One of the reasons why I made this website was to have a space to write. Again, not a writer, but I’m glad you’re here reading anyway. For posterity, I’ve always wanted to write about all the times I’ve travelled. While travel is a great privilege, I’d like to see it more as a gift. And one of the best ones you can ever receive in life.
I went to Europe for the first time exactly 10 years ago (not alone, with my parents, and that is an experience in itself 🥴). I remember lil’ 19 yr old me went to Munich. The day after Oktoberfest when everything was closed. And had non-alcoholic beer because I wussed out.
Again. In Munich. The beer capital of planet Earth.
Back then, I had uploaded every photo on my Facebook and tried to write, blog-style, on the album description. I look at it now, and I’m glad that I did (even though it’s a tiny bit cringe). In a weird, time-capsule-like way, it’s nice to feel the nostalgia reading your words from a decade ago. You don’t quite remember the memory in its entirety, but its history has been chronicled. By none other than yourself.
In an effort to continue that tradition, here I am, documenting this exciting time in my life. To bring some context, I’m currently on a creative sabbatical as I’d like to call it. While I’m still very much a part of Tempea, the food company I built 6 years ago, I’ve taken a step back this year to take a bit of a break to also pursue photography. Maybe it’s quarter-life crisis (the real one this time), call it whatever you want, but I’m due for a good break and it’s pretty much now or never. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, and this doesn’t feel like failure or acceptance of defeat in any way. I’ve found my place in the local food community and I don’t think I’ll ever leave it, but more and more these days, I feel the same way about photography. And I want to see where it could lead. I don’t have any ambitions of being a ~pro~ but, just like any hobby, it does require a working capital. I’m spending $$$ on film and chemistry and camera maintenance, I found a studio, I’m working on projects, I’m joining shows (another one coming up real soon 😉), and other fun stuff. And so, I’ve officially registered myself as a business! Yay! On the administrative side of things, it’s just better to keep things neat and orderly (and also, I don’t have to pay tax on photo supplies lol). But really, I want to legimitize the sales of my work - because it is literally work. And, boy, is it nice to be compensated for that. 😌 I never went to art school or studied design. I don’t know how professional photographers do it. But I do know how to run a business. So I’m winging it.
To continue making my work, I need to travel. Sure, I can stay within Vancouver and photograph what is accessible to me where I am based. I won’t stop doing that of course, but being able to visit new places (and revisit old ones) feels like an essential part of the body of work I’m trying to build. It isn’t so much like travel photography, but maybe more along the lines of … place-based documentary street photography … if that makes sense. One of my studio-mates Marzieh fondly talks about topophilia and how it shows up in her art practice. This resonates with me a lot and only validates my apparent need for travel. I could go down this rabbit hole and talk about this from the lens of a first-generation immigrant and the transient experience, but maybe another time.
I’m currently writing this entry from London! Yes, I have returned for a grand two-week photographic adventure. Well, it isn’t really that grand, but I have made plans to photograph a few places. This is the first time I’ve visited during the summer, and while the heat is unforgiving, the light on the other hand, is just ✨stunning✨. I’ve taken the day off to gather my bearings, but I’ll be out and about real soon to take lots and lots of photos. As much as I love travel though, this might be the last trip I’ll be taking this year for several reasons:
- I am not a quitter: I am going to finish the projects I’ve started 😤
- Travelling is tiring 😮💨
- Travelling is also very expensive 🤑
- I’ve successfully filed for Canadian citizenship so I need to stay put and get a new passport 🇨🇦
- All good things must come to an end 😌
There are really only two countries I consider to be home: the Philippines and Canada. London however, is a yes and a no. This is my sixth (?) visit, and last time, I even stayed here for a month. I’m not a local, but I do know my way around. And there is comfort in always being able to say, “Well, I’ll come back anyway, so I can do this next time.” Photography-wise, London is also special to me because a lot of the photographers I look up to are English and I’ve somehow met a few friends who are part of the local analogue photography community as well. London has become a place that feels safe and familiar. Home, but not quite.
And that is how I’ve always found the places that I’ve travelled to photograph. When people ask me about SaskZine, they always wonder why on earth would I ever think of going to The Prairies for photographs? Well, first of all, why the hell not? But truthfully, the real reason is that I have a personal connection to all of these places that I go to. It’s not like I just open up a map and randomly swipe and drop a pin somewhere to decide. (My current passport would also not let me do that with much success lol)
I visit these places because I know someone who lives there. (Well, I definitely feel safer visiting a new place where I have a friend who’s a local.) But more than anything, I love the sentiment of I am only here because I have crossed paths with this person; life has serendipitously brought me to this place. When I travel to somewhere new, I enjoy walking around the neighbourhood and just take everything in. The images that I take are unposed. I just like to observe. And share things as I have seen them.
There is a novelty to seeing a brand new place for the first time. I am curious about the physical space, but also of its occupants. What are their stories? What is the town’s history? And how does the person I know fit in that narrative? How do their personal histories change now that they live here? And within the time that I have known this person, how does seeing their “home” change my understanding of them? It is not a “project” per se; that sounds a bit intrusive… To be invited into one’s home is an honour because it is a place where people go to be their true selves. To share that space with someone is to also, in a way, tell them that they feel safe enough with you. They’ve given you permission to see them as they are. At least in my perspective, that is one part, a gift, and another part, important work that you do as a photographer.
I have received many gifts in life, but the best ones definitely involve memorable stories. I’m just glad that this time around, I can better tell them with my camera. I’m sorry if I may have teased you with the click-baitey title and haven’t exactly written much about my actual travels, but I hope this gives a little insight into why. I also wish my intentions bring clarity to my compulsion of pressing the shutter at certain moments. I will do my best to chronicle this summer of travel, and perhaps, in another 10 years from now, I can open and read this page again, but this time, with a little less cringe.