A Q&A with Bella Falk, winner of the Photography award at the Travel Media Awards 2020
We spoke to Bella Falk, who took home the Photography trophy at the Travel Media Awards 2020, about capturing images people haven’t seen before, coping with lockdown and dream photography destinations.
What makes a destination a great place to photograph?
I tend to gravitate towards places that are out of the ordinary. I always want to capture things that people might not have seen before, places that are not on the major tourist trails or in the big cities. If a destination is super hot right now, I’ll avoid it and go somewhere else, because I want to look for something different. I also love photographing wildlife and people and am always on the look out for colourful characters; so if a destination is full of friendly locals who don’t mind having their picture taken, or amazing animals in beautiful scenery, that’s a winner for me.
What does it mean to you to win this award?
Honestly I don’t even know where to start! I’m so in awe of all the amazing travel photographers who are out there every day being actual professionals, and I’d never even considered that I might be in their league. Photography has always been my passion but I’ve never had any formal training. So to get recognised in such a crowded field of seriously talented professionals is nothing short of mind-blowing. It’s been a huge lift to my confidence and I’m really hoping it will finally give me the boost I need to expand the travel photography side of my work and get more paid commissions.
How have you dealt with the limitations of Covid-19 on travel?
Like all of us, I’ve found Covid-19 and lockdown really hard, especially since I live alone in a small flat in London. To get my daily exercise in and flex those creative muscles, I’ve been cycling to places like Richmond and Hyde Parks to photograph the birds and deer, or into central London to capture the eerily empty streets. When that got too tiring (my camera gear is heavy on the back of the bike!) I used the time in lockdown productively to write new posts for my travel blog, Passport & Pixels and update my website. I’ve also been lucky because I’ve had TV production work and was able to go filming in Turkey for three weeks in August, which was an absolute godsend after months stuck at home by myself.
How does travel photography fit in with your work in television?
There is certainly some crossover and I think each helps with the other. Having a photographer’s eye and understanding cameras definitely gave me a head start on my peers when I was learning to shoot for TV. Sometimes I get asked to shoot publicity or location stills for the programmes I’m working on. But in general they’re quite separate; although I travel quite a lot making archaeology and history documentaries, the shoot schedules are punishing so I rarely have time on location for personal photography. As a freelancer, however, I often have large gaps between contracts, so that’s when I’ll get on a plane and head off to some exciting destination to scratch my photography itch.
Where would you love to photograph that you haven’t been to yet?
So many places! For wildlife I’d love to visit the Arctic to see polar bears and walruses, or visit the lemurs in Madagascar. For colourful characters I’m dreaming of Mongolia or Bhutan. And for off-the-beaten-track landscapes, Socotra in Yemen and Namibia’s Skeleton Coast are definitely top of my list.
Entry to the Travel Media Awards 2021 has now closed. The shortlist will be announced on Monday 6 September and the 21 award category winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel on Monday 18 October.