Travel photography enthusiast Marianne Heredge discusses her views on travel photography in this article.
Compared with not long ago, everyone has a camera and everyone travels. But what makes travel photography? There’s much more to it than just pointing and shooting at anything that comes into the viewfinder.
Early travel photography
In the old days, not many people travelled. Photography was something that few people could afford. Travel photography was the preserve of a few intrepid explorers who would return from their adventures with pictures of places and people, most people would never expect to see.
People like Francis Frith and Francis Bedford were nineteenth century travelers who came back with photographs of places that most people would never get the chance to see.
The freshwater canal at Ismailia (Francis Frith 1856-1860 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Suez_Canal_Ismailia2.jpg)
Modern travel photography
Media, education, magazines and books, films and TV – there are now few places where no one has taken photographs. Everywhere you go, you are assailed with images of places.
Travel has become much easier and photography is accessible to so many people now, especially with the advent of digital cameras. Everyone can be a travel photographer!
This means that travel photography has changed from just being a glimpse into the exotic and unfamiliar, in far-flung places where few people have been, to being almost an art form, recording perspectives on a place and trying to show something a bit more than shapes and forms. Access to transport such as car rentals, trains and planes has made even the most inaccessible places reachable.
Travel photography is not just about taking a picture of the Taj Mahal or some other sight of scenic beauty. Specific shots can have their place. Quality images of key landmarks and locations have a role, but maybe taken from a different angle to present it in a new and alternative way.
\Reflections from Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral, London (Marianne Heredge 2008)
The picture should tell a story or evoke a sense of the place. This can be done maybe with a single shot, or in the form of a photo-essay or collection of pictures that has cohesiveness and tells a story about the trip, or a culture or its history. The pictures should be creative and be high quality images, with some idea about what you want the final result to show.
This scene of La Defense, Paris’ financial district focuses on the reflections in the glass and pavement, making office blocks almost become an art form in themselves.
The main difference between a happy snappy holiday picture and a travel photograph is that whilst the photograph might show something or somewhere that everyone is familiar with, it should show it in an imaginative way or in a perspective that is particularly striking or unusual.
Morning wash, Deusa, Solukhumbu, Nepal (Marianne Heredge 2008)
This scene is a so very typical village scene of children washing and getting ready for school. Families here are lucky to have a standpipe outside their home. From quite a poor family, one girl is in school uniform but her brothers and sisters have either not yet changed or don’t have uniform (the mischievous looking girl in the black dress certainly didn’t).
For me, travel photography is more about saying something to bring out the character of a place, whether this is in the natural landscapes, man-made objects like buildings, or the people themselves.
The best photographs on both an amateur and professional level are those which tell an unexpected story or make the viewer genuinely curious as to what is going on in the picture. Location photography can be breathtaking but it is crucial to find an unusual viewpoint or framing device in a culture increasingly image-saturated.