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Taking a break


Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer


One thing that has become a casualty of my chosen profession, is travel photography. Its sad, but true. I'm currently on vacation and the chances of me finding gear to take pictures is shamefully low.


The truth is, I now welcome the break from taking pictures day in, day out. When on vacation, I rarely pull out a camera to shoot a slice-of-life scene, or landscape, or anything – this despite the fact I continue to “see” photographs everywhere I look.


I think the last straw for me was 2002 when I spent four weeks making my way through a tightly scheduled sojourn of Laos and Cambodia. The pictures I took on that trip continue to be some of my favorites, but it was a lot of work. That trip also introduced me to shooting and editing video. First off, that’s a considerable amount of gear to be lugging about when you’re trying to “get away” from the daily routine. Its hard to explore a culture, or a temple, when your day pack is an assortment of batteries and lenses. On that trip I made a deliberate attempt to only shoot stills when the light was most favorable – the early morning and late afternoon/evening. Otherwise, I was shooting video. In all I took 16 hours of video and 40 rolls of film. (Yes, film. After a few years of digital I went back to a single camera, no motor drive and patience of waiting for light or ambiance to dictate a photo.) In the end, my month away felt more like work and less like vacation. During the day, when I explored caves and waterfalls and temples and waterways, I would shoot video and make notes of worthwhile places to return later in the day to shoot some still images.


I was constantly late for dinner, often holding up fellow travellers and generally consumed by a mission to document my trip. Two year’s later, when I spent a month exploring Vietnam, I again had visions of employing both forms of media. In the end, I managed to shoot ½ roll of black and white film (and never developed it) and made 12 hours of tape. The tape has never been edited, and a final version remains to be discovered.


The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is despite the fact I still get a “rush” from my work, I find its really important – emotionally - to stand back and view life instead of document it. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me, because I continue to feel a strong photograph emotes an equally strong response. And that can be said about any type, or genre, of photography.


I also find its socially unacceptable to too many people to take such a break. “I’d love to see your pictures” is often heard after a trip – and I do tend to travel a lot. There’s always disappointment when I tell people there aren’t any. Unlike other disciplines of employment, people generally expect photographers to photograph while on vacation. (Don’t get me wrong, most photographers I know, do so.) Funny, isn’t it. No one really  expects a dentist, or contractor, or accountant, to extend their work life into their vacation time, but for photographers it seems to be different.


With that, I’ll leave you with probably the only photo I will have bothered to capture during my stay in India. If there's more, I'd be surprised.




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As a fellow photojournalist I can completely relate to what you're saying. I find that I spend so much time as a spectator when I am working that all I really want to do on holiday is be an active participant, rather than the observer role photographers tend to take.
That being said, I can't seem to help myself from bringing a camera along when I go, though I do limit myself to a single wide-angle lens and never bring a flash.
At the same time I do really enjoy visiting a new place as a journalist, rather than as a tourist. I find that I leave with a better understanding of the culture/economy/political situation and get to meet people that I would never have contact with as a tourist. Gaza and Afghanistan wouldn't be the first places you'd think to go for a holiday, but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to visit them.

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