Having returned from a photography trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I was brimming over with pride at the many exotic images I captured: Kilimanjaro, the Maasai tribesmen, the Serengeti and all that Africa has to offer. I was living my dream. That’s when a cold towel slapped me across my face! At our monthly photo-group meeting I was itchy to show some of this new work. Meanwhile, one of our members was displaying some truly great images that he had just taken in his backyard! An interesting point-counterpoint crossed my mind.
What is the concept of TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY all about? Travel for me isn’t as much fun as it used to be. I’ve shot world-wide and have seen many of the wonders the world provides. Air travel has presented new challenges. My old bones aren’t what they used to be. Yet, there is still a rush that I get when plying my craft in new and unique locations. I see things with a fresher eye. My hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, replete with many exotic sights. However, I wouldn’t consider shooting in my hometown as TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY. Ironically, someone who has traveled from Africa to Florida to shoot probably WOULD. So, if it isn’t the travel that lures me, and if locations can be treated as fungible widgets, then perhaps it is something else? Perhaps it is the mindset or dedication to the craft when you are on a new location (wherever that might be)? Perhaps it is being totally focused and immersed in all things photographic when you are situated in a location that is conducive to your full attention?
Some years ago I was part of a workshop sponsored by TPW (Toscana Photographic Workshop) and led by Arno Minkkinen. Arno is the consummate instructor. He tirelessly challenges his students to be as creative and innovative as possible. One of his exercises, which caught my imagination, was a road trip that we took to Lake Bosena, situated in the Lazio region and close to the boundaries with Umbria and Tuscany. There were only about eight of us and we decided to take three cars. And though we had an end destination in mind, it was decided by Arno to stop every fifteen minutes and shoot for about ten minutes per location. We stopped once on the side of a barren field, a commercial site and a location in some hillside area. None of these locations would have typically caught my eye or called out to me to stop and shoot. Yet, the images gathered by our group from these locations were exceptionally interesting and memorable. Lesson learned: Perhaps the setting isn’t as important as the photographer and his will to see well.
Another unintentioned lesson was learned in Arno’s class. One member of our group was a young woman who was seriously injured and permanently confined to a wheel chair. Only through her sister’s love, was she able to travel thousands of miles from the United States in order to fulfill her dream of shooting in Tuscany. An amazing feat! She shared her portfolio early in the workshop with the rest of us. The main body of her work was comprised of a series of images taken from her basement apartment. Being wheel-chair bound as she was, she had a single view from a window which looked out and up on a street in New York City. The view was limited, yet her pictures were fascinating and multidimensional. She also had invited people to come to her cramped quarters and photographed them against a single wall where she produced a series of intensely moving portraits. The lighting and composition were astounding. I will never forget them or the lesson she brought to us.
I love the whole concept of TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY and am proud of many of the images captured over the years. Yet, I have grown to believe that it is the mindset that comes with travel that is most important. I ring this thought up each time I dust off my camera for another shoot.
You can see more of my images on my website at www.richsmuklerphoto.com.