Our first interviewees in our ‘Travel Photographer Interview Series’ is Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market. I’m a big fan of Uncornered Market’s photography, especially their portrait photos, and it was a pleasure to be able to pick their brains on this subject.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
I (Audrey) had always been interested in photography and took a few photography classes in high school but didn’t do much with it afterward. When I was working in a very left brained job in Prague, that I found myself drawn again to photography as a creative outlet from my job. Dan also had a similar photography background.
Today, we use our photography to help share the stories of the people and places we meet. One of our goals is to put a personal face on little-known countries and the style of our photography helps accomplish this.
Do you have any formal training? Have you taken any courses?
I took some classes, including dark room, at high school and then continued with a few art photography classes in Prague before we left. Dan also took a beginning photography class in San Francisco over a decade ago and took a photography class in Prague before this journey.
These courses provided us with a good base, but it’s really the personal skills we’ve developed on this trip that have given us our best photos. Being able to interact with people and develop trust are some of our best photography skills.
What camera(s) do you use on your travels? Do you have a favorite travel camera bag?
We use a Nikon D300, usually with an 18-200 mm lens. We also carry a 50 mm and fisheye lens with us.
My favorite camera bag is my Crumpler Puppet, which is also my laptop bag. It protects my gear and most people don’t realize that my colorful backpack is actually carrying thousands of dollars of gear.
In your opinion, what makes a good travel photograph?
A photograph that tells a story of the place or people you’re visiting. One that makes the viewer want to know more.
What have been your top 3 places to photograph so far and why?
– Burma: This is one of those countries where the spirit and kindness of the people comes through so well in the photos. People are open to having their photos taken and are also just beautiful subjects to begin with.
– India: People, colors, mayhem, temples, food. India has it all. And we found people excited to have photos taken of them and their gregarious energy came through.
– Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz people are warm and hospitable. It’s a country of yurts, animal markets, Soviet cars and mountains (over 90% of the country).
– Guatemala: The indigenous culture in Guatemala combined with the relative openness of people to have their photos taken (something you don’t find in indigenous communities in Bolivia, for example) makes this a great place for photographers. Great weekly markets provide ample opportunities.
What do you enjoy most about being a travel photographer?
That we can use our photographs to teach or get other people truly interested in another part of the world – in its people, culture, food, challenges, opportunities, beauty. An image can draw someone in to want to learn more and act.
You have a lot of really great portrait photography on your site. Do language barriers ever affect your work when you are photographing people?
Even when we don’t have a working verbal language (e.g., China) we usually are able to communicate interest and respect in the person through non-verbal cues. Then we motion to the camera as a way to ask if we can photograph them. Most of the time this works, but of course there are situations when people don’t understand.
However, knowing a bit of the local language definitely helps in developing a rapport and explaining what we’re doing. For example, if we’re in a market in Central America I can start by asking questions about the fruit being sold and then segway into whether we can take his/her photograph.
Do you believe the phrase ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?’
Very few photos are worth a thousand words, but there are some that are able to express a moment in time, personal struggle/win or natural phenomenon better than a thousand words.
What are a few tips you would give someone who wants to pursue travel photography?
While figuring out your camera and understanding what makes a good composition is incredibly important, don’t underestimate the power of respect and personal engagement when it comes to people photography. Also, the more photos you take, the more you’ll figure out your style and what works for you.
Figure out early on what type of photography excites you the most. This is a competitive industry and being clear on your passion will help you to focus and pursue this when things get tough.
Thank you Audrey and Scott for answering all of our travel photography questions! Hope to see you on the road!