Photographer and writer Annapurna Mellor on connecting with people, taking photos, and traveling with a purpose.
“My advice to fellow travelers,” Annapurna Mellor says, “is to think about what you are interested in, to find something that is deeply within you—whether that be a creative project or an interest in a certain place or culture—and to travel with that as your guide.” Mellor, a Manchester-based writer and photographer who spent the majority of her childhood living in cities throughout the Middle East and Australia, has been putting her own advice into play since she embarked on a trip to Kathmandu to climb the mountain she was named after. “The most rewarding trips I’ve had—the travels that I remember the most and have the best photos and stories from—are from times that I have followed that intuition.”
We’ve been a fan of Mellor’s travels since her photos first appeared in #traveldeeper. So when we got a chance to catch up with her, we were excited to hear about her recent trips, photography philosophy, travel style, and her newest project, @roam.magazine. Read on to learn more about Mellor, scroll through 15 photos from her journeys in India, Myanmar, Morocco, Vietnam, and Nepal, and be sure to check her Instagram handle @annapurnauna.
You say you grew up around the Middle East and Australia. Could you elaborate?
My dad’s an engineer, and the company he worked for had bases around the world. We lived in Abu Dhabi, and then Dubai, and then Melbourne, Australia. Eventually we ended up back in England.
Have you returned to the UAE as an adult? What was your experience?
We went back as a family about four years ago. Dubai in particular has had such a massive growth in the past 20 years, it’s hard to really recognize anything—our old house isn’t there anymore, but the school I went to was. We ended up hiring a car and doing a little road trip into some of the cities of the UAE that are not as well-known—everyone knows about the glitz and glam of Dubai, but outside of the city there are a lot of really beautiful places. We first drove to Al Ain, an inland city. Not far from there, there are a lot of desert mountains with viewpoints that look out over canyonlike landscapes. It’s really beautiful.
Why did you start taking photographs?
I’m a very shy and introverted person, and I found myself being quite uncomfortable with the social aspect of backpacking. I didn’t want to just hang out with people from Australia, America, or England, when I travel—I can do that back home. So I found that a way to connect with people in a different way was through having my camera with me all the time. It would spark an interest in who I was, what I was doing, and eventually I started taking pictures with people.[[[slideshow_id#683]]]
How did you learn?
I’ve never taken a photography class. When I first started traveling on my own, I had a very basic DSLR that I didn’t really know how to use, but I met people along the way who were serious photographers and they taught me a lot of things. I eventually upgraded my camera and continue to learn more every day.
Tell me about your travels in Nepal and India.
When I graduated from university, I bought a one-way ticket to Kathmandu. I’d wanted to go there because, as my parents tell me, I was conceived at the Annapurna base camp on a trip of theirs—they are both avid travelers, and spent two years cycling around the world. On that trip I climbed the mountain with my mother and then went off on my own through Nepal, India, and a lot of Asia.
I spent the most time in Pushkar, around the Pushkar Camel Fair. The fair can be very touristy, but if you go in advance and stay a long time after as I did, you’ll have a different experience. All of these families come from different villages in the desert and they set up camp on the dunes, trade camels, and interact with other people. While I was there, I met a man who lived in a small village outside of Pushkar. He guided me around, combated the language barrier with me—and after awhile people started recognizing me. It became a really nice project.
Speaking of projects, would you talk about Roam Magazine?
It’s still very much in the beginning phases, but I’ve been wanting to set something up like it for awhile—something that celebrates storytelling, and the people and feelings that are a part of traveling. When I moved back to Manchester, my sister (who shoots in film) and I created @roam.magazine as a place to share our stories. @athenamellor is quite an organized person, and while I have a lot of ideas, I don’t always know what to do with them. So we work very well together.
What’s next for you?
I will hopefully be back in Asia at the end of the year, but I really want to go back to Morocco for a more in-depth trip—especially to the mountains around Marrakech. In the meantime, I’m working on building up @roam.magazine.
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