Travel photographers must immerse themselves in foreign cultures, perhaps alone for long periods of time, without the support of their family, friends or any semblance of normality. They must be able not only to function but also thrive when immersed in a high level of strangeness and difference. They must also be willing and able to overcome language and cultural barriers and somehow, amid all the practical difficulties, find ways to create penetrating images. This is possible only when photographers are sensitive to the characteristics of their locations, and when they carry an open mind, a positive eye and inner beauty.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not". In the age of the jet aircraft, when millions travel is search of “beauty”, these words should be engraved upon the heart of every aspiring travel photographer. Of course it is possible to visit exceptional places and see classic views, but real beauty comes from within and is rooted in passion. It is therefore much more difficult to define and capture, but nevertheless very real. I do not for one moment pretend that it is always to be found in my own images, but it is undeniably present in some. Like many photographers, I strive to capture what is there, what it means and what I feel, but often fail.
Committed travellers are often asked which places or experiences they enjoy the most. Some have specific answers, but others say it is the next place they visit. For me it is “somewhere really different - somewhere I have never visited”, because I travel for difference and seek the exotic. Everywhere is different to some extent- everywhere has the best of something – well almost everywhere! I am excited by places and situations that I do not yet understand. They send shivers down the spine just as that first encounter with Tangiers’ Moorish culture did all those years ago.
Occasionally, just occasionally, you will encounter in a far-flung corner of the world something moving or wonderful – something very special that seems to say it all. It encapsulates everything you see and feel and brings a few moments of perfect integration and sheer happiness, a short period when you become part of a world that seems perfect. You may be moved to tears, or the hair may stand up on the back of your neck, but savour the experience for this is travel at its best. Capture the feeling in an image and you have something pure and very valuable; the crystallization of a travel experience into a single frozen instant when, in a flash of inspiration, you come to terms with something previously unnoticed, unknown or unfathomable. It is the very essence of your reason for being there. It is, in the words of Lawrence Durrell, "spirit of place" – the travel photographer's Holy Grail.