Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Why travel photography resonates
Of all the different forms of photography travel is obviously the one which resonates with me the most. While I appreciate the artistry of wedding work, can marvel at the intricacies of studio-created masterpieces and really appreciate good commercial stuff - none of it moves me the way travel photography does.
And I'm guessing if you're here reading this blog then you're feeling the same way. And maybe I'm totally off my rocker but I have some theories about why travel photography resonates with so many people.
One of them is that travel represents for many of us an escape from the reality of our lives. We might be perfectly happy (or think we are) but hopping on a plane is a chance to escape the seeming mundaneness of our existences. Maybe it's our way of convincing ourselves that we can put up with the job we don't necessarily hate, but certainly don't love, if it means we get the chance to go somewhere exotic every year. And photographs of travel remind us that there are others like us escaping to capture the images we would love to ourselves. Or at least escaping somewhere we would like to as well.
Travel also reminds us that ours isn't the only way of living. And that just because we're affluent and live relatively comfortably, doesn't mean that we have all the answers. Travel photography enables us to glimpse into the lives of others whose cultures may be vastly different but ultimately more satisfying than ours. The grass is always greener as they say.
And finally I think that travel photography is such a powerful form of the art because when we travel we really feel alive. We live in the moment, experiencing new sights and smells. Having adventures (both good and bad) and not worrying about the ordinary thoughts that tend to overtake our everyday lives. We spend less time thinking and more time just being.
And the photographs remind us of what that feeling is like. We look back and can recall the details of the photographs like yesterday, even if they happened nearly 20 years ago. Kind of like a pop star who dies young and good looking. The subjects of our images stay happy and vibrant long after we have lost our our own vibrancy.
So the allure of travel photography I think comes down to a desire to escape from the ordinary. A chance to forget about our own lives and to experience that of somebody else for even just a brief period of time. For some their yearly fix is enough to see them through, for others nothing short of making it a career will suffice.
But you know how you always seem to take wonderful images when you're on holiday? Because you're living in the moment. Breathing, feeling, sensing the world around you as if with new eyes. The real trick is not to wait until you get off a plane and step on to the tarmac to feel that. The trick is to feel that every day. To slow down and appreciate where you live the other 350 days of the year. To open your eyes to the unusual, the unique and the foreign in your own land. And when you can do that you'll get the same feeling of elation and aliveness every day.
So I encourage you all to get out there in your own local area and look for stuff to inspire you. If you absolutely have to go somewhere then drive to the next town down the road. Look at it with new eyes. Imagine you are a foreigner visiting for the first time. What would you find interesting? What would you be dying to photograph? And then once you tap in to that line of thinking you can get the thrill of travel photography every time you pull the camera out.