The first photograph I ever took was a travel photo. I was in the Canary Isles, I’d ridden from the port to the town in a horse drawn cart, and when the driver had been paid I took a shot of him and his cart and my family – I was 10 and on my first big overseas trip – sailing from England to Australia.
Photography became serious when my parents bought me a camera for my 16th birthday because they couldn’t think of anything else to buy. One roll of film later I was hooked and, as they say, the rest is history. Within 3 months I’d converted my bedroom into a darkroom. A year later I did a stint as a brickies labourer during the school holidays and received my wage in the form of an Olympus OM-1.
I did a couple of years at college studying photo¬graphy, film and television and then worked in a camera store and mini-lab before going freelance in 1982. I shot a lot of weddings, portraits and commercial work in the first five years, an invaluable period for learning about dealing with people, working under pressure in all sorts of conditions and circumstances, and making photography pay.
I got started in travel photography in 1986 when I went overseas for seven months. I soon realised that I loved travelling just as much as I loved photography. I now consider that trip, which took me through a dozen countries including China, India, Nepal, Morocco and Turkey, as my apprenticeship. Back at home I studied the results and realised I still had a lot to learn. Two years of intense picture taking around Australia, lots of reading on photography and studying the work of other photographers followed, as I prepared for my next big trip, two years in Asia. This second journey, from 1988-90, was clearly focussed on building a comprehensive collection of stock photography from across the region. Images from this trip still sell regularly, but just as importantly the work gave me the introduction I needed to the publishing and travel companies that quickly became, and still are, important clients for both stock and assignment photography.
Since those formative journeys I’ve settled into a routine of travelling around three months a year photographing for a small group of loyal clients, personal book projects and my stock photography collection. My pictures are published worldwide in books, magazines, newspapers, travel brochures, in all sorts of other printed products and websites. To my own amazement I’ve even managed to write a book about travel photography. When I’m not away I work from my home in Melbourne and make regular appearances at Lonely Planet’s head office, where I assist in the on going development of Lonely Planet Images, the stock photography library I helped establish in 1998.
I shoot in colour, always looking to match great subjects with great light. There are around thirty key subjects that fall under the travel photography umbrella (people, landscape, architecture, food etc) and I try to cover as many of them as possible at every destination, whether it’s a country, city or village. The goal is to finish each day with a new set of photographs that capture the reality of the place (as I see it). I endeavour to shoot strong individual images that build on each other to create a comprehensive coverage of a destination or topic, so that viewers get a sense of what it’s like to be there. This approach gives me the depth and breath of coverage I need to ensure that my pictures fulfil my documentary style personal projects and the needs of commercial picture buyers, more often than not.
For me, travel photography is ultimately about being there and taking the opportunity to record my personal response to the people, places and events I have the good fortune to visit.