This weeks Friday Five featured photographer is Erika Lafrennie from Traveling Gal Photography.
When/Why did you start taking photos?
For me, taking photos was more about finding a way to capture all of the amazing things I discovered while traveling. Gradually, I began to realize that I enjoyed taking those photos almost as much as I enjoyed the adventures themselves. I’ve been taking pictures since 1995, but in 2011, I started taking photos in earnest for the sake of photography. My style varies between fine art photography and social documentary photography.
What inspires you?
Hands down, other cultures! I have lived in or traveled to more than 25 different countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, and I am never happier than when I am in a new place that feels completely alien to me. Taking pictures is a wonderful way to digest and understand the world around me.
What would be your dream job as a photographer?
National Geographic! I would also love to work for an NGO documenting social causes in desperate need of global attention. Right now, I would most like to return to the Omo River Valley of Ethiopia to photograph the disappearing tribes who live there. The Ethiopian government is developing industrial sugarcane plantations and completing construction on the Gibe III Dam. The tribes of this area rely on the Omo River below the dam site for their survival, either through flood recession agriculture or to provide food and water for livestock. Once complete, the dam will interrupt seasonal flows of the Omo River, effectively threatening the only two options for survival in the region.Government troops are also forcibly removing people from their land, and human rights groups are reporting numerousbeatings, systematic rape, and unjustified arrests throughout the region, as well as a rapidly increasing number of deaths from starvation. Along with the normal everyday advancement of technology into the region, the way of life in this part of the country will be forever changed. Likely, entire ethnically unique tribal groups will vanish from a region that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 specifically for its colorful genetically and linguistically diverse peoples. I would revere the opportunity to return, spend more time with these incredible peoples, and document what’s going on there.
(Photos from my series, “Disappearing Tribes”)
Why do you love photography?
Photography is the tangible result of the way an individual sees his or her surroundings. It’s the closest you can get to seeing inside someone else’s mind. When I was younger, I lived in New Orleans for a while – a gorgeous and inimitable city that I fell completely in love with. For me, New Orleans has a very European air, and its rich history breathes and co-exists alongside the present day. Years later, a coworker who was born and raised in New Orleans saw some of my photos and didn’t recognize the city of his youth. He asked me where they were taken, Paris? Prague? He was stunned when I told him because he had never seen his home in that way.
What is your favorite camera?
Obviously, there is an undeniable difference of clarity and resolution between photographs taken with a professional-quality SLR camera versus a cell phone camera, but it doesn’t necessarily make the cell phone shot less lovely. I prefer digital to film, and my brand of choice is Nikon, but as a general rule, I don’t answer this question. I believe one either has the natural talent to compose a great shot, or not. One of my all time favorite photographs was taken with a dusty, old disposable underwater camera purchased on a street corner in Kanchanaburi, Thailand for $5 because all of my camera batteries had run out. When inspiration strikes, you use what you have and make the best of it.
Thanks to the lovely Ms. Erika for sharing with us today. You can learn more about Erika on the web.