Steve Davey is a photographer and writer based in London whose work has been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world. A self-confessed crap sightseer, he is more interested in how places work and often how they don’t, than visiting monuments and museums. He would also rather be told he resembles Jean Reno than a badger and is working on immoral ways to use this to his own advantage.
He is the author and principal photographer of Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die and Unforgettable Islands to Escape to Before You Die – both published by BBC Books. Steve has recently authored Around the World in 500 Festivals and a second edition of Footprint Travel Photography.
Steve has recently launched his own range of London photography courses and an exclusive series of travel photography tours to some of the most exotic places in the world. Steve accompanies each trip providing copious instruction as well as countless photo-opportunities. More detail on these trips and Footprint Travel Photography on www.bettertravelphotography.com
It has been a pleasure for us talking about of Steve´s career, his knowledge and experience and share all those things with our readers in order to take advantage of all the opportunities that travel brings to those that love communicate with a camera.
Question.- Steve, What does travel mean for you?
Answer.- Travel and travel photography are more of a way of life to me. I love the chaos and unpredictability of being on the road. I like constant change and stimulation and get rather bored when I am in the UK. Unfortunately now that I have a young family, I get to travel a lot less.
Q.- When did you started to feel that your future was linked to photography?
A.- I studied photography at school, and the flippant answer was one day when I was walking out of school. Officially you had to stay in school at all times, but if I got caught walking out with a camera I could just say that I was off to take pictures. I realised then that photography could open a lot of doors for me and could be a lot of fun. It has: I have been able to take part in so many incredible things and also visit so many places because I am a photographer.
Q.- Beyond the technique ¿How do you tell a story with a camera?
A.- The first thing s just to stop and decide on exactly what the story is in the first place. Simply stop and ask yourself “What is it about this thing/person that makes me want to take its picture” That will give you the point of the picture for you. Then it is a lot easier to use composition and lens choice to tell that story. Often combining objects or things within the frame will give you a more complex image and set up relationships in the image which help to tell the story.
Q.- According to a photographic perspective, What kind of things do you analyze when you prepare a destination?
A.- Whether or not I get the time to research on advance, I try to work out what excites me about a destination. I try engage with a destination and if I am shooting something because I feel I have to then the pictures will never be as good. Sometimes as a professional you have to photograph things that simply don’t interest you – in these cases you have to work out what it is you are trying to show, and then use your skills to capture this.
Q.- Steve, What’s the most important project that you’ve done in the travel and photography field?
A.- Recently I travelled to northern Pakistan to photograph the Joshi (Spring Festival) of the remote Kalash people for Geographical Magazine. Colourful animists, they live a few kilometres from the Afghan border, and so have been threatened by the Taliban. Their festival involves much drinking and dancing. When I was there there were thousands of Special Forces commandos there to protect the festival, but it was still an incredible glimpse at a fragile culture. Only around 3000 Kalash live in three remote valleys. I write as well, and so conducted interviews and wrote the story too. One of the most satisfying things I have ever done was t write Footprint Travel Photography. I have just finished the second edition, and I am massively proud of it. In 320 pages, it basically covers everything I know about travelling with a camera.
Q.- Do you have any anecdote that would like to share with us?
A.- There are so many moments where I simply grin to myself and think that this is the best job in the world. I love to get in with and meet locals when I travel and I live for all of those moments of engagement. I also love the freedom of being on the road – so a recent highlight was when I was leading a photography tour to Ladakh, and I decided we should all drive 2km vertically upwards from Leh to the Khardung La pass just outside of town. This is claimed to be 5602 metres! I arranged vehicles for the group, but rode up myself on an old Enfield Bullet motorbike. Days like that make you glad to be alive!
Also a few weeks ago I flew out to Belgium to photograph some of the carnivals. I was in Binche and arranged to shadow a group of the Gille carnival figures. These are traditional characters who form into organisations to preserve their traditions. I started with them at 4am, and then spent the day with them – even joining them on the main procession where they throw out oranges to the crowds for luck. I couldn’t have been closer if I had tried, and they were about the most friendly and hospitable people I have ever met!
Q.- In general, What kind of obstacles do you think that has a travel photographer in his career?
A.- The biggest problem for all editorial and especially travel photographers is the vast amount of crowd sourced images which are taken by talented (and sometimes talentless) amateurs and simply given away for nothing. It makes running a business somewhat hard! The way around this is to find a niche and exploit that.The business is always changing, and the trick is to try and change with it. As with any other business, never try to compete on price and if a certain area is swamped then get out of it quickly!