Conde Nast Traveler
Creative Director: Yolanda Edwards
Photo Director: Nancy Jo Iacoi
Photo Editor: Leonor Mamanna
Photographer: Gabriela Herman
Heidi: How did you break into travel photography?How you do you describe yourself: travel/lifestyle?
Gabriela: I’ve always been a traveler. When I was just 10-days old, I was already on a boat headed to the island of Martha’s Vineyard. My mom is Brazilian and we went down every other year for the holidays. In college, I managed to study abroad for three semesters (and they subsequently made a rule limiting students to two semesters only, which I like to think was because of my travel). I never set out to be a travel photographer, but perhaps I was always destined to be one?
Starting out, I used to say that I was a portrait photographer. That I loved the interaction with people and that connection was what it was all about. But then, I started shooting a friend who is a chef and a farmer and ended up with a portfolio of food photography. So I started getting hired, and sent around the country, to shoot outdoorsy food scenes. Now I still get hired to shoot portraits and food, but also travel stories.
Travel photography is actually a perfect mix of everything I love to shoot because you need to have great portraits, great food shots, landscapes, tell stories… basically a bit of everything. I’m still shocked that I get paid to travel. I was in Hawaii in December on a shoot and I thought to myself, ‘wow, I’m actually living me dream.’ I realize how fortunate I am to be able to say that.
When you are on personal travel, are you always shooting? Can you actually turn off work mode?
I am never not working! Even if I don’t have my camera with me, my eyes are always looking for a shot (or, more likely, editing photos, or updating my website, or networking or one of the other million tasks it takes to be a photographer) . And these days with my iPhone, I always have a camera with me and have become hopelessly addicted to instagram. I was recently on vacation in Istanbul and even though I had my DSLR with me, I ended up taking far more shots with my iPhone than with it.
What sort of direction/shot list did you get from the magazine?
This was one of my favorite assignments from last year. I have a great relationship with the editors at Conde Nast Traveler. Many on the team came from Martha Stewart Living, a publication for whom I was already a frequent shooter.
Going into this assignment, I had already worked with the writer, Stephen Orr, and the editors knew my style so everything was very organic. Stephen had previously taken this road trip and had written up notes on each location, so I had those as a guideline. I knew the hotels where I would be sleeping and the restaurants where I should be eating, but there was a lot of freedom to also just shoot what looked interesting along the way. These are my favorite kinds of assignments, where I really get to spend time and explore a place, versus the kind of assignments where there is already an image in mind that needs to be executed.
Do you typically travel with the writer?
It depends on the shoot and the location and the scheduling. I had a travel story here in Brooklyn for French Glamour where the writer came from Paris and the two of us explored the neighborhood of Red Hook together. In Hawaii, the writer happened to be living there at the time, so I was able to meet up with him for one of the days and he showed me some of his favorite spots off the beaten path.
Whether in person or just over the phone, its very beneficial to connect with the writer beforehand, and even be able to reach them throughout the trip as they have usually already done the exact same itinerary and thus can give you tips and reconditions to make your job go smoothly.
How many days was this shoot?
I think it was four or five days. I was actually already in Marfa the weekend prior to attend a wedding, so I was able to shoot some images that I knew were on my shot list ahead of when the job officially started.
What do you love about being a wandered armed with a camera?
I love how photography can take me to the oddest places, ones I would never imagining visiting were it not for photography. Marfa is a great example — it’s a strange little gem of a city located in the middle of nowhere in west Texas. This trip was the second time that photography took me to Marfa. I had been there once before for Phoot Camp, a creative retreat for photographers, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to be back there shooting on assignment.
After Phoot Camp, I stuck around and went on a little road trip with a few friends. We ended up driving through Big Bend park, arriving in the ghost town of Terlingua and randomly spending the night with a middle- aged man who opened up his gorgeous home to five total strangers. I never thought I would be back there but, lo and behold, guess which ghost town was on my shot list for this assignment? I remembered where his house was and drove by. He wasn’t home, but I left him a note and memories flew back of the morning dance party on his patio.