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3 / 6Work Attire"I had the chance to visit a huge weaving facility in Hyderabad and met the team assigned to dyeing threads. I loved that this young lady was dressed so beautifully."Photo by Esther Huynh
4 / 6Labor of Love"These two men work in a small room in their village home outside of Hyderabad. First, they dip strands of string into a dye mixture, then soak the strands and squeeze out the liquid in a repetitive motion—it's truly a labor of love. The whole process requires so many elements: natural ingredients to make the dye, water to saturate the strands, fire to heat the water, and, of course, the hands of dedicated humans who transform the fabric from ordinary to vibrant in just a few hours."Photo by Esther Huynh
5 / 6Golden Style
"The women of India are not afraid of color. I ran into a woman who was working in her kitchen, which had a bright yellow curtain surrounding it. This moment—the way the tones contrast and the colors match—took my breath away. My favorite part of this picture is the marigold this woman wears in her hair. Marigolds are often used in weddings and festivites—I've read that they symbolize passion and creativity."Photo by Esther Huynh
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Esther Huynh, a freelance product photographer from Dallas, Texas, first caught our attention when her stunning photographs popped up on @afarmedia’s Instagram feed with #traveldeeper. We were captivated by Huynh’s unique, vibrant images of Indian textiles and the people who made them, so we reached out to her to learn more. We spoke with Huynh about her approach to travel photography, the story behind her images, and her recent trip throughout the heart of India.
When did you first get into photography?
“I think I always was supposed to work in photography, but it didn’t become a serious option for a career until college. I was studying biology and I wasn’t happy, so I took an art class to get a break. The class really reminded me how important creativity was for me as a person, so I decided to pursue it instead. Ever since then, my career as a freelance photographer has really just fallen into place.”
You work as a freelance product photographer and travel often for both business and pleasure. What was the purpose of your most recent trip to India?
“A client of mine runs a textile company called KUFRI that produces woven textiles made by artisans in India. She wanted to shoot a look book that featured behind-the-scenes images of the process, so she asked me to come with her to India (where she was born) to explore its textile industry. Weaving is a heritage artisan craft in India—the skills get passed down throughout generations—so Mili, my client, really wanted to highlight that, showcasing the tradition as a livelihood for many people in India, but in a way that rings true. We spent about three weeks touring textile factories and exploring Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Varanasi. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
What were your impressions of India?
“I can’t say enough good things about India as a country. It’s truly so beautiful, so vibrant, and so affordable. There’s so much to see and experience. I beam up every time I talk about my trip.”
How has photography influenced the way you approach travel?
“Photography teaches you the value of timing, whether it be waking up early to catch a sunrise or waiting hours for the tide to come in. You learn to approach things with patience, which is also key in travel. It’s about opening yourself up to chance—like coming across a random scene at the perfect moment or meeting an interesting stranger at an unexpected time. When you’re flexible, attentive, and patient as a photographer, your world opens up as a traveler.”
Do you prefer to travel on assignment or with no direction?
“I think the business aspect of traveling really changes the way I shoot—sometimes for the better. When I travel for business, I get access to things that normal tourists might not get to see. On this trip, I don’t know where I would’ve begun to find access to the people I was able to meet and photograph as a foreign traveler with no inside connections. Being there for business—I wouldn’t say I prefer it—but from a shooting standpoint, it presents a huge amount of opportunity, especially in this case.”
Do you have any advice for fellow travelers and aspiring photographers?
“With freelance work, you will be tested in so many ways. You might be insecure when you start out, but don’t let expectation ruin your chances. A lot of people hold back because of fear of failure—don’t be afraid to hit the ground running.”
Follow her on Instagram: @estherhuynh.