Capturing inimitable moments today to reflect upon tomorrow. My own 'take' as a geographer photographer! - Trevor Cole
I was born in the City of Derry but have lived most of my life outside the bounds of Ireland, in England, Singapore, Togo, Italy, Ethiopia, and Brazil. I returned to Ireland (Donegal) in 2012.
My photography, together with travel, have become two of my life's passions. My photography focuses predominantly on culture and landscapes, images that reflect a spatial and temporal journey through life and which try to convey a need to live in a more sustainable world. I seek the moment and the light in whatever context I find myself and endeavor to use my photographic acumen to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. I lead small photo tours in my' own Donegal' and Ireland but also to other destinations. I lived in Ethiopia from 2006-2010 and since then have returned to take photographers to the Western and Eastern Omo, Harar, the Danakil desert, and the highlands of Ethiopia. Additionally, I take photo tours to Iceland, Namibia, Angola, Chad, South Sudan, Eritrea, and India and travel myself to discover and capture new locations.
I have been published by National Geographic (online), several British and European digital photography magazines and newspapers, and the Survival International calendar in 2016. I won 'Wanderlust photographer of the year' (professional portfolio category) in 2016, 'Monochrome awards photographer of the year in 2019', 'All About Photo Portrait' category winner 2020 and have been a finalist in Travel Photographer of the Year 6 times achieving a special mention in 2017 and in 2019 a special mention, commended in the 'Art of Travel' and winner of the 'People and Cultures' portfolio. My images were exhibited as part of the TPOTY exhibition in London. I am a major contributor to the 'Atlas of Humanity' project and have had exhibitions throughout Europe and the Middle East, including 'Scarred' (African tribal traits and traditions in London on November 19). I have a portfolio of published images with 1x, I have also presented to the Royal Geographic Society, using images to convey an image of Ethiopia that contrasts with widely held perceptions.
Lens Magazine: Hello Trevor, thank you for this interview; we are amazed by your excellent travel and tribal cultural projects; please tell us a bit about yourself. What was your photography path during the years? Do you come from an artistic family? Do you have a formal photography education?
Trevor Cole: My interest in photography started at an early age when I traveled with my parents, and they bought me a Rolleiflex SLR. When I taught Geography in England and then in International schools, I wanted to capture people and landscapes in different contexts. I love diversity, and this includes both the human/cultural and the biophysical environment. A Geographer Photographer! I almost went to art college but, in the end, opted to follow my passion for Earth Sciences but the artist in me, I think, enabled me to 'see photographically.' I am effectively self-taught.
L.M.: In 2012, you returned to Ireland (Donegal) after living in different locations around the globe, including Singapore, Togo, Italy, Ethiopia, and Brazil. Do you feel that your current photography style was influenced by the cultural atmosphere and experiences in those locations?
T. C.: Yes, absolutely! As a geographer and teacher, I always took advantage of long school holidays and ventured forth to lesser-known areas and regions.
I always like to think that humans are inextricably connected to their environment; hence I love to shoot people and landscapes. People adapt to climates and landscapes; therefore, their cultures reflect their natural habitats, which contributes to the immense diversity of humankind on this Earth. Sadly globalization is reducing diversity and homogenizing culture. I love to travel to more remote areas to see people in their true environmental contexts. The people of the Omo valley in Ethiopia, Himba in Kaokoland, Namibia, or the Mundari of South Sudan. Constant change provides stimulus to capture these people and their cultures while their traditions live on.
L.M: Which photographers have influenced your style? Do you have favorite photographers?
T. C.: I think the person I admire the most is Sebastiao Salgado, the Brazilian photographer. His project 'Genesis,' which connects indigenous people to their environment, is truly admirable, and so too his most recent work from Amazonia. I also love the photo-journalistic work of Steve McCurry and the portraiture of Lee Jeffries.
'It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see.'
-Henry David Thoreau
L.M.: You are an award-winning international photographer, mostly known for your magnificent images of the Mundari people, Hamar, Dassenech, and many other Ethiopian tribes. What led you to focus on these tribes?
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