11 Travel Photographers Share the Photos Helping Them Take a Mental Vacation Right Now
"Photography has become a way of coping during this time of global anxiety."
Travel + Leisure reached out to a handful of professional photographers to see how — in this time where they may not be able to travel and work — they are learning to connect with and use their photographs taken on recent travels as a form of armchair escapism.
The power of an image can be deeply transporting, and in this time when we all need an escape from reality, we can turn to them to find a moment of peace.
We hope these photographers and their work will inspire you to look back on your own travel photographs to meditate, get nostalgic, and dream beyond our restricted borders. There is solace found in natural landscapes but also joy in meeting new people in the places we go.
These images capture the breadth of adventures our world has offered us — and will offer us again — and shed light on the power our photographs hold through time, even if just viewed from a screen.
"Photography has become a way of coping during this time of global anxiety. I’ve used this time as an excuse to make pictures and be more curious about my immediate environment. National and local parks have been a place of refuge and reprieve as well as a source to make work related to our inner desires to be connected with resilient landscapes during a time of such uncertainty."
"For the last two years I've been constantly on the road to destinations all around the world — one more hectic than the other. It was almost fitting that what would be my last trip for a while turned out to be the most peaceful. At the beginning of March, I headed to Norway to work on a project on the western coast of Alesund. At times it seemed like the world around me was beginning to burn so for a moment. I took solace in being away from it. Each day I would wake up to the quiet mountains and make my way around the beautiful land that felt so very disconnected from what was happening outside of it. Sadly reality reached me even there and I had to leave much sooner than I had planned, but not without capturing some images that I'm so thankful to have. Looking back on these images I'm immediately reminded of the immense coldness, silence, and beauty that I witnessed that week. With this current abundance of time I've been looking back on images from this trip and others. Replaying memories over, and over again — but instead of falling into the feeling of sadness or longing I've been feeling wishful for a return to these places from my past and a future that extends past this momentary pause."
"I've been looking through my photos a lot recently, daydreaming about the freedom of hitting the road. I often turn to travel for a way to get away from people, into quiet spaces of my own, but I'm aching to take photographs of people these days. This image was taken on my way back home to LA on a cross-country road trip. I took the backroads of Iowa and passed through a place called Columbus Junction, where I saw a sign for a swinging bridge. It caught my attention, so I turned off, and this is what I found: Lover's Leap Swinging Bridge. The original one was built in 1886; the current version was built in 1922. My puppy stayed in the car while I walked across."
"My partner and I had several trips planned this year including Spain, Morroco, Cartagena, even places closer to home. Now our biggest plans are deciding what to plant in our vegetable garden next month. Despite the uncertainty, the one thing that does seem certain is that we now have a lot of time on our hands. I have found comfort in that because it's given me the opportunity to slow down. It's that slowing down that I've always loved about traveling. It's arriving in a new place and discovering it without an agenda. Meandering through the days with no real plan. I've been working to cultivate that same sense of discovery while being confined to our house. Every day I pick up my camera and take photos of things inside the house or in the yard. I make a nice lunch and actually sit at the table to eat it VS. eating it my desk. While I do look forward to this crisis being over, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that we were given this time to slow down and take notice of the beauty of those in between moments we often miss in the normal frenzy of life."
"This whole situation has certainly been another reminder of what a privilege it is to travel. Much of the world is not afforded the luxury of doing much, if any of it at all. It makes me all that more grateful for the ability I do have to pursue seeing new places and revisiting old favorites. Thinking about the confinement and escapism, paired with thoughts of loved ones and family far away has also made me curious to further pursue some ideas of visiting kin I’ve recently reconnected with. I have some family back in Canada I haven’t seen for half my life at this point. Past estrangement aside, some of them live in really remote Indigenous communities and starting conversations catching up makes me curious to see what their lives and surroundings are like."
"Every summer I take a road trip with two friends. Josh lives in Phoneix and Mikey lives in LA, so I always fly into Phoenix and Josh and I drive to LA. It's been something we've done every year for a while now and it's something I always count down the days for. Our first stop is always Joshua Tree, then the Salton Sea where Josh (who is a photographer) has been doing a project the last three years. I'm thinking a lot about this trip now, because like so much in our lives, it is unclear if it will happen this year. As someone who lives in Brooklyn, flying to the Southwest is incredibly therapeutic: the dry heat, the silence, the big sky, and the natural beauty of the land are all so relaxing to me. It's also great to spend quality time with friends who live on the opposite coast. I'm thinking a lot about it right now because it's my zen, I always come back from the trip feeling refreshed. Being quarantined in my apartment right now, I couldn't be farther from that feeling. Yet, even flipping through those photos right now I feel a wave of calm wash over me."
Shaughn and John
"During this strange time where traveling is prohibited it feels like even our recent journeys take on new meaning. Suddenly the connection between ourselves and our subjects becomes even more precious. Often while traveling we make a point of seeking out popular tourist destinations, as we did on our trip to Yellowstone National Park when we visited Old Faithful. While the crowds of people focus their cameras on the attraction we like to turn around and focus on the people who are drawn to these places. For us the more interesting story is the one about those who flock to these sites, what they are wearing, how they assemble themselves and how they interact with each other. No matter where we find ourselves, our goal is to explore and document the experience of being human."
"When taking photos during vacation or travel jobs, I'm always looking to include human elements into landscapes. The truth is that I'm a lazy traveler and spend more time in congested lookout areas, not going on 20-mile sunrise hikes. Instead of fighting the crowds to give the illusion that I'm alone, I love incorporating the people around me. I've made great connections with strangers from all over the world while we gaze out towards deep oceans and tall mountains together. I like to think about these people in my pictures right now, who are also stuck inside, just waiting until we can be outside together again."
"As we all spend more time at home right now, I've been thinking a lot about photography and how we find comfort in the longevity and resilience of the natural world. In Saguaro National Park in Arizona, stoic, aging cacti are masters of desert survival. They can grow to an astonishing height of about 40 feet and live to be nearly 200 years old. Many don't even grow their first arm for 100 years. In Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, winds propel the tallest dunes in North America to rise nearly 750 feet from the ground. Steady movement can also be a comfort. Every year, thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes fly south for the winter. They can be found resting in places like Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, where they perform a breathtaking mass ascension every morning at sunrise. Here in Santa Fe, we're starting to see the spring migration of monarch butterflies as they gently flutter past. All pleasant reminders that time is vast, and the natural world is full of inspiration."
"I live in the epicenter of the quarantine, in Jackson Heights bordering Corona [Queens, New York], and it's clear to me that things will never be the same. When I look at my travel work, particularly my photographs taken at a tourist hotspot like Disney's Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, I feel like I'm transported to a state of normalcy. This is precisely the kind of escape I want to feel when I hear sirens all day long and am losing neighbors and friends. As I'm gazing at the pictures it's incredible the things that we don't realize we were taking for granted in the moment. Things that seemed common like having the privilege to gather in groups, to be in close proximity with strangers without fear, and to have a shared experience. When I look at the pictures I can remember, even if it's temporary, what that felt like – and I am grateful."
"Though I made this image as part of a larger body of work in Coney Island, I have been enjoying it recently specifically because it is so placeless. Without solid ground in frame, the picture feels abstract and so open to possibility. We could all use some time to be untethered from the ground right now."