I have always loved photography.
My parents gave me my first little camera for my 12th birthday and I was so excited that I even told all my teachers about it. Very soon after that birthday, we spent a week in a cabin in the Jura mountains in Switzerland where I took photos of horses and kittens and I couldn’t have been more in love with the memories I created thanks to those images.
I used my little analogous camera for years, even brought it with me for my first big (semi-grown-up) trip across the Atlantic Ocean a few years later (when everybody else had digital cameras already). Albeit being limited to 36 images only and having very little clue about light and composition, I still loved taking photos abroad the most.
I got my first digital point-and-shoot for my 24th birthday, right before I moved to Portugal to document my semester abroad. And two years later, Steffen gave me his old beginner’s Nikon dSLR for my 26th birthday when we celebrated with fries and Belgian beer in Bruges.
I have always loved photography — and travel has always been closely intertwined with my growth as a photographer.
As I’ve only been shooting with a dSLR for a little over two years now, it took me a while to find my voice, my style in photography.
Travel photography has rather narrowly defined aesthetics and I only slowly began to understand them throughout the last years: Traditional travel photography loves wide angles, well-lit iconic sights, softened water, and colorful blurry traffic due to long-exposures.
The kind of travel photography that gets featured in the big magazines always tells the stories of photographers going location hunting for days until they find the spot to put their tripod (preferably somewhere wet and dangerous to make the perspective more unique). They get up way before sunrise and spent hours standing next to their camera to get that shot of foggy San Fransisco, or a Norwegian shore at sunrise.
You’ll find these kinds of images in photo calenders, on Pinterest, and on the cover of National Geographic. And of course, these travel photos are aesthetically pleasing and will probably look really nice in a fancy frame above your couch.
But that kind of travel photography is not me.
It’s not only that I don’t own filters, and tripods, and flashes, and wide angle lenses. It’s because I recently understood that I like spontaneous images better. I like photos of people, chaotic street scenes, fleeting moments, quirky details.
I want my travel photos to tell close-up stories. And I honestly don’t think a wide angle, long-exposure shot of a cream-like waterfall in Iceland can tell the kind of stories I like. I certainly don’t mean to judge other photographers, I just realized that I’m not into this kind of travel photography.
It actually took me quite a lot of experimenting and observing to figure this out. I’ve tried to do long-exposures, but I don’t have the patience to stand next to my camera for hours and I was never pleased with the results, because those photos never felt right to me.
I learned that I want my index finger to cause my shutter’s clicking sound, not a remote. I learned that I sometimes prefer a good memory and a blurry snapshot over a perfect night shot where all the lights look like little stars.
Because, you know, street lamps don’t look like stars in real life, but the memories of great moments sometimes are blurry.
On my trip to London this spring, I really tried to challenge myself to find motifs that tell stories that I would want to see more in travel photography: Scenes that are not staged, that show the destination with all its edginess. As I like photos that are fast and raw-yet-beautiful in-the-moment-shots, I took all my photos with a 50mm lens — even though I sometimes couldn’t get the entire building in my frame no matter how far I walked.
This blog post is yet another experiment on the way to find my favorite style of travel photography. I wanted to show London like I saw it: Fast-paced and packed with people, constant clashes of symmetry and chaos, a giant cultural melting pot.
I turned my favorite photos black and white and invented captions to make up a story that could be told through them. Have you ever spent hours sitting in a café on the street making up stories about strangers passing by? That’s pretty much what I tried to do with these captions. I know, this blog post might not be your average travel photo diary, but I feel like I’m one step closer to finding my style in (travel) photography.
Number 13 and the Oyster
Through the Pub Window
“I told you it would be too crowded here on the weekend!”
“Why should we sit on chairs when we can sit on the ground?”
“I’m not scared though.”
We’re all just here, minding our own businesses
“Why did I even come here in the first place?”
Let’s Endure and Ignore Each Other
“Will she say more than three words to me today?”
Getting Lost is Serious
“Will he ever come back?”
Which London stories did you read into these photos?
PS: I’m off to another amazing city this weekend and I’m continuing my experiment shooting with a prime lens only. Follow along on Instagram and Snapchat (I’m @JulikaSarah on both!) to find out which city I’ll be revisiting!