Marianna Jamadi’s Instagram feed is the stuff your coffee table book dreams of. Between riding horses through the lush green mountains of Ecuador to floating past ocean huts in Indonesia, the travel photographer’s life – as documented through her lens – is the definition of #goals.
A few minutes with Jamadi is all you need to discover her curiosity for the world – it’s the driving force behind her photography. Spending her childhood summers between Finland and Indonesia developed her appetite for exploration early on. Fast forwarding to her twenties, Jamadi found herself working a corporate job in New York City but craving those experiences she cherished so much as a child. So Jamadi did what many of us have only dreamt of doing – she bought her first professional camera, quit her big city job and took off on a year-long trip around the world.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What you don’t see between these idyllic shots are moments of uncertainty, hustle, violent illness and cold airport floors. Jamadi took a moment to fill us in on what it’s really like to travel for a living – and the lessons she’s learned that you won’t find on social media.
Beauty Beyond the Beach
“Some photographers are really good at creating beautiful moments in-studio or wherever – that’s not me,” she explains. “I’ve realized that what I love is capturing moments – finding the truth in the culture that I’m visiting is what makes me shoot.” Jamadi has learned that a city’s soul is often found well beyond the infinity pool edge. One of the initial ways she acclimatizes to a new destination is by getting lost on an afternoon wander – she believes the back alleys often lead to something more beautiful than you’d expect. “I always try to find the local food market,” she says. “That’s usually the heart of the city or community – and where you’ll find the hustle and the colours and the energy.”
The Best Plan is Often No Plan
You can spend hours setting up that perfect coconut-water-balanced-precariously-on-the-sand shot, but some of Jamadi’s best work has come from moments that are more fleeting. “Sometimes I’ll shoot and have no idea what I’m going to do with the photos, but I needed to capture them – it feels like a reflex that I can’t explain,” she says. One of Jamadi’s favourite shots came to her while travelling through the Amazon River by boat, where she came across a family in their house on wooden stilts in the river. “They were looking at me and in that one moment we made a connection,” she says. “Being able to capture how they live, their home, their surroundings in just one quick frame was super interesting to me.”
Creating Your “Out-of-Office Office” is Key
At the end of a long day on the road, a clean, comfortable, designated work-space is key. A hotel room – or even bed – will do in a pinch (pro tip: do your research on the wifi connection before you book), but Jamadi tries to seek out a more public space for both the energy and possibility for human connection. “Any chance you have to interact with the locals, take it,” she councils. “They’re the ones who really know where all the cool stuff is.” Coffee shops are not just for snapping pictures of your locally-sourced latte? Noted.
It Isn’t Always as Relaxing as It Looks
From spending a night on the airport floor en-route to the Galapagos Islands to getting lost in the jungles of the Amazon to battling a debilitating illness in India, Jamadi could publish a tome of travel tribulations. The key to keeping it together, she swears, is perspective. “You have to be able to laugh at the insanity of it all,” she says. “Especially if you’re travelling with other people – your energy and attitude is going to affect them and vice versa.” Other advice? “Water, supplements, and sleep [when possible].”
Some of the Best Moments Don’t Make it to Instagram
Jamadi knows all too well the delicate balance between seeing the world through a lens and experiencing it in real life. Even on the busiest of days, she designates time to leave the technology in her safe and truly experience her surroundings. “It’s that constant battle; when I don’t have my camera on me, I’ll see a photo opportunity and I’ll get upset because I can’t capture it,” she laughs. “Actually those memories are kind of seared into my brain now, because I was fully immersed in them.” Lesson learned: sometimes the saying “take a picture, it’ll last longer” isn’t the best advice.