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Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive



Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

In a world constantly evolving, Trevor Cole stands as a beacon of enlightenment, vividly capturing the intricate relationship between humans and the environment through his lens. His journey from a geographer to a globally recognized photographer is nothing short of inspiring. Trevor has an innate ability to narrate compelling stories through his photographs, taking viewers on a visual voyage through time and space. In this exclusive interview, Trevor shares with us the pivotal moments of his career, his inspirations, and the driving forces behind his celebrated photography.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : Trevor, could you share with us the moment when you realized that photography wasn't just a hobby, but a passion that you wanted to pursue professionally?

Trevor: My interest in photography started at an early age when I travelled with my parents and they bought me a Roleiflex SLR. When I taught Geography in England and further afield I wanted to capture people and landscapes in different contexts. I love diversity and this includes both the human/cultural and the biophysical environment. A Geographer Photographer! I stopped teaching overseas in 2012 and decided to do photography full time, specifically running small photo tours.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : As a world traveller, you've captured various cultures and landscapes on your journey. Can you share an experience that particularly moved you or changed your perspective on life?

Trevor: I have always loved to travel, especially to places which are a little off the beaten track. My photography, together with travel, have become two of my life’s passions. It focuses predominantly on people, culture, and landscapes; images which reflect a spatial and temporal journey through life and which try to convey a need to live in a more sustainable world. I seek the moment and the light in whatever context I find myself and endeavour to use my photographic acumen to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. When I first went to the Omo Valley 22 years ago the tribes enthralled me and it was perhaps then that I realised I needed to document and photograph indigenous peoples.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : Your work seems to carry a strong message about sustainability. How does your background as a geographer inform your perspective on this issue, and how do you aim to communicate this through your photography?

Trevor: When I first started I was fascinated by the difference in landscape and culture when I travelled and I think it is this which provided me with stimulus. I always like to think that humans are inextricably connected to their environment, hence I love to shoot people and landscapes. People adapt to climates and landscapes, therefore they are a reflection of their natural habitats and this contributes to the immense diversity of humankind on this Earth. Sadly, globalisation is reducing diversity and homogenising culture. I love to travel to more remote areas to see people in their true environmental contexts. The people of the Omo valley in Ethiopia, for example, or the Himba in Kaokoland, Namibia. Although even here there is constant change. It is an imperative to convey a message that we can learn from indigenous people and photography can enable more ethical and sensitive approaches to understanding their lives. Photography can be used as an educational tool to convey that we need to be sensitive to the diversity of humankind and respect the rights of these people to self-determination.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : You've been a finalist and winner in numerous prestigious photography contests, including "Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year." How have these experiences shaped your photographic journey?

Trevor: I do enter a few competitions and yes, I have won a few and been a category winner or had honourable mentions. I think doing well in competitions instils confidence in your own ability and also helps your visibility and reputation as a photographer.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : Could you discuss your creative process? How do you approach a new location or culture, and what steps do you take to capture the essence of these in your photographs?

Trevor: Taking portraits of people in the marketplace, street or in a tribal village requires interaction. There are clandestine shots which are often taken with a longer lens and are discreet, but most of my ‘people’ based photography is a product of interpersonal moments. I like to spend time, talk, get to know those who are being photographed. I always ask and even when my efforts are rejected I always respect their choice. Sometimes, even with difficult subjects, spending a little time and using a little humour can yield positive results. In Ethiopia, most people are relatively easy to photograph except, perhaps, for those who are more conservative culturally and religiously. Even then, I relish the challenge and will certainly try! When the moment materialises, I want to capture light, colour, emotion, insight, character, and spirit.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : In your opinion, what makes an image not just a photograph, but a compelling story or a moment in transition? How do you work to achieve this in your own images?

Trevor: I think to be a photographer of any worth you have to be creative. To have an eye to see composition in landscapes, or qualities in a face that make it photogenic. I used to always say that geographers use both hemispheres of the brain to see patterns as well as to be analytical. I think photographers have similar skills and they are essential in getting the ‘shot’ that makes a difference. It is important to be self-critical and there is also a need for others to appraise your photography through their ‘new’ eyes. It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. I take time, I look, I wait and when the moment materialises I want to capture it.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : Your work has been exhibited and used in various forms, from the tourist industry to online travel writing and education. How does it feel to know your images are being used in such diverse ways?

Trevor: I love this aspect of photography where images taken have purpose. I particularly love giving them to organisations like ’Survival International’ who use images to protect the rights of tribal peoples. My own website and our photo tour company is called ‘Alternative Visions’, so the ability to see, to capture and to create something which captures an inimitable moment today to reflect upon tomorrow, is imperative. Life for me has to be sustainable and something which integrates all living things in a complex web. The photographer in me wants to take photos in a context which makes them meaningful and contextual. We are here for a short time so to make the most of life we need to have a vision which passionately captures the beauty of the ‘humans and their planet’ in perpetuity.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : Can you discuss one of your favourite photographs, why it's your favourite, and the story behind capturing it?

Trevor: A difficult question. I think a photograph I took recently before dawn at a Mundari cattle camp in Central Equatoria in South Sudan. The light, quiescence, a herder lying asleep by his fire and the cattle looking on. It was peaceful and epitomised the meaning of a Mundari cattle camp in which the tribe have a symbiotic bond with their cattle.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Retro Kolkata : You've mentioned seeking "the moment and the light" in your work. Could you elaborate on this and how it plays a role in your overall photography style?

Trevor: I try to shoot in the golden hours or at least when the light is not harsh. This allows for a softer more intimate capture. In portraits, I often use a shallow depth of field to highlight the person's features, and the background is often a soft blur which enhances the subject. For landscapes, I try to capture the detail and grandeur of the scene but also to search for unique moments which give a different perspective on a well-photographed subject. It might be a different angle, or time of day but I want my photographs to be unique. I look for patterns, lines, and forms which enhance a composition. Sometimes it is about being in the right place at the right time. It is about having a sense of what is in front of you and an ability to capture it in the best possible light. I endeavour to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary!


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

We thank Trevor Cole for sharing his incredible journey and insights with us. His passion for photography and his dedication to capturing the raw and untouched corners of the world truly inspires. To witness more of Trevor’s breathtaking work, do visit his website and follow his journey through his lens.


Crafting Moments: A Conversation with Geographer-Photographer Trevor Cole : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

 
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