Andy Gawlowski Photography
Andy Gawlowski is a Zurich based photographer who specializes in travel photography. We have conducted an interview with him.
(Cuba 2015. Andy Gawowski Photography)
Why did you choose to specialise in travel photography?
In my history of being a photographer I was missing a common theme / thread in my photography. For a long while I was mostly just shooting “nice things” without any project- or concept related approach. At the same time I have realized that genres like beauty-, or fashion-photography are not that type of photography I wanted to specialize in. Still these types of photography feel to me to be often too 'planned' and perfect even though I know how complex and difficult it can be.
After my first big trip with my camera through Thailand it turned out that travel photography is what I want to do and where I thought I can become good at. With the first real series of photos in my hands and a story behind each of them, I finally found the project related approach I was always searching for. Travel photography does feel for me to be a very “real and honest” discipline of photography. What I really love about it is the need to quickly react to different cultural situations, moments, light conditions and time. With limited traveling time, some photographic moments are only available for the seconds you were confronted to the corresponding situation. You can get a great photo or loose it forever in the same moment. So travel photography is a lot of about successes and disappointments. Last but not least travel photography is for me the best school to train your eyes and photography skills - as it is so extensive. It changes its faces and requirements with every new journey.
Which are your favourite kind of places or destinations and why did you like them, photography-wise?
So far Mexico (Yucatan) and China were the most fascinating destinations. Both countries are absolutely different but at the same time very exciting due to their cultural wealth. As a photographer, but also personally, I got deeply impressed and touched by the vast diversity of people and their living standards and traditions. Spoken from the photographical side both countries are just paradises. One can find lovely photo motives on every second corner.
(in China. Andy Gawowski Photography)
Especially in China I made a big step in terms of improvement of my skills. It was the first time I really concentrated in not only the scenery, but also in the people photography. This trip helped me to redefine my technical but also psychological approach to travel photography. Since then my new basic rule is “be curious and get in touch with the people and their culture”.
Which is the most appealing?
Since every country is beautiful but different in its own ways, it is difficult to answer this question. For this reason, I do not have a best of traveling destination list. At the end it is all about you and your company. Make the best out of your journey and enjoy every single day and and every moment. Don't judge (too much) because something is different to your well known and standardised habits and traditions. Use the the differences and diversity of other cultures and regard human as the source of inspiration.
Is it important to understand the cultures and traditions of a place before you get there?
My personal attitude towards life is to treat everybody with respect. Regardless of religions, cultures, behaviours or any kind of preferences. There is no basic recipe for life that describes a has-to-be-world or a has-to-be-human. We are all different and we all have a different background and history. It is important to understand and accept this. At the end of the day, traveling the world means to be a guest. And as a guest, I always try to behave like a good one, even I sometimes do not feel welcome – for any reason. So, in my opinion it is definitely important to understand and live at least the basic rules of conduct of the corresponding country and culture which you want to visit. Even they do feel unfamiliar or strange to you. Additionally, studying the cultures beforehand can be seen as a safety precaution. Always keep in mind that even simple hand signals can mean something totally different and impolite in other countries. The thumbs-up hand signal, for example, is almost equal to a verbal abuse in Iran or Iraq.
What is the most essential accessory as a travel photographer?
Photo technology is continuously changing and improving thus also the prioritisation of accessories a travel photographer needs for his work. Years ago, my most essential accessory was definitely my tripod. I really do like to shoot under low light conditions and at night. Using tripod is therefore often unavoidable. Or should I say “was”. The ISO performance of camera systems, especially those with full frame photo sensors, got dramatically improved within the last few years. Most of the time a photographer is now able to shoot directly without using a tripod. For travel photographers this is like a dream comes true because of the biggest handicap we are confronted with – the weight of our equipment.
Unfortunately, current DSLR systems are still super heavy, especially when you carry different lenses and filters with you, like I do. I am happy about every "single kilogram" I can leave at home. Depending on the country you want to visit and the photographical purpose of a journey, travel photographers are nowadays able to leave the tripods at home. Coming back to the questions, what I really always need and use often as a travel photographer is my wide angle lens, the Canon 16-35. I prefer that type of photography that shows wide sceneries with a lot of information in it. Therefore you need a wide angle.
What is your recommendation to discover the rhythm of life in a place or location?
- Leave you prejudices at home and make your own picture. You will be surprise about the results.
- Be always respectful. Treat every person in the same way you want to be treated.
- See traveling as a great opportunity to get the chance to discover and understand the beauty of our planet. This privilege is still very limited. Most of us will never get the chance to leave their homes. With this attitude in mind you will automatically see the world with new eyes. Traveling makes you a different person. Often a better one, even though this is a very general and subjective term.
- Be curious, be curious and be curious. Curiosity leads you to new situations, new locations and thus new photo-objects of desire.
- Leave the tourist route and take the less comfortable one. This simple idea brings you closer to local life. And this is what you want to experience.
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