Instagram has become more than just an artistic platform; it’s also a strategic asset for freelance photographers looking to showcase their work. But the app has its drawbacks.
Maintaining a distinct feed with regular posts and stories, tracking notifications, and responding to comments and messages to nurture an engaged following can be a huge drain on an artist’s creativity. An overworked Instagrammer might take the easy route and replicate popular concepts, styles, backgrounds, and poses for the sake of Likes. In the face of so many travel photographer clichés, however, the expressive photos in Alina Rudya’s feed (@rrrudya) shine through with authenticity and a genuine sense of adventure.
We caught up with this Berlin-based professional photographer to find out what inspires her work and how she unplugs from it.
It looks like you’ve been all over the world. What first sparked your wanderlust?
“I grew up in Ukraine in Kiev. We didn’t have National Geographic at that time, and my dad brought some issues home from a U.S. trip when I was about nine. That was the first time I saw photos of other countries and other people. I was really drawn to the idea of going out and seeing it for myself, and my dad was really supportive of that. Instead of buying stuff, he would take me on work trips. We would go kayaking, and we would go to the woods. He would tell me that it was the experiences that really matter, not the things. I’m really grateful that I grew up with that kind of non-materialistic mind-set.”
Now, as a photographer, you get to travel to other countries for a living. What inspires your work?
“Of course, I love traveling, and I try to capture a feeling of adventure in my pictures. I try to inspire other people, and other women especially, to go out there and explore. Adventure seems to always be for men. As a woman in the field, you’re expected to blog about fashion and makeup. Female travelers seem to always be a model in a beautiful dress, and I think Instagram really perpetuates that stereotype. And that’s alright if that’s what you want to do, but unfortunately, when you want to do something else, that’s when you start facing criticism. I don’t like that everybody seems to copy one another. So I really try to be true to myself and encourage other women to be creators too.”
At AFAR, we dedicated an entire issue to the idea of unplugging from technology. How do you escape the constant demands of a connected world?
“Of course, it can be very difficult to disconnect as a freelancer, but it’s also especially important to get away from it all. I think there are a lot of different ways to unplug. Sometimes it’s going somewhere very far away to really remove yourself from your everyday worries, or sometimes it can even be just taking a moment to yourself in a comforting spot at home.”
What kinds of faraway places have allowed you to unplug?
“I think the farthest I’ve been from home was Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. When you’re actually at the end of the world, you feel very distant from everyday life. It was a very freeing experience, and it really put all my worries and stress into perspective. Also, once I stayed in Joshua Tree National Park; I don’t usually like camping, but the scenery and the stars were so beautiful and felt so wild. Sleeping in a tent, surrounded by the ancient rocks and weird-shaped trees while listening to howling coyotes made me feel really connected to the universe.”
And how do you unplug at home?
“Just a few minutes away from my home in Berlin, there’s a pathway of cherry blossom trees, and the blooms always take me to a faraway place. Even though it’s just in my neighborhood, it feels like an experience in Kyoto. There’s something about it that’s very relaxing for the mind and the soul. It’s amazing how that can be possible in as big a city as Berlin.”
You said it’s difficult to disconnect as a freelancer. Why is that?
“Most people leave their work at work, but I don’t. To be truly unplugged, you’d have to be without any social media, without a phone, without a camera, which is something I can’t do often because then I wouldn’t have the photos that are my work. But I had this moment of realization where I saw that being on Instagram constantly, reading the news right when I woke up, and responding to emails immediately was negatively affecting me. And I just realized, people can wait. So I’m always reminding myself to take time without a camera, without a phone, and keep some moments in my memory rather than on my SD card.”
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