunities came out. So Swatch hit me up, and they were like, “Hey, we love what you did with this one dancer Rock It Easy. He's a Jabbawockeez from Las Vegas. He's like, you guys just levitated this phone in front of him as he was jumping in the air. We want you to do that for Swatch. But you need to do it this week.” And that week was finals week. So it was between taking my finals or going to Las Vegas to shoot this campaign. And I chose to go to Las Vegas, and here we are. So sometimes you have to just do what you feel is right. And I've always seen an opening for me in photography. So I took it, and I'm blessed it's worked out the way it's had, and I had a chance to meet all these incredibly creative people like yourself through it. But that's a little bit of how the evolution took place.

Pierre Lambert: I'm curious because I can only imagine when you trained the same way for music and for singing. Was it a slow transition in your mind where you feel less and less interested, or you realize more and more that is? Or is it like a wake-up thing where in the morning you're like, “Oh, this isn't really me; it's what others think I should be doing.”

Erick Hercules: I ran from home twice to pursue this photography thing, so I was really about it. I was like, “Mom, I can see myself doing this.” In opera, to be honest, I realized that I was doing it for so long that it had become a chore; it had become a job. I recommend that as a creative if you love something, try to find ways to always fall in love back with the art form. And I think I didn't really do that. I was very young, and I was already performing professionally since I was 12. So like the parameters and my goals were so big that I think they trumped the aspect of just singing for fun, you know? Yeah. I really didn't enjoy it as much. I didn't train as much. I didn't want to learn the languages as much. It wasn't as exciting to me as photography was. And I think I didn't really discover myself as much in classical music as I did through photography. But I must say the transition was easy because I think as an artist, you understand a lot of concepts that just transcend art form, you know? Color and tone are a lot of things in classical music; you train how to study chords and what the chord progressions mean, where is home and where is the climax of the song, and why that works. And so you come with all these ideas, and then you just transpose them to a visual art form, and you still have the same things. If you want to shoot a fall-winter campaign, it's more blueish and contrasting and dark; you want to shoot something spring, summer, it's light and yellow and bright, and so it's an easy transition visually if you study the mechanics of it from a classical perspective.

Pierre Lambert: That's fascinating. I feel like a thought came to my mind. I was like, maybe in this world, another kid was trained to become a photographer and went into singing, and you did the opposite. So you guys reverse role in the universe. There you go. It's so interesting to hear because you are trained to go towards a certain path, and if you train from a very young, actually never really ask yourself the question, is it what I want to do? And I don't think it's a bad thing. It's just like some people have to help and guide you at the beginning, but there is a point where you probably look around, and you're like, “Hmm, it looks like this feeds me more than doing that.” Or there's less friction. Yeah. What you're saying by falling in love with your art all the time really resonates. And it reminds me of a quote I heard recently was something around the secret to a good marriage is to date your wife. And I think it's the same thing. You just become comfortable in your own relationships also, and you forget to go back or to actually ignite what you fell in love for, the same way your camera is just here versus before it was like, “Oh my God, this thing is so exciting.”

Erick Hercules: Yeah. You said it right. And I think it also takes a lot of presence, and you have to learn how to be present with your art form because, at times, you do it mechanically; do so much of it, it becomes mechanics. I went through that, which I'll get to a little bit later with levitation, but sometimes you do it so much. And you're like, okay, whatever, or okay, what's next? And so it is constantly just being open-minded to say, “Hey, what are the possibilities? And what can I really challenge myself to do while I'm doing this art form? And how can I grow from this? And look at it as a growing, never-comfortable scenario in which you can just enjoy and invest in the unknown.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. And we're going to put seed for the future here, but we'll talk about the angles and how you are actually doing that own work of like, trying to go back to the essence, because obviously if you shoot a lot, it becomes not repetitive, but you fall into that habit thing, like you said, the work part. I'm curious, however, to what aspects of music would you say helped you the most in the photography aspect?

Erick Hercules: Music is, well, one of the definitions of music is its organized sound. So if you were to take this note and this note and just disorganize them, they wouldn't sound as pretty, or if you put them in different ways, it will just sound like two different beats or something. And so, I've always loved the structure of music and how it's poetically written to take you on a journey. That's exactly what I think I've tried to do with my work is to take you on a journey and the reason why I talk about this in my classroom, but it's the philosophy and the psychology behind levitation and why it's so powerful. It's because, music, when you listen to it, or like sometimes you have a favorite song, and you have this one particular bridge or this one particular like a highlight of the song that you can sing over and over and over again, you take all the song away, and you have the climax of the song. And for me, for my viewers, as a photographer, you have one chance, one image to show the spectator, the climax of the song, the climax of the story. And why levitation works are because you're giving somebody the climax of the story without giving them the context of the story. So they don't know what came before, what came after. And as a human psychologically speaking, we're thrilled. We're always seeking information; from a survival mechanism aspect, you seek all the information you can get. So you can have the context as to how to move forward. But when you see an image without context, it fucks with you. It makes you wonder, what came before, what came after, and it makes you wonder, did the guy throw it from below? Did it throw it up? Did he have somebody throw the shoe for him? Did somebody catch it? Is it a net? How did it fall? Did he scratch this? Did he break the statue or whatever it is that's in the air? And so all these questions arise, and you're playing with people's emotions, and you're actually giving them their own way of telling the story of an image. So giving them a climax and then letting the spectator decide for themselves before and after. And I learned that specifically from music. The composition structure and the feeling of we've arrived, and that's exactly what I want to give my spectator when they see my work.

Pierre Lambert: I love that. I'm gonna poke you on this one: do you feel like we can give just the climax without the ramp-up and the tuning down behind? I'm asking that in photography because I'm just wondering what do we do with the other parts because I feel like they're important too, and they're on the way.

Erick Hercules: Well, you make a real right. No, I'm kidding.

Pierre Lambert: Well, you're right, because that's how I expressed it. If you're listening is from the perspective of how we are looking at art nowadays, which is very fast-moving and usually on the devices, which means you're going to just look at that one photo or that quick clip. If you were in a book or gallery, you could build-up, I guess.

Erick Hercules: Yeah. But you see, there's so much I can say about this because what I hate is when you need context for an image. When you look at an image, you're like, that it's boring. And then somebody's like, well, no, it's because that's Picasso's plate. And like he had thrown it in the floor like seconds before. You're like, “Oh, that's what makes it amazing.” But I actually have a fight with a lot of artists about this; I think a photo should be objectively good without any background or foreground. I think all of those things are externalities that you add to the importance of a photo, but objectively a photo should tell. There's a saying, “A photo is worth a thousand words.” then, add a thousand words in that one photo because then it will be 1,001 if you add more context to it and that's cheating to me. I probably hurt a lot of people's feelings, and I do apologize, but I'm speaking from the validity objectively of what a photo should be. I want people to look at a photo and say, “Oh, that makes me feel good. Or that makes me feel something, regardless of external contexts, but just looking at a photo, whether it is Marilyn Monroe or just a random old lady sitting in a train station, regardless of who the person is there, I want them to feel the same way. I want them to feel that power of the image. That's what good photography is for me personally.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I'll join you a hundred percent on that one because it's not out about how good it looks to you. It's how does it make you feel? Because it's so easy to go rationalize all the composition and the aperture or whatever, like if the shutter speed was wrong, it's a little blurry, but how does it make you feel? If you feel interpellated or if you look at an image out of a piece of art and it keeps you scratching your head, I think it's doing its job.

Erick Hercules: And even art that you might disagree in, there's an art that you're like, “What does that even mean?” But it gets you wondering; you got to respect that.

Pierre Lambert: Absolutely. Anyone who triggers your emotions with something they create, I think, is good, art-wise. Let's put it in that context, but okay. So we've got the climax, you used that, and that really drives your creations. And I felt it even when we were shooting together in 2019; when we did the levitation photography video, it was fun. And I felt there was a subtility to which shot you would think was right. And what movement was right in the image, which most likely I would've been like, “Oh, this is cool. This is cool.” But you had a specific eye towards certain things. So we can put the link and the description to obviously some of that work. And I think you have training on that coming up so we can put that if people want to discover more around it. But I wanted to understand how you go from the beginning of the levitation photography and how do you integrate that throughout your work? And are you able to move away from it not to be defined as just that one piece? And is there anything wrong with being that, just that one guy?

Erick Hercules: I had an existential crisis during the pandemic, I think, three, three that I remember. And they all had to do with my purpose as an artist and my growth as an artist, and the value of my art. And I don't mean it monetarily, but what it means to me and what it means to the people around me and the people that consume it. I'm a commercial photographer by trade. And the reason I did that is that I was a young, broke college kid who ran away from two careers to pursue this photography thing. I had to pay the bills. Strategically speaking, I decided to name myself a commercial photographer because I thought, well, you're going to get paid while doing what you like. There's nothing wrong with that. And so I did, but what happened was I discovered that I sold my artistry to commerciality and what I meant by that was, I did levitation for all these brands. I made it almost like, oh, the coolest way to sell a product to people. But I realized the levitation is so much more than that. And after spending so much time with myself during quarantine, I realized, wait, I can see so much more depth into levitation photography, especially the fact that it's done without Photoshop, especially the fact that it's done without burst mode, it's all done in one take. All these beautiful techniques that I've developed were just used to sell shoes to kids, and I didn't want to be that dude. I didn't want to be that guy. I've also realized that a lot of the time, my competitiveness and what drove me to create levitation photography without Photoshop were always a challenge to me. How can I create surrealism within reality? How can I create something that people think it's fake in real life? I've always loved that challenge. And so that was the main point of levitation photography. That was the main point to show to everybody, “Hey, look, you can do something that looks photoshopped, but it's not.” And so taking that ownership back away from, “Hey, this is just a technique used to sell products,” was very empowering and was also very scary because I was that guy that it was like, people hired me just to do these levitation images. AI realized that I'm much more than that as well. As artists, we as humans in general, we're not the bright and brightest; we're not the brightest creatures. And I think we we're pretty square when it comes to defining another person. Let's say if Pierre, you decide to edit all your pictures with a super, super, super blue tone for the next two years; well, guess what? You're the blue tone guy now. And I don't think fair, Pierre, because that can be a part of your growth, but you know, DaVinci had a blue period. He painted a lot of his things blue, but you don't know, DaVinci is like, “Oh, he's the guy that paints those blue paintings.” No, you know DaVinci for all the extensive work he did whether it was drawing, whether it was painting, whether it was sculptures. And I think that we need to look at our artistry in the same way. We're so much more than what society or the industry defines us. I used to be the guy that promoted niches because I had a niche. But I realized a niche is only good up until you realize you're stuck in that niche, and you realize you can't do anything else because it falls away from that niche, and that's a jail in itself. And so, what I recommend artists is to always once again, coming back to the beginning of this conversation, always look at your art as a way to explore yourself and to grow from it. Yes, you can have a series, I had a good 6 to 10 years worth of Levitation run, but I think I can do so much more. And so that's where I'm at right now. Art should constantly be evolving, and you should constantly be evolving with your art. And I think that's where the true meat of being an artist comes from.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I can only join you on that one. There is something that I keep reminding myself of, and that I remind a lot of people, is that the scientists that discovered a bunch of things, DaVinci, like you mentioned, was multifaceted. A lot of the philosophers we think about also even Seneca and stuff. They were also mathematicians. They were also, in a way doctors, they were studying the stars. They were basically very, very rounded persons. They were not like a sharp tools. They were more like a very wide tool that tries to look at different things, different ways. And get curious about the whole world and not just that one aspect that you might think, “Oh, this is the X guy, and he does only that, that XYZ thing.”

And I feel like I had a campaign that came to me, and they asked me to make an ad about myself, my personal brand. I could not do it. I still can't do it because how am I supposed to encompass my personality in 30 seconds? So I managed to change the campaign, and it's going to be about my training. So, which is a lot easier. But about myself, I was so lost. I even like to have a 2-hour brainstorm with my wife and another friend. And I was like, sorry; there's so much I'm interested in. I don't even know how to make it fit anything. Because I don't want to be just that one guy that, “Oh, here's a video that shows what he does, you know?” Well, no, there's more.

Erick Hercules: Yes, it's a Pierre DNA. It shouldn't fit in 30 seconds. If it fits in 30 seconds, you're too branded; you're too square. You're only going to be that person. And you don't want to do that. We're in the era of niches like the girl who wears the red scar or the person. I think we're much more complex than that. And I'm so happy that you understand the complexity of who you are and own it. And that's the hardest thing for us as creatives to do. And I think it's a privilege to do because you and I can afford to do something like that. A lot of creatives at the same time are spreading themselves too thin trying to do everything or like trying to get on the next hype train or trying to do whatever's cool in the market right now. There is that slight balance in the middle where you have to say, “Okay, what is viable to the consumer and clients? What can they come and constantly hire me for?” Because they know I'm good, but at the same time, not having that niche solely define you because you're so much more than that, once again. So it's all about that balance.

Pierre Lambert: At the end of the day, we do it for ourselves. We don't do it for the rest, right? And that's something; I remind a lot of photography students; also, I'm like, it doesn't matter if I like your art. It doesn't matter if your neighbor or a thousand people like it. Do you like it? Is it oversaturated and has way too much clarity for my taste? Yes. But you love it. Look, you're super excited about it. What am I going to tell you? Keep doing what you're doing, have fun and go for it. I can't tell you how to live your own life. You have to be in love with yourself and what you create. So that's the most important, I feel. Let's segue to those angles? I'm super excited to dive into that because Erick was shooting with funny angles when I was in New York. And I was like, what are you doing? What's happening? And then you were writing a few captions on Instagram about how you explore different compositions or what does it mean? Let's go, let's dive into it. What's happening? 

Erick Hercules: My second existential crisis told me that I was tired of just being the levitation guy because I needed to do something else that challenged me. And so I took it back to my roots, which is street photography. So I went back into the streets with a 90 millimeter and 70 – 200, and I looked up at the sky, and I noticed that when I looked up at these textures and elements and lines and shapes and contrasts and shadows that I had, thanks to shooting commercial for so long commercial photography is very mathematical. Like things need to be in a center or like the very rule of thirds, like very perfectly lit, perfectly background. Everything needs to be perfect. Commercial photography is they're trying to sell you something; they're trying to sell you the best version of life as life can be, perhaps. I essentially internalized all of that. So all those mathematics, all those rule of thirds and Fibonacci sequence that I learned in commercial, I brought them back to the streets. And this time, I started to notice that what is reality really but a perception, from your perspective, and as humans, we have two feet on the ground and that it means that whenever we see up, we see the same up, but we're basing our reality based on gravity. And gravity's just one element of reality. And the reality is so much complex in that. And so, I try to challenge myself with these angles, using these mathematical things that are learned in commercial photography to try to redefine how we see cities around us. Essentially, how we see textures around us and how we feel seeing these textures in cities being presented in a different way. And by flipping these angles, if you feel something, then by definition, I am proving to you that these angles have some sort of emotion; these little twists and turns and balances of lions and triangles and shapes and shadows make you feel something. And if I compose in the correct way, I'm maximizing a feeling from a perspective that you couldn't see before because you were too stuck in your own ways. You were too stuck in what people think is right. These angles were a testament to the objective truth in which anything can work. I sit down sometimes in front of a couple of buildings, and I shoot 15 different angles from the same perspective of the same building constructions. All you have to do is find the shapes and the elements that go together in a very communicative format that eventually leads to you feeling a certain way. And so that made me realize a couple of things. First of all, I'm going back to the subject shouldn't matter, a good picture should be a good picture, and a good picture should make you feel something. And so what I'm trying to prove to the audience this time around is look, I'm allowed to shoot two different walls from a random building that you probably walk through it time and time again. And you're like, whatever, those are two buildings, but I'm going to make you feel something by changing the angles for you. And if you feel something, then you know what I'm telling you is, right. It's an objectively regular photo, but I'm doing it in such a way that it makes you feel something. And to be honest with you, I call this angle study. I mean, I call this project angle studies because they are studies. I must say, I do look at it as fine art. I do look at them as something poetic and something that says something, but a lot of them are just studies. Like, look, people, here's some random walls that I'm sure you all walk by because it's in 42nd Street, but you've never seen them this way. Have you? And it catches people by surprise, and that's what I want to do. I want to catch people by surprise and show them that reality can be perceived from many different angles.

Pierre Lambert: I love that. Especially the last part, reality can be perceived from different angles. And I feel it also defines your experience, right? How you navigate through life in a way. You just noticed the light is around you.

Erick Hercules: I think we learn to appreciate a lot of the goodness around us once it's taken away from us. Once again, we're very flawed animals, but once again, these angles are also bringing in, just presence into the equation, like, “Hey, sit down and look at that library in front of you that you always walk by every time you walk from A to B and you never really looked at it the way that it should be looked at, or you always looked at it the same way. In the same way, technically, it's not the wrong way, but it's just one way. And if you look at it, maybe in three different ways, you might discover something else.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head here. It's not wrong. It's just, that's only one. Right? When I was in New York, or even in Paris, what I loved sometimes is just looking at tourists. What is catching their eyes because my eyes get used to some stuff, and then you see another photographer who's never been to Paris or a tourist. And you're like, “Oh, is that interesting to you?” let me try to see why and what's there.

Erick Hercules: Don't they shoot the city in a different way? They can be the same in the same place that you normally shoot. And then they come in and shoot something a different way. You're like, whoa, I never saw it that way. That's so interesting. That's what art is such a powerful tool to communicate.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. It's weird. I love it. That even happened to me on the Brooklyn bridge. I got sunrise when I was in New York last time; I never realized that the Manhattan bridge was like poking between those buildings, and with the right angle, with the right light just looked epic. And I was like, “Oh…” And I biked so many times over that bridge, you know? Which apparently you do not suppose to do anymore.

Erick Hercules: I know that.

Pierre Lambert: Well, not on the walking at the top of some guy was like screaming really loud at the biker.

Erick Hercules: Well, welcome to New York; everybody screaming at each other lately.

Pierre Lambert: Let's dive into the COVID world. And what did it change, or how did you navigate that space? Because New York sounded like the epicenter of the end of the world for a while.

Erick Hercules: It was transforming, to say the least. I mean, I came out of it a completely different person. I'm I was a workaholic before that. I think I'm still a little bit of a workaholic now, to be honest, but not as much. I learned to take my time. I learned to let go of perfectionism. I was such a perfectionist, and we just had a slight conversation a little bit before we started recording this. And you said a quotable moment. You said perfectionism is the key to laziness, or it makes you lazy or something. It's a good excuse to make.

Pierre Lambert: Oh, I remember it's the best excuse for procrastination.

Erick Hercules: Oh, procrastination, dude. And that's exactly how I felt.

Pierre Lambert: Procrastination is the best tool.

Erick Hercules: Oh, man. That runs so true to me. For example, I never wanted to start a YouTube channel because I didn't have the correct lights, correct backgrounds, the correct setup. I didn't want to start this and that editorial because I was so scared of this, I was so scared of that. And it's like, dude, you're holding yourself to all these standards that don't matter. So, letting go of all these preconceived notions of what life should be, was a big thing to me. And then another thing is, as I said, is just letting go of those niches that make you comfortable. I found this niche. I did my thing in it, and I guess I've built some sort of, I would say, reputation through this thing, but that's just not me. And I felt so jailed by one aspect, like levitation to me is only 10% of what I want to do. And so learning that there's another 90 to 99% of the world that I still haven't discovered through doing video, through doing YouTube, they're doing more extra extracurricular activities that have nothing to do with photography, I think that's where life is. That's where the sauce is. That's where discovery is, and I was missing that for so long. So coming back to that was imperative through the COVID transition.

Pierre Lambert: Was it a break that made you get there or because I don't know. How was the situation? Tell us a little bit for anyone who doesn't know what the situation was like in New York; what forced you there?

Erick Hercules: New York itself just closed down, and I felt very jailed in my home. And first of all, I started realizing as somebody who gets older every year, you start missing nature, and you start missing the simple things in life. Like seeing your friends and family, all birthdays were through zoom. It's just not the same. And so it humbles you down, coming back to appreciate the little things, appreciating the moments, it made me realize how many moments are you not appreciating? Here you are trying to chase the dream or try to chase more clients or get this next big gig. Wait, hold on. What are you doing it all for? Are you really happy? Because you don't seem happy. You haven't been happy. What makes you happy? Maybe taking more time for yourself is going to make you happy. And you know what? I think it has. I think I'm happier now than I've been in the last three years. And I've also much more aware and open-minded toward the possibilities of life now more than ever.

Pierre Lambert: So yeah. I felt like the drive is a strange and double-edged sword in a way. You're like, I want to progress. I want to do this. It's great. Then you ask yourself why. And I think deep down we do have that idea of it's going to make my life better, make me feel different or bring me closer to some goal of achieving something, which for many, I've been there too, it's more like once I have that, I'll feel safe and happy. But nothing prevents you from doing that right now. There's this great story about a fisherman, and I think he's on the beach in Mexico or in a warm country. There's this businessman from New York who arrives, and he's like, see this guy come back with one tuna or one big fish.

He's like, “Wow, amigo, you got a lot of fish or a big fish, it's great. If you want, you can go back and catch more fish, and then you can make a little money. And the guy's like, oh cool, “For what?” Well then, once you make a little more money, you can hire someone else. And he goes fishing, and next thing you know, you can hire more people, and you can build a business around it, and he's said, “Okay. And then what do I do?” And then the guy's like, well then instead of going fishing, suddenly you manage this operation and all those people, and you make a lot of money, and it's great. You can buy those things. You can buy a house, et cetera. And the guy's like, okay. And then what happens? And then he's like, well, and then when you're older, you have all this money, you have this land, you have this house, and then you can retire and go fishing and spend time with your family. And the guy looks at him. He's like, “But that's what I'm doing already.”

Erick Hercules: Amen. I think you told me that last time as well. And it's so true, especially in America; I think we live in a very consumer society and a very goal-oriented society. Nothing is ever enough. You need to look at the propaganda deep inside of that. Why isn't it enough? Because you need more things because people need to sell more things to you. That's part of one of those existential crisis I had during COVID as well. Realizing I don't want to sell, here I am, trying to work against a man while working for the man. How does that even work? I'm trying to be my own business and like trying to live my own truth, while I'm stuck selling commercial campaigns full time. And it's didn't feel right, dude.

Pierre Lambert: I can only imagine, but you tap into an area where most of all won’t go because it gets very uncomfortable. How did you navigate through it? Or what did you have, something that brought you clarity or helped you along the way?

Erick Hercules: Well, I think my girlfriend and I started meditating and cooking a lot during the quarantine. I think those two were the beginning of me learning about extracurricular activities that actually made me feel good. But I think lately I have been microdosing if that's okay to say in the show. Microdosing, I'm in shrooms, and that's been transformative. It opens up the neuron pathways, talking about you see life in just one way. I think microdosing helps you see life in more than one way, and it shows you the options of what life can truly be and the options of what the possibilities can be if you just decided to take more ownership of everything around you and I wanted to take more ownership. I feel like I tried to escape something, got myself in another jail, and realized I don't want to go from jail to jail. I just want to be me. I want to do what I like. I want to show people that they can do it too. I want to liberate myself and, in return, liberate all my spectators. When they see my work, it's more than just selling sneakers. I wanted to give them the truth. I want to give them everything I've got as an artist.

Pierre Lambert: That makes sense. I love the tools you mentioned, the meditation part. I'm a big believer because I've been doing it. I think I started when I was in New York in 2016, a little bit before 2014, through Wim Hof and different things. But really, I got interested in different aspects back in New York. New York's such an interesting place, by the way. It's where everything happens, right? You have Walls Street with people that rule a certain part of the world. And then you have artists who are trying to break from that part, yet they're in the same environment. And then you have a few lost souls in the middle, and then you have people who are fully— let's call them enlightened or content with being in the middle of it. It's just a fascinating place. And cooking, which gives you an appreciation for what you're eating.

Erick Hercules: Amen. I'm the chopper at home. So I chop, my girlfriend is the director. She's a creative director. I love working under her; that was so humbling. And it was like, Erick, now's time to chop the veggie, and now you going to do this. It's like, let's go, babe. You do the thing, and I help. It's the essence of home and has become something very important. The act of doing nothing, if you're enjoying it, you're doing something. I think we forget about that in America, once again, a consumeristic society, what are you doing to get your career? What are you doing to get? It's too much. And maybe you're doing something that can actually help you, and you're going to come out more reflective and more positive and more tranquil towards life. And you're going to be able to approach these things such as work and business and whatever in a much more comfortable passive, and actually more secure way.

Pierre Lambert: It sounds like those difficult moments actually have a lot to teach us if we don't turn away from them.

Erick Hercules: The only way to learn is to go through difficulty. I mean, if you look at nature, in order for a tree to grow, it needs to fight through the ground. Anything that grows needs to fight through this uncomfortability of pushing, stretching, bending, but I think it's that and we need to normalize that for so long. Our survivalist instincts have pushed us away from that because we want to feel safe. What is safe really, it's you settling down, which, hey, you can feel safe, but if you really want the most out of life, get uncomfortable and make uncomfortability be a goal.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. It's a fine balance; I love going there. It's always that fine balance between and for a lot of people, it's like, I don't want to feel that way, but there's so much to be learned that after you've experienced a few times how much you can learn from those, it's like, oh, I look forward to this. I used to be stage frightened in a way, or when you have butterflies before you go speak. Or when you feel really heavy when you're a kid, or you have to do a recital, you have end of the year show or whatever. You're like, oh my God. At the time, you almost fear it, but now every time I have this come up, I'm like, oh, this is a good sign. Something exciting is coming up. It's like something that is not, as usual, is happening. What does it have to show me? Let's go, accept it. It's not like, oh no, I don't want to feel that. How do I suppress it? Should I take an anxiolytic or some medicine, drugs, or whatever to tone it down? No, just let it run its course.

Erick Hercules: That's part of maturity; in fact, you know what I discovered recently? So, 29 years and ten years, pretty much after I quit singing full time, I still sing at a church every Sunday for the last ten years since high school. They had a concert recently, and I realized that I've always feared singing in front of people. And I realized that I wasn't so meant to be an opera singer, simply because as a singer, as a performer, you need to have two skills: singing and performing. You don't need to have the best voice, but if you perform and own that stage, people would feel you're delivering this piece. You can have all the best voices in the world, but if you don't know how to perform, you're going to crack on stage or forget the words and whatever. Honestly, I realized that performing was one of my weaknesses. And also, learning to accept where you fall short is a big part of my growth. I realized that's a big part of why I didn't decide to do opera. Because I spoke to an opera friend of mine and she recently went through a hard time, and she said, “You know what, Erick, I went through this hard time, and all I can think about was singing.” And I saw her the next day after she had had this crazy evening the night before. And she was singing in a concert, and she killed it. She did her thing. I felt her soul through that mic. And it was so interesting because then you realize a lot of us are hardwired to do something, and it's finding out what calls you. So when you're in despair and when there's nothing going for you, what is it that's keeping that light at the end of the tunnel lit up for you? For me, I found out that it's photography and community building and helping people. I love that. So whenever I get into these difficult scenarios learning like, oh my God, where does my heart go immediately? Oh, trying to help somebody or trying to do photography or challenge myself through these. So it's discovering these aspects that lead you to the light of the tunnel. It's interesting; there's so much growth that can come out of this art. So I think I wanted attention and now I'm indifferent topic, but that's the way life is.

Pierre Lambert: No, it's okay, we can go on our conversation. This is just like our life path isn't linear. Right?

Erick Hercules: Amen.

Pierre Lambert: Conversations are never… which kind of is frustrating for my wife sometimes. She's like, how did you guys go on six topics within five minutes? And then you're coming back to it, like 30 minutes later.

Erick Hercules: I'm one of those two. I'm happy that I don't feel allowed.

Pierre Lambert: I know. It's great, and I love it. I actually love it. If you guys are still following, that's beautiful. I'll pin down what you mentioned with the microdosing part and for anyone listening who's interested. I will get someone on the podcast around the use of psychedelics and creativity and how it's being used. It has been used because it's nothing new. It has been used for many thousands of years. And, also what studies were made in the seventies and what's the status today, because it's come up basically more mainstream right now. And it's something I discovered in recent years, and it's a fascinating topic. So we'll dig into that one, Erick. I'll let you know when it's out; I'm sure you'd be interested.

Erick Hercules: I'm highly interested. I'm still new to the subject, but I can appreciate any form of extra education. You've already sent me a couple of playlists. Maybe you can tag the playlist you sent me on your other podcast because Pierre knows what's up, guys.

Pierre Lambert: I'm just a very curious human being. And what that means is that anything that grabs my attention for a little bit, I'm going down the rabbit hole on a lot of things. And there's a lot to be learned from plants and fungi, from our friends around.

Erick Hercules: Watch this show, Fantastic Fungi on Netflix; we had this conversation last time. Must watch Fantastic Fungi on Netflix. Watch it today.

Pierre Lambert: Whether you're creative or not, it's oh my God. The visuals are insane all the time lapses. So I want to bring on the director, Louis Schwartzberg, who directed and shot all those time-lapses and directed the documentary. So I want to try to bring him on the podcast; it should be interesting. If you haven't seen it honestly right now, just pause whatever you're doing, write it down “Fantastic Fungi.” We'll link it in the show notes. You're going to have a blast and take a glass of red wine or chill with your wife and just look at it on the big screen. The magic of life comes through it because we're not able to see time-lapses with our eyes. If you look at that plant, you think nothing happens. But then, if you look at it through a time-lapse of several days, you're like, oh my God, the thing is dancing. It's alive and doing so many things. Let's dive into the completely 180. I want to hear a little bit about how you've seen the NFT space and what does it mean for us as creatives and also for everyone else?

Erick Hercules: It's unbelievable, man. First and foremost, it's a highly volatile ground right now. It's a wild, wild west of the century, perhaps and this decade. What I'm much more excited about than little JPEGs, although there's a lot of art that is beautiful, it's the technology behind the smart contract aspect. The fact that we're essentially democratizing the economic side of creativity and it's favoring now the artists, the people that have been putting in the work for the last three, four centuries. For so long, I think the economic side of being an artist has always been regarded as we're at the bottom of the totem pole. We're the least important. You don't really have any value, but now more and more, we understand the validity and the usefulness of art and the power of ourselves in this economic market. If you look at the big companies like Apple or any big faction brand, they wouldn't be the brands they are today without great marketing, storytellers, illustrators, designers, photographers, and animators. These are the people that sell the vision forward. We are communicators by design. The way that I see NFT, and the NFT spaces, it's a way to essentially give equity back to these creatives who at times get undersold or underpaid. I've done a lot of agency work before, and I'm within a common agency; we're trying to redefine how creatives and brands work. And so the biggest thing for me has been the fact that we have collaborated with some of the world's biggest creatives. And when you look into their pricing structure, you realize, oh my God, are you really charging that much for all this work? You're getting so underpaid, I've seen companies charge, you know, big agencies, charge companies $300,000 for like a video. And they pay the crew 50K, and they just made 250K off this video. And it's unbelievable. Where does the money go? It goes to the middleman. It goes to people that have high-level ideas but don't really execute. And so what we're seeing right now is democratization of artists getting what they deserve and actually people supporting the artists that make it happen. So the way I see it is in the future, even though agency or creative working for big companies, what we're talking about is smart contracts that will essentially bypass the middleman. So instead of you, as an artist getting 80%, maybe now you might be looking at 90, you might be looking at 95, and if you're really good, you might get the whole pie if you know how to build a structure around you. And so these systems that have been for so long within these bigger structures, as a corporation or as a big agency or as a big music label, have now been democratized in smart contracts so that we, as creatives, are able to use them and forget about it. Because if somebody uses our NFT or buys our NFT or sells our NFT, we're getting some equity back; we're getting 5% back forever. And so, to me, that's just transformative, and I'm super excited for the space.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I'm equally interested to see how it's going to evolve. I ran my own experiment with NFT, where I was just having fun with a project that was dear to my heart. By now, I've actually resent the money to all the collectors the Ethereum because I decided to stop it. And I'm like, cool. You collected it. You keep it. Here is your money. The rest of the project disappears. This is unique. There are only six pieces that will ever exist in this space. The rest has been destroyed.

Erick Hercules: It's pretty cool, though, the volume and hype, so congratulations.

Pierre Lambert: We'll see if it's interesting, but I just love the message behind it, but I keep asking myself the question because it's impossible to predict what will happen. But where does the space go? Because part of me, a little afraid, looking at it from the lens where we used to have gatekeepers in galleries, and that model came up because it was a lot of volumes and people wanted curation, right? And so people who wanted to invest didn't want to have to go through every single artist that is selling something in the street. So they're like, okay, those people, I'm going to give them money. And they're going to find the people that they think are worth something. And I can't help but think in a way, as much as we're democratizing, I feel like we are welcome back somehow to a mall where there are some bigger gatekeepers. And I know the message in that community is all about, no, it's decentralized, it's blah, blah, blah. But if you are no one and you're putting in NFT, you still won't get discovered unless you are doing marketing. It doesn't matter. You still have to do that marketing aspect, and you still have to build your brand in a way or mingle with the right communities, with the right people to get to people who want to collect actually. So what is really different about the space, according to you?

Erick Hercules: That's a very good point. But I think as an entrepreneur, and I think all creatives who are making money out of their art or their service are entrepreneurs. So you should look at yourself as an entrepreneur. And so an entrepreneur owns a company, and a company needs to do their marketing; whether you like it or not, a company needs to be out there. A company needs to do partnerships and needs to do branding positioning. And so that is just another thing that we need to add as creatives. The beautiful thing is now, and art has become more collaborative. So I've seen a lot of art, like musicians with digital 3d animators and photographers. They're all partnering on one project, which is so beautiful. So, that is opening up the possibilities, so art in itself, to me honestly, is flourishing. And now, the sky's the limit, you're adding some of the world's best 4d, animators that have worked at all these, the top agencies with the top brands in the world now come in along and like just doing 4d animations with some of the world's best photographers or best musicians. So it's like a lot of great Renaissance art is about to be put out. So that's beautiful. You were talking about communities, but also, this is what I like about it because the way I see it is to imagine if we had NFTs back in the seventies or eighties with the great Warhols and Basquiats of the world, right? What you're essentially doing is so Basquiat, essentially a lot of his work was owned through a gallery. So the gallery took a lot of the take. What you're essentially doing is you're not going to the gallery; you're going directly to Basquiat and saying, “Hey, if I purchased this painting for $10,000, here it is, I get your painting, and now I have a digital license thing. So that means that every time I sell it, Mr. Basquiat is going to be rich with me.” So it is to both of our pleasure to keep supporting each other and build this well; you bought a piece for me. So, If you really like my art, you're going to keep supporting me, or you're going to talk to your friends about me. And in return, I'm going to do more art and better art. So the price of the art you have will go up in price. So I think it's democratizing what Sotheby's has been doing forever. And it's bringing back more of that money that Sotheby's tends to keep or the collector that flips. It tends to keep and give some of that money back to the creative, which in turn fuels a creative to focus on doing the art and not selling themselves on doing brain work to pay the rent. I don't think we've ever had that leverage ever, so that's transformative. The fact that we don't have to sell out as artists give us a lot of leverage to fight back and say, you know what? I don't need to work on this project or be undervalued because brands know, Hey, here's the big logo, so work super cheaply on it. So that then you can probably get better clients, thanks to you working with us for this super little price, and I think that's slavery, man. That's so unfair.

Pierre Lambert: It's unfair when you're not at the beginning anymore. But when you're already creating good stuff, it's totally unfair. You're like, uh, no, that's not right. I know my art. I know my value.

Erick Hercules: But how wonderful would it be if a big brand calls up a young artist and instead of pitching them, “Hey, here's a pair of shoes.” Actually, give them what's the standard for an artist. Otherwise, they can't work with an artist. I mean, I think this might be too generalized, and I don't think we might get there at least in my lifetime. But I wish I could see some more of that respect and equivalence when they do treat artists. Because once again, artists are very important to the nature of marketing and telling a story. And finally, now we're learning how to value or price and our place in this market correctly.

Pierre Lambert: I think it definitely teaches a lot of people. The value that people perceive as to art is not what necessarily is, which is beautiful because when you look at the pricing on NFTs and stuff, yes, they might be a bubble, and yes, 90% or 99% might go to zero, but it still shows you that if enough people decide that this is valuable, it will be. And I'll just add, in a way, we're all building this metaverse or this parallel universe digitally. And artists are the ones building it. In a way, it's you have the engineers also, but visually who's gonna be there? Who's going to create those things that you see and that you experience. And I think it's almost like you could be creating new earth in a way. And as an artist, you have it taken what it's gonna look like. So it could be an interesting space for sure. Are you getting involved personally in it?

Erick Hercules: Yeah, man. So I have my first NFT collection dropping this December 4th. It's going to be 50 pieces. Ten of them are going to be high profile campaign stuff that I've done, or high profile artists, like the Jabbawockeez or like Steve Aoki or something, Levitating something. And then the other 40 pieces are going to be divided like 10 or 15 from one part of levitation. So there are four techniques that I've developed. The first was just like people levitating, which was the easiest than another one with Matthew Forge, but like dancers levitating. So that one is a lot more playing with angles and switching reality, which is a little bit more complex. I've been shooting at least 70,000 pairs of shoes in my career. I have a bunch of shoes that have never been released, like shoe photography that has never been released or a lot of shoe stuff that never really made it into the commercial stuff, but I still really like it. Each one of those is going to come out. So the 40 regular-priced photos will be NFTs coming with a photo signed 1 of 1. And then my next ten ones will be coming with a metal print signed 1 of 1. But that's another thing with NFTs; you get to add more value more than the JPEG. Because a lot of people are like, you just show it up on your phone, and that's all you get or like show it off on your computer. No, a lot of it's such a new venture, so we can add and do whatever we want with this transaction. People who invest in us, we get to say how we give them things. So, for example, I'm going to release a class later this year and Levitations. So I'm planning on people that buy the high-end NFTs will also get first dibs into my class. And maybe I have a bunch of like presets coming out too, so they might get the presets as well. So like I get to give so much, and I also get support so much. So it's a win-win transaction for both my collectors and myself. That's something so beautiful about NFTs.

Pierre Lambert: That's true. And I actually see it with the fact that I want to send the ETH back to people who got it. And I want them to keep it, and I can change, which is something If I had put in a gallery if it was with a third party or whatever. I wouldn't have that control, know who really got it, I wouldn't be able to tell some agency or whatever. “Hey, we're just gonna like send everything back to people because I want to thank them for I'm actually super grateful for them even considering investing, which is not a small amount into my art, into what I created.” Especially because it's been very different from what I put out there for the rest of those years before what people know me for. And that's what you see that community talking about, where you can create a community with your collectors; you can send them whatever you want in a way. And I get to do that, which I would have never imagined with anything else. Even if you were to ship a print, yeah, I could refund you, but it doesn't have the same aspect as your part of this community because I see you live in that virtual space versus I ship your print. I have no clue whatever happened to your print.

Erick Hercules: Yeah, there's a connection.

Pierre Lambert: Now you can see it in real life, I mean, in digital real life, and it's validated that this is a piece that was owned by XYZ and someone asked me, actually, that could be interesting for you too. The other day, they're like, “Hey, do you still do sign your prints and stuff?” I'm like, I still haven't found a good way to make it look good and for me to print because my signature is like trash. And I haven't found a way, so a lot of fine art things that give certificates, but I'm like, “You don't need certificates anymore. You just give an NFT.” There you go, that's your certificate of authenticity. You have that one-of-one NFT with the one-of-one print or one of 10, and if you can show that you have the NFT, then that's, that's your proof right there, that you are the original owner. And I was like, oh, that's completely shifted. Totally awesome. I love how it's going. There are so many use cases, and I couldn't sleep when I started brainstorming more of that.

Erick Hercules: Oh man. Once you see the light, it's very hard for you to look at life the same way again. Another use case is a lot of musicians. One of my friends, Ali, just released his album, and he made a lot of money, but he also gave a lot. He gave a 4D animation of his studio. So you're able to put it in your phone, and you're actually walking through his studio. And then, all the people that bought it have access to his album. He got pretty much royalty from that album. And if they sell it, he will forever have royalty off that album. That's such a powerful thing. You completely just overrode the record label and record deal in which they give you money, which you have to pay back. And then, they take 80% or something of everything else you ever make in your whole life. And the fact that he gets to take all of it is just a win-win to me. And he gets to package it the way he wants it. So it's just remarkable.

Pierre Lambert: Sorry, it just struck something. Imagine everyone, here's a billion-dollar idea. You know, Spotify, right? Decentralizing all their tracks and everything and licensing. Now imagine everyone's like kind of their own licenser and decentralized, but with web 3.0, anyone can connect their wallets, right? So you have a platform that's decentralized, basically a window into the ownerships of all tracks that exist. And you connected your wallet, right? And you have a library, and you bought that art from artists. Now imagine, like artists with smart contracts, every time your track is played, you get X amount, or you get X percent or whatever. I don't exactly know where that X comes from yet, but you could imagine where it doesn't have to go through Spotify. It literally goes directly through to the people who own the track and to the artist directly and it's fascinating.

Erick Hercules: That's exactly what it is: democratization builds more opportunity and more equity for the artists. That's why I couldn't sleep for the last two weeks as well. I mean, it is a very exciting time. I think this time artists started coming at its full floors, and from my second agency from INCMMN, there have been times where like I had to speak to clients and say, “Hey, by the way, you wanna hire this creative?” That's part of the team. That's awesome. But just so you know, they're charging this amount because they're making more money off with NFTs than they are with you right now. So you really have to learn how to give back to creatives. Otherwise, it won't work for you, and that's such powerful leverage we didn't have before. So it's a new world we're living in here, it's exciting.

Pierre Lambert: It is very exciting. I'm very curious to see, I pulled back a little bit from it because I was getting sucked in too hard, but I'm very excited to see what happens. And how that takes us. I'm gonna jump back to the microdosing part because I think I need to make a public announcement. If you do experiment with psychedelic shrooms, be very mindful and understand the risk rewards and everything else around it. It's gonna be beautiful tools, but they're also extremely powerful. So just be careful; it's like taking a sports car for the first time; you can easily crash into a wall without real life you accelerated.

Erick Hercules: Yeah. So this is not medical advice. Everything we spoke about here today, and I guess we take no responsibility, but just do the most adultish thing you can.

Pierre Lambert: Adults are like big kids. It's bad advice. I'm joking. Adults are the ones screwing up the world now joking. No, I just wanted to highlight that because it can be incredibly good tools, but I think just like with everything, there needs to be an understanding of what you're working with and how you're working with. It's very different from the narrative that we've been fed where you think you're going to see fireflies and dragons and unicorns running around you with the wall; it's very, very different.

Erick Hercules: So something I'll always remember is that you told me Pierre was in order for you to be untethered. First, you need to explore tethered or something like that. In which like you have to ground yourself a lot more. And this is why I highly recommend meditating before having a journal and journaling before being in a good emotion while exploring these journeys and having a purpose for your journey because you can go out there and just live it off and let it flow. But I think it's a good idea there are cases where people have stopped smoking or stopped drinking or stopped doing heroin after four or five guided trips with mushrooms. So it is so powerful, but I would recommend for people to have an idea of where they want to go and work through that as they are on this journey.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. And most of the success stories you hear are from people who work in a psycho-assisted psychotherapy context. So you, you have to put stuff in perspective. You can obviously, do what you want in life, it's up to you and your responsibility and depending on the legalities in your country also, but interesting tools to say the least to be taken with caution for sure. I will tap a little bit more into something that's next for you with you, Erick, in terms of creative work because you've redefined or reworked on like what you're doing. Are you planning to pull back of the commercial? You want to get more involved in the community, and maybe you can speak a little bit about what work you've been doing there because I feel like you're very involved in helping others find a path, either as artists or just like people. How do we navigate?

Erick Hercules: The last few months have been elemental in terms of putting the pieces together for all these things that I think I told you that I haven't done, that I feel it in my heart to do. I've helped think I can comfortably say hundreds of creatives, but ones in which we look through their business, contracts, branding position name, like, Hey, you need a new bio or like, Hey, you've done all these great things. But you haven't shown them correctly. I want these artists to shine. But I realized I could help so many more people and at a grandeur level. So I want to start a YouTube talking about the business of being creative, talking about the ways that you should look into yourself as a brand, as an entrepreneur, things that have cost me so much, so many sleepless nights, so much pain and so much money loss.

But I've learned through these experiences, and I would love to see a 14, 15-year-old kid not commit the same mistakes that I did coming up in this business. So, YouTube is a must. We just finished shooting the last episodes for my Levitation class. So I want to give it all back. There are no secrets here. I want to be as helpful to other people in finding their art or adding more toolkits to their art form. So my Levitation class will be coming this December, so that's finalizing. And design the NFT collection, which I've been putting my heart and soul into for the last two weeks. And in terms of long-term goals, I am still building INCMMN. And I did take a little bit of time away from that as I was building all these things around my intellectual property that I felt I needed to give out and put into the world.

But coming back to INCMMN, I want to help more creatives through that. I really want to compete against these big agencies and bring more money back into the creatives pockets, and do better work with creatives. The beautiful thing with INCMMN is what we're doing is also bringing more money back to communities. So you see, the business model for regular agencies is 80 – 20, which 80% of the money that comes in is pretty much revenue. So they use it for their billing, insurances and offices, and all those extra costs, but we're dealing with entrepreneurs of their own now. So it's like dealing with all these young, or not even young, world-level creatives from all over the world who can produce agency-level work.

And so what that allows us to do is to use this 80%. So flip the script, instead of 20% being spent on creatives, we're spending probably 90% on creatives and ten on educating the creatives, but reinvesting this money back into creatives. And with that money, we still have enough to be able to give back to communities. So, one thing that I just did with Red Bull and my good friend Mattis from the 76ers two months ago, as we just decided to go on a photo walk. We produced a photo walk, and photos taken during the photo walk are repurchased and put into a gallery in Lapstone & Hammer, like this high-end boutique store in Philly, for everybody to see for a couple of days. So it's shining a light on creatives once again, shining a light on communities once again, and instead of utilizing all this money and funneling it and then just doing one thing we can actually afford now through this different way of doing business, to invest back into communities, to educate more kids, to create agencies in the middle of underserved communities and have all these young creatives and want to be creatives learn Photoshop, photography, film, have speakers. And I guess I am well connected now in the world of art, so I can bring in artists or athletes or big players in the game to talk about just like you and I are doing now on their beginnings, travels, journeys, and experiences so that young kids can learn from them. And I think that's super important that we see a lot of brands say they do, but it's just a PR stunt, and I'm telling you this cause I've seen it. I am a commercial photographer, I've been there.

Pierre Lambert: It's like greenwashing.

Erick Hercules: And I'm tired of that, man. And if we're going to move it forward, we can't only speak about it; we have to do it. I'm working with a lot of companies, and Red Bull has been an incredible partner to get these things moving and get these things done and actually move the pendulum forward and educate these kids because that's the best form of marketing. Honestly, it's not even selling your product, but it's actually helping other people out, and a few brands see that. So I hope more people see that. And more, more brands invest in projects like INCMMN.

Pierre Lambert: That's amazing. I love it, especially because you and I, we've talked about that a little bit, even for just myself where you get used to charging X, do you think that's it. And then I talked with you and two other people in New York, and suddenly I'm like, “Whoa, you're not charging enough, dude.” I can't be charging more, interesting. Okay. Let's send them double of what they were proposing. I was like, okay, I'm going to give them like 30% more, which sounded okay. But I still felt it was low. And then I'm like, okay, let's go like I'm an agency. And if you think about it as if you were an agency, even if you are less people, suddenly you're like, whoa, okay. Let's say Adobe contracts an agency, and then that agency pays you; Adobe is already throwing so much money at the agency. And that agency's goal now is to get it as cheap as possible with the best results, depending on what kind of contract they have with the agency. But even if it's a contract where Adobe gives them a $100k budget, and those agencies in Adobe are like, you get 20% out of that budget. Their goal is going to be spending that budget as much as possible, but not necessarily on creatives; it could be on many things.

Erick Hercules: You pointed out something useful, which you said, itemizing it in a sense, and that's the thing that I've realized. I developed a system, and now we've included it in common with most of our artists, but it's called the Leverage Sheet. What I do is all my experiences, all my previous clients, all of the things I have to bring to the table, because remember when you're a photographer or creative, you're not just a photographer or creative, you're producing it. You're art directing it. You're creative directing it. You might be scouting. You might even be the post-production editing. All these are different elements, right? All of these are different elements that agencies charge by the hour sometimes or by the project. And if you start itemizing all these things and then having conversations with companies or brands that want to work with you with an itemized perspective of like “Oh, you want to do a photoshoot?

Oh, so you want me to produce it? You want me to scout it? You also want me to do the creative direction and come up with the idea. Oh, okay. All of these things are a different budget because that's how agencies work. And guess what? People are not going to treat you like, well, who the hell does this person think he is? But they're actually gonna treat you with more respect because now you know exactly, what you're talking about. You're talking about all the different tools and systems you use to create the beautiful image you do, the beautiful work you do. So it's all about learning that lingo from a business perspective. So you can show these companies the ROI. That's why he or she costs so much. Because the issue, I think is at times, is very polar because there are artists that don't know how to charge enough because they think like, “Oh my God, but I'm just shooting a photo.” No, you're doing all these things that you told you about. And then there are other artists who are like, yeah, it's gonna be a $100k. And you're like, explain to me why that's a $100k, and then they can't explain it to you. And then they look like assholes. Whatever ego. So the thing is bringing it back, talking directly. And I've always listened; I don't want to overcharge. And I want to charge what's right. I want to charge through all the work that I've done, and you see the kind of quality that you're working with, and you see how my productions work. I just want to charge what's fair. I want you to pay me what's fair. I want you to be a happy customer. And that's I think where good transactions and a good, long-term business partnership can exist. But if you're trying to take and they're trying to take, a world full of takers just leads to nothing. And I don't like living in that world.

Pierre Lambert: Yeah. It's like someone put it for me. It's a word of just trying to extract, extract, extract, but you give nothing. It's a great point. That's something I always saw like, okay, you're ready to pay this. How do we make sure you get value out of it? And sometimes it takes, especially if you're creative and you have an audience to just think for a few seconds if you work with a phone brand, and they have a thousand dollars phone, and you created a campaign, how many people do you need to influence to actually for them to make a positive? Alright. When you think about it, their thousand dollars phone is already with including all their margins, right? So if you take that price and you influence ten people out of, I don't know, thousands that watch your video, you already made money back.

You're already at $10k, and you influence ten people to buy it potentially. And when you think about it like that, you're like, oh, it doesn't make sense. Sometimes how little one might charge for certain commercial and influence work. And it makes sense why bigger people charge so much in a way, because after a while after you stay long enough in the game, you start to understand the value behind it. In the beginning. I think you don't see. That's why you see a lot of talk around micro-influence influencers who are better because obviously, it's cheaper when people don't really know their worth at the beginning.

Erick Hercules: And brand partnership is a thing too. We need to look at ourselves. As I said before, you are a brand. If you're a business, you're a brand, and you represent something. So it's redefining what you represent and what kind of brand do you want to align yourself with? The way I've always looked at myself is I want to be an Apple in my business. How can I look at myself as an Apple within this industry? Oh, my website needs to be flawless; my email signature needs to be flawless. The marketing behind it needs to be flawless. My presentation needs to be flawless when I communicate with people, and I need to communicate this way. It's so much more than just the picture, you know, it's the whole experience around the business. And, that's exactly the way that you should look at yourself going forward as a creative; if you're listening, think of yourself as a brand and aim for the stars.

Pierre Lambert: I think that's great. Look at yourself like an experience, Erick. I like what you're saying, bringing an experience, not just the art. That's true. It's very, very true. I love it. I want to be mindful of our time. I think we'll put a hold here and keep some for a future episode, especially after, in a few months, I'll be curious to see where things have gone with new directions and everything. And New York coming back to life also was incredibly busy, by the way.

Erick Hercules: It's crazy, right?

Pierre Lambert: Now. I'm like, where are all those people coming from? Are they hiding on the ground?

Erick Hercules: And it's cold now, too. People are still coming out like it's the 1960s.

Pierre Lambert: That's amazing. Erick, it's such a pleasure to talk to you. I'd love to do around two in the future so we can dig into more aspects. Maybe if you guys have any questions about what we talked about, we'll put the link in the description. I'll put a few links around topics that maybe we didn't dive into but I think are good to explore. Erick, what a blast!

Erick Hercules: Pierre, thank you so much for having me and for everybody that listened through these. That's a lot, and it's an hour through this long period. It's a pleasure to talk to you, Pierre. Thank you so much for having me and always being such a good friend and thank you to everybody listening.

Pierre Lambert: If you had to leave people with a thought for the post COVID world, or actually, we don't even know if there will be a post after we think we're all going to die.

Erick Hercules: I can get very philosophical really quick now. But at the end of the day, I think it's a mix of what are you doing and who are you doing it for? And are you happy? And if those three things you get to solve those three things, I think you'll find out a lot about the purpose of what you're doing and why you're doing it. And hopefully, that leads you in a direction that is keener to your sensibility as a human, not just as somebody who wants to do whatever on this earth, because there's much more than that. I think the purpose of your being is powerful. So dig in for that.

Pierre Lambert: I love it. Thank you so much, Erick. Everyone, Erick Hercules, you'll find everything in the show notes. Go say “Hi” on Instagram and all the different platforms.

The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast is where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories. Enjoy & spread the word to your friends about this podcast! Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 1,000,000 people. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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