About The Artist
"This is an amazing time to be alive. We’re having a renaissance of thinking within the realm of ideas & discussion through podcasts. That’s the cutting edge of culture for me & that’s where I want to be."
Tim Allen was born in SE England and studied Zoology at Leeds University where he feels his mind and social sphere really exploded. In his third year he organised a trip to study Dragonflies in Sulawesi, Indonesia, spending time with indigenous tribes, some of which hadn’t had prior external human contact. “I ended up scrapping all my research, made it all up and wrote a dictionary of their words instead.” This experience perhaps more than any set him on a path of documenting unique human stories through photography and with his talent and dedication he’s forged a genuinely remarkable career.
"The Bitcoin Movement is the only thing worth concerning yourself with at the moment. Bitcoiners are the real truth seekers. "
Whilst still in Indonesia, one of his Zoology mates heard about Bali. They dropped by for two weeks on the way home and their jaws dropped when they saw Kuta Beach with its pot smoking hippies and surfers. It was the first time he was exposed to really heterodox ideas and realised backpacking around the world was an option. He was hooked.
After returning to the UK he finished his dissertation, saved up money and flew straight back out to Indo with some friends. He ended up doing about two years backpacking around SE Asia and it blew his mind to smithereens, living with a Buddhist teacher for a year of that. As a results perhaps, Tim’s thinking has always remained pretty open.
A CAREER IN PHOTOGRAPHY
On returning from travelling Tim enrolled on a local night-class diploma in photography. The world he slipped into after coming back from SE Asia remained full of hippies and he’d set up a mobile library of esoteric literature, planting it in fields at Festivals and gatherings around the country, photographing the alternative life and characters around him.
"I phoned an Aid Organisation to ask if I could photograph a trip to Bosnia. They asked if I could drive a lorry? I lied & said yes. I ended up driving to Mostar three times & photographing everything. "
“In the Bosnian War, people that looked like me were fighting people that looked like me. Mostar was annihilated and I realised how quickly that kind of thing could happen at any moment in any society. One day, people were going to the market and the next there’s a war. I think we’re seeing a version of that now with COVID, we’re seeing people accept bizarre and unusual things in their lives and just going with it. It’s disturbing.”
He showed his portfolio of Bosnia and all his weird and wonderful mates to someone who’d come to give a talk at the local college he was enrolled in. They said, “Look, you’re onto something here”. The next thing he knew he was set up with a meeting in London and within a month he was working at the Sunday Telegraph. “It was all bizarre and very fast.” He went on to do commissions for most of the UK Broadsheet Press and become feature and portrait photographer for The Independent for six years.
"I worked for newspapers for 7yrs. It’s easy to spin a narrative or half truth without even realising it, simply because that’s what you’re asked for. There’s propaganda in everything. "
Tim joined Axiom Photographic Agency in 2002 leading him to cover a dynamic and broad spectrum of global stories with subjects ranging from the civil war in the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia, to the intriguing subculture of The World Taxidermy Championships in Springfield, Illinois.
Beginning in 2009 the BBC commissioned him to work on the landmark series Human Planet. For two years he was in charge of the production’s photography at a time when DSLRs were adopting HD film capabilities. This meant his job included shooting film footage and multimedia content as well as the photos used in the programme’s worldwide publicity. A best selling book and a touring photographic exhibition flowed from this.
In recent years his work’s taken him to diverse corners of the globe, from 19000ft up in the Himalayas to 40m beneath the South China Sea as well as projects within communities in the Arctic, tropical rain forests and deserts.
He’s been working in Mongolia for the last 12 years amongst nomadic people. “It’s been a great honour.” They have very strong communities, very sovereign communities. They’re very self sufficient. They basically move with their animals and don’t need the outside world. If the world collapses, the irony is, it’s these primitive nomadic societies that’ll most likely survive, not the most technologically advanced ones.
"Being nomadic is part of everyone. We’ve always moved around & colonised new regions. "
I’ve done a migration every year for seven years with the same Mongolian family – 300km over the Altai Mountains in winter. Originally I shot it as a story and then took paying clients to do the same thing.
"Wealthy individuals were paying me to put them through hell, walking across Mongolia’s Altai mountains at -40 degrees."
He’s seen more and more people actively putting hardship back into their lives to give them more meaning. Too much money can take away your need to strive and struggle and that can be detrimental he feels. A meaningful existence allows you to traverse all your other experiences, deaths, births, marriages, ennui etc.
“I’ve always hung out with the plebs. At big fancy events, I’ll end up out back talking to the guy serving the drinks. That’s where the fun is. It’s like on the Titanic, the lower deck’s where Jack’s dancing on the tables with the girl from upstairs.”
"In wealthy society, there’s a certain lack of meaning, which has been replaced by consumerism."
PROOF OF WORK
The purpose or meaning of life that religion provided is largely lost in our secular modern lives. We’re realising that our hypernormalised fiat world is in many ways based upon lies and deception. In a way perhaps, the very ‘meaning’ we crave today is analagous to Bitcoin’s ‘Proof of Work’ – an honest ledger that more and more of us put our faith into.
Most people think Bitcoin wastes energy but if you can communicate to people why a deflationary economy is so imperative right now and why proof of work is the only logical way to secure it’s network, it validates the energy use to almost any degree.
"As a tool of oppression, the Environmental Movement is very powerful – in the same way health’s been used as a tool of oppression during COVID."
RICHARD JAMES COLLAB
The pressing need to communicate these ideas led him to contact Richard James to collaborate on a ‘Proof of Work’ documentary which is now firmly the works. They’re generating the content from scratch with contributions from many others.
"Proof of work is the fundamental invention of Bitcoin for me. What we’re trying to do is create a film that illustrates this. "
Tim’s done around 40 hours of talking to people so far – from big names Bitcoiners, to plebs, builders and sustainable agriculture guys like @untappedgrowth. He’s still got plenty more people to talk to but the narrative is emerging. There’s three main sections: Why is Bitcoin important? Why is proof of work the only way to secure the network & What does the world look like under a Bitcoin Standard?
"In many ways it’s a very simple film but communicating big ideas through film isn’t easy. Proof of work is a journey of understanding."
When you ask people about ‘Proof of Work’, you get everything across the spectrum from: It’s the bridge between the digital and the physical. It’s the bridge between the physical and the spiritual. As a concept, it’s a lot deeper than it appears on the surface. Proof of work’s in the technology all around us. Literally everything is proof of work – from plastics to the wheel . . . we stand on the shoulders of giants everyday.
Tim’s realised his skill set is about communicating, getting the right words out of people and directing the narrative. What Richard is unbelievably talented at is visualising what that might look like as a film and and sourcing that content.
"I’ve been on a film making journey over the years & seen many changes. Aerial filming used to involve hiring a helicopter with a cineflex camera – now a £500 drone shoots better footage. "
The way Richard took @BitcoinAudible’s reading of ‘Anatomy of The State’ and turned it into a film in a few months just blew Tim’s mind. If Netflix wanted that film, it would be a team of eight people working on it for God knows how long.
Legacy media is a behemoth. “If I had an idea for a film, I’d need to approach people to get it funded – you’re talking start to finish three years. Richard made ‘Anatomy of The State’ in a few months. I don’t know how legacy media competes with that. On the whole Richard uses older footage but you can use a certain number of seconds of footage of anything as long as it’s on topic. As far as I know, he’s almost invented a new genre of film making. It’s arisen out of podcasts and the amount of sublime spoken content out there that you can cut into a film -it’s amazing.”
"Podcasting won because it’s long form & decentralised. If you record a podcast and release it via RSS feed – it’s uncensorable."
Tim’s optimistic we’ll see more and more Creatives with a Bitcoin safety net who’ve built the self confidence to speak truth to authority, corruption and lies. They’ll be able to make the films they want to make with less need to source revenue. A David vs Goliath battle with MSM on truth may ensue. That’s the kind of Creative vision people should aspire to – with no one destroying their vision because no one else is paying for it.
"If you’re a Bitcoiner & you can last four years, you should be alright. If you can last eight years, you’ll definitely be alright."
Tim’s career has spanned the analogue, through to the Digital Age. When he started there was no digital world and now practically everything is. He feels he’s lost ownership over much of his content, that it’s been inevitable and that a form of micropayment has always been necessary. It’s simply not existed before now but that the Lightning Network genuinely might fix this. “We need a system where if I view your photo online, you receive a tiny micropayment from me. I imagine it’ll be automated, with apps paying apps.”
A BETTER FUTURE
Bitcoin’s a movement with this beautiful aspect of greed mixed in – a movement that makes you individualistic. It’s rules are very simple, moralistic and positive. You could almost argue we’re witnessing the birth of a new religion with a set of moral principles. Do do good to people, don’t lie, speak the truth, think long term, solve problems properly not with a sticking plaster. It inspires really interesting changes in people, most notably it makes people start thinking more longer term, short term thinking being the scourge of our current system he believes.
"Long term thinking’s cool again & personal responsibility is the counterculture. It’s gone 360 since the 60s. "
Tim’s been a regular commentator on TV and Radio, appearing in films, documentaries and a popular lecture tour for the Royal Geographical Society. He’s also ran workshops and expeditions for photographers and filmmakers. In 2016 a photography scholarship award was set up in his name in conjunction with the Sharjah Government Media Bureau. Each year the Timothy Allen Photography Scholarship Award (TAPSA) is awarded to 5 photographers from around the world and includes a 10 day trip to the United Arab Emirates to work alongside him.
Tim’s level of self-deprecation is ridiculous. The way someone with his wealth of unique human experience & insight has thrown himself into Bitcoin – it’s immensely bullish.
Check out his work, blog from the BBC Series and more at Humanplanet.com and on Twitter at @mrtimothyallen