Thursday, 10 April 2014

Travel Photography: Your Passport to the World by Maxine Bulloch

Not that you may need an excuse to, but carrying a camera can feel like a license to talk to anyone.  They say that strangers are friends you haven’t yet met, and that is so true.

There’s a common perception that travel photography means going away to far-flung places, or certainly going on umpteen holidays, taking pictures of astounding scenery, or capturing a culture far removed from what is usual for you. As nice as this would be, it is on the whole inaccessible and unrealistic to most, as there are things such as budget and responsibilities to consider, as well as that little thing called a job which we do to support our hobbies and interests.

Here’s the thing: the only difference between travel photography and ‘staying put’ photography is that generally you’re more inclined to take pictures when you’re in a foreign circumstance to capture that ‘foreignness’. Which means really that if you want to, you can find foreignness and points of difference in your everyday life and consider travel a daily occurrence. Even a trip to the shops can be classed as travelling, and when you bear this in mind, the possibilities for travel photography are endless!

A great idea I heard about a while ago is to make sure you always have a trip lined up. Not only is it something to look forward to, but the moment you’ve booked tickets the trip feels like it’s started already. So far this year I have been on one big trip to Kazakhstan, and lots of smaller trips around the UK.

Kazakhstan was incredible, surprising and different. Obviously I wanted to capture much of it on camera, but one of the things I’ve learnt is that you have to be mindful of the circumstances you’re in when you have a camera in your hand. Traveling solo makes you hyper aware of yourself and the situation, and to a certain extent you want to remain inconspicuous. I like to observe and be the fly on the wall, but a lot of the time you get noticed by others, and your presence can dilute the impact of that which you’re trying to capture.  It is a tricky dilemma, but I managed to devise an alternative way of capturing what I saw which was the ‘shot from the hip’ method, where I didn’t look through the camera to see how the picture was composed but rather held it at hip height and hit the shutter button whenever something ahead looked interesting.

Of course this didn’t always result in a good shot: a picture of three pairs of black boots, or a street worker throwing salt towards the camera to clear snowy roads: but I did also get lucky with a straight shot of a Kazakh lady perfectly posing at a bus stop in her fur coat and hat, and a pigeon feeder hiding amongst the trees. Of course, the boot and salt photos were not what I envisioned but actually the imperfections of these images make me like them even more.

 Projects such as these give a focus to photographing adventures in a foreign country, and I would really recommend setting yourself on-going projects that can be continually added to. You’ll find that the theme and way you look at it evolves, and makes the whole project richer.

Smaller trips this year have included weekends in Brighton, Norfolk and Broadstairs, as well as day excursions around London including the beautiful Columbia Road Flower Market in Hackney. I’ve looked at themes like the old shop fronts along the beachfront in Brighton, and got portraits of the flower sellers in the market.

My current project is called #wetravel.  I take portraits of people I stop on the street and ask them a few questions related to travel. I’ve met some amazing people so far including one guy who speaks Shona (the native language of Zimbabwe) and British Sign; a lady who leads tour groups around the world, and a man who spent time when he was young rearing bulls in the outback of Australia.

This is it really, the best thing about travel photography - the chance to meet new people and learn about their lives.

Maxine Bulloch is a freelance photographer in London, England, working in PR during the day. For more information, visit Follow Maxine on Twitter and Pinterest.