During years of traveling and living overseas, the unusual, the unexpected, and the unknown have brought joy and excitement to my life. Living in foreign countries makesme step away from the ordinary and turn everyday into an adventure.
My experiences exploring distant countries, immersing myself in different cultures, and learning new languages have also been a never-ending inspiration for my photography. The daily routine and familiarity of living back in my native England never motivated me to regularly carry around my camera as much as a life captivated by foreign landscapes, people, and cultures.
Growing up in England, accustomed to the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells, my senses were blinded by the familiarity of the commonplace and mundane. However, when I’m a visitor in another country my senses awaken to the refreshingly unfamiliar, and I see everything with the fresh vision that unfamiliarity provides.
My local friends in Guatemala grew up living in picturesque Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by magnificent volcanic landscapes. Even after years living there, I was constantly in awe of my spectacular surroundings. I could never quite understand how my amigos could be oblivious to the beauty around them. To me it was a perpetual source of photo fodder, but to them it was just the customary backdrop to their normal daily lives.
In all the years I’ve lived in Guatemala and Thailand I’m still constantly energized and inspired by the stunning landscapes and exotic wildlife, the diversity of the people, their colorful costumes, customs, ceremonies, and cuisines, vibrant traditions, celebrations, festivals, parades, and processions. The constant stream of sensory stimulation provides endless photographic opportunities!
I love photographing the similarities and differences between cultures. For example, modes of transport: the end of a battered old U.S. school bus is the birth of Guatemala’s colorful camioneta,refurbished and transformed with a fresh jazzy psychedelic paint job.
In both Guatemala and Thailand, rickety three-wheeled tuk-tuks are a cheap taxi, yet their condition, colors, and decoration vary. I’ve seen bright pink tuk-tuks in Bangkok and swanky red tuk-tuks painted with superheroes across them at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan. Traditional fishing boats on Lake Atitlan are crude wooden canoes propelled by paddle, while in Thailand local fishermen use long-tail boats powered by a car engine and steered by a propeller at the end of a long metal pole.
Living outside my home country has taken me beyond my comfort zone and encouraged me to explore uncharted territory (literally, some places don’t even appear on Google Maps!) and pursue enriching experiences. Many times, this leads to unexpected encounters with locals, especially when I can speak some of the local language—my foreigner status is often a conversation starter and earns me a glimpse into their lives.
Immersing myself in foreign cultures has allowed me to grow and diversify my photography portfolio. Spending extended periods of time living in different countries has given me local insight and knowledge of the culture and my surroundings, driving me to delve deeper and form meaningful friendships. It’s also enabled me to revisit landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes during varying seasons, weather, and hours of the day to get that perfect shot under ideal conditions.
It’s so easy to be inspired in unfamiliar environments where everything is new and exhilarating. Examples of my many photographic subjects in vibrant kaleidoscopic Guatemala are Maya shamans performing ancient ancestral ceremonies; indigenous Maya women clothed in customary hand-woven costumes jostling together in crowded marketplaces; and hordes of devout, purple-robed Catholic penitents carrying hefty floats with antique sculptures of Jesus over intricate handmade Holy Week carpets.
Currently, I’m living in Thailand where I’m inspired by palm-fringed, sandy beaches lapped by turquoise sea against a spectacular backdrop of karst scenery; Muslim fishermen expertly casting nets from their traditional wooden long-tail boats; and glistening golden Buddhist temples echoing to the chants of barefooted, orange-robed monks. Unlimited photographic inspiration and potential surrounds me everywhere!