We chat to Lodestars Anthology cover photographer Annapurna Mellor about the joys of photography and travel – to see more of her work be sure to check out our India magazine here.
What drew you to photography?
I never studied photography and initially I fell into it. After I graduated from university, I felt quite lost in my life and decided to travel solo around Asia for a year. I first went to Nepal to hike the mountain I was named after, and then continued through India, South East Asia and Mongolia. I started with a small camera which I didn’t know how to use outside of Auto mode, and throughout that year got more and more into shooting. I learnt techniques from other travellers and the photos I was taking got better and better. I had a blog at the time and family and friends back home started telling me I should do it as a career. My dad is actually a travel photographer too, so I think I have a natural eye from him which is perhaps how my images developed very quickly at the beginning. I loved the idea of being able to have a job where I could travel and tell stories of people and places around the world. Finding the incredible work of photographers like Steve McCurry and Alison Wright just inspired me even more. Of course, over the few years since then I have found out that this is a very hard career to make money from, and it isn’t just all about travelling and taking photos, but my love and passion for image making has always carried me through.
How would you describe your style?
I describe myself as a travel photographer because while I shoot a mixture of portraits, street photography and landscapes, I am always trying to portray a sense of place through my images. I want people to look at my photographs and feel like they are in a place; meeting the people,
walking the streets. My work definitely has a documentary angle, as I’ve always been drawn to cultures when I travel and I love capturing people and telling their stories.
Has your style changed over time?
Yes, to a degree. I only started taking photographs around four years ago and I found very quickly that I mostly connected to photographing people and that is also what my audience responded to. Quickly my portraits have become what I am known for, and they are still my favourite thing to shoot. Overtime, my style has definitely become more refined and I think my skills as a storyteller have improved. In the beginning, I was just shooting things which I thought were beautiful, without much regard for how the images fitted together and how they might make a story. Now it’s one of the main things I think about when I’m shooting.
Has there been a particularly memorable shoot?
I’ve had some amazing opportunities to shoot beautiful places and people all over the world, and different shoots stand out for different reasons. My first big magazine assignment (for National Geographic Traveller) was along the English/Scottish Borders. It was a location totally different for me, and after having spent a few years living in Asia building my portfolio, I was nervous if I could capture the UK in a way which still felt like my style. I took my sister with me as my driver/model and we spent four days driving along the border. It rained constantly, we had to sleep in an unheated barn one night (in early February) due to a lack of any budget, and we ended up in a lot of locations I was supposed to shoot thinking ‘is this it?’. It was a really tough shoot but in the end I think I captured some images which really celebrated the beauty of the place, and it made me realise that sometimes challenging shoots end up being the most rewarding.
You’ve travelled the world taking photographs, do you have a favourite location or subject?
India is my favourite place both to travel and to take photographs. I feel a very strong connection with the country and when I’m there I feel very at home. As a photographer, it’s a paradise. The colours, the faces, the festivals and spirituality. I feel like I could spend a lifetime photographing India and there would still be more to see, more to capture.
Can you tell us about capturing the Lodestars Anthology India cover image?
That photograph was taken at the Pushkar Lake in Pushkar, Rajasthan a few years ago during my second trip to the country. Pushkar is a gorgeous little town between Jaipur and Jodhpur, and I spent almost a month there over the annual Camel Fair, capturing local herders and families on the dunes.
Some days, I would take time off and sit around the lake where it was very peaceful and quiet. Most of the lake is for pilgrims, who bathe in the holy waters, which are said to be tears of Lord Shiva. I was sat on the opposite side one day when all these women in vibrant dress walked past. I loved the contrast of their bright clothes with the white background of Pushkar town and the lake. Little unexpected moments of magic like this often happen in India.
You also run ROAM magazine, can you tell us about this project?
I started ROAM two years ago with my sister Athena. I felt like there was a lack of a platform which focused on storytelling and cultures, and too much travel media was becoming about the traveller not about the place. I wanted to change the conversation about travel, and create a platform to celebrate the work of travellers who seek out deeper cultural connections and off the beaten track places.
We publish photo essays, stories, interviews, guides and features from all over the world. We aim to delve into places a little more off the beaten track, or to highlight cultures you may never have come across. Imagery is a huge focus for us, and we love finding beautiful photography to illustrate the magazine with. We are contributor based, and have published stories from amazing photographers, writers and creatives from around the world. Our aim is eventually to make ROAM into a physical magazine, full of stories and beautiful photography.
What advise do you have for someone looking to begin a photography career?
Firstly, this is a really hard and unpredictable profession and you really need to love it with all your heart to want to pursue it as a career. If you do, then I think it’s really important to develop your own style and unique way of telling stories. This is what will make you stand out from everyone else.
To find out more, take a look at ROAM magazine.