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Discovering the world through photography is one of the greater blessings of technology and modern society, for several reasons. We are able to virtually explore breathtaking and distinctive environments across the globe by simply tapping into an image which is readily shared by another explorer, giving us a unique glimpse into the paths of people from all walks of life. We document our own personal experiences and capture images in ways that truly resonate with our understanding of a time and place, and the history and anticipation which surrounds it. Photography transcends form and composition, palette and lighting in other art forms because it is perhaps the most visceral, vulnerable, and powerful medium we have at our fingertips. And as travel and photography itself becomes more readily available, so too do the perspectives of billions of lives across the globe.
Travel photography has always earned its stature as a genre set apart from the rest. And through it, we have discovered mesmerising wonders, cultivated a passion for the unknown and unfamiliar, began a love affair with the surreal yet vividly present. We have triggered revolutions and activist movements through taking pictures, spurring both love, hate, protest, solidarity, and unity. But most of all, we have found a spectacular way to experience the world and reveal it in ways that are unparalleled. And perhaps this is why our own experience with photography is so intimate when we venture out into the open, and decide to expose ourselves as we attempt to disclose the spirit of another time and place.
Your Own Journey
Travel photography bears its own philosophy. Like virtually all styles of photography, it is controversial. It is sensitive. One shot can single-handedly spark a poignant reaction among viewers, both positive and negative. And then there are the more aesthetically balanced, safer shots – the ones we see in designer magazines, or in the slightly more liberal, filtered social media-based fashion blogs. From the Lonely Planet to National Geographic, travel photography has as many conceptual lenses as the camera itself. There are specific goals, audiences, and tones. It’s personal and authentic, but at the same there is a profound awareness of the people who will be watching. Attunement is essential. And this is why travel photography is different from people who simply take photos while travelling.
While the simplicity of photography lies at virtually everyone’s fingertips, the true dedication comes from individuals who are not uploading filters, but prepared to wait hours for the sun to strike the right lighting and atmospheric balance to achieve the perfect shot. It is about opening the eyes to the world and spotting potential by instinctively seeking the sacred spaces where a prime picture can be captured, and being prepared to take some risk. It is about embracing the newness and wonder of a world just discovered, but doing so in a way which does not objectify and therefore disrespect the customs and cultures of others. It is about learning, relearning, and understanding the story of the scene which is painted on film or digital. Being ready to grab a camera out of sheer spontaneity because something about that instance truly bursts out at you.
We have developed a slightly lax attitude towards photography, because in a world of smartphone cameras and filters, our work is hardly cut out for us anymore. And the art itself has lost some integrity of that – take the selfie, for instance, yet another souvenir, trophy picture which says “I have been here” rather than capturing the spirit of the landmark itself. Yet at the same time, the opening up of this vast world has empowered people to process and celebrate their own perspectives. Now more affordable and publishable, we have the opportunity to experience some truly magnificent stories and personalities through photography.
So before embarking on your next adventure with a travel chronicle in mind, think about what the journey will truly mean for you. Take a professional stance and consider how much time and resources you have available in your schedule to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself, and be familiar not only with the culture and customs of the destination you are travelling to, but also the geographic and ecological conditions you may be potentially dealing with. As well as researching beforehand, ensure you have proper security measures in place for your own wellbeing and your equipment. This means keeping expensive equipment discreet in dangerous areas and protecting it with durable, easy to carry gear, as well as ensuring you have the appropriate financial coverage. If you are using new equipment, make sure that you are familiar with how it operates and responds to different conditions before doing a test run in another region, and always, always bring more batteries and memory cards. Treat your craft with dedication and discipline, and you will succeed.
While travel photography is becoming increasingly competitive, it is also more readily accessible to people than ever before. Perhaps this is one of the best mediums we have at our fingertips to not only portray some of the world’s lesser known stories, but to celebrate everything that makes our planet so magical and sublime.
-This is an article by Helen Conlon written for Mr Coolpool.com