Self-taught photographer Tanya Sharapova has found a way to combine the two things she likes to do the most: travel and photograph.
Having worked as a photo editor for AD magazine, Tanya understood what magazines and publications are looking for when it comes to working with photographers. Taking advantage of her knowledge and combining it with a serious amount of hard work, Tanya now spends most of her time traveling around the globe as a travel photographer.
Her penchant for traveling is evident in a number of major publications. From National Geographic, and GQ Travel, to Conde Nast Traveler, Tanya’s work gave us a glimpse into her adventures in various corners of the world. We had an opportunity to talk to her about her photography journey and how did she manage to land her globe-trotting career.
Tell us about yourself, who is Tanya Sharapova?
I’m a photographer, an organizer of unique travel tours in the Himalayas, a researcher, and a person who cannot live without adventures, a new experience, and a photo camera. I live between Moscow, Berlin, and the Himalayas. I work mostly for magazines and private clients.
How did photography step into your life?
I always photographed. I started at school when my parents bought me a point-and-shoot 35mm film camera and from then on, I constantly photographed my classmates in Moscow, and in our school trips to nature and other cities. The camera has become my constant companion.
At first, I was interested in Lomography, then naive photography, and then I was fond of printing and film photography. During the digital boom, I switched to digital cameras, which I now use along with film cameras.
Why travel and people photography?
Traveling is another passion of mine, without which I cannot live. When some time ago – before starting the travel photography caree
By chance, I had an opportunity to show my story about Georgia to the art director of the Conde Nast Traveler magazine and the story was instantly taken. It turned out that the art director had seen a lot of stories, but did not like any of them. Then one of my friends remembered that I had recently traveled and photographed in Georgia and showed her my works. That’s how my first travel story was published!
Besides that, I have always been interested in taking pictures of people – making portraits is one of the main directions in my photographic activity. The possibility to catch emotions, mood, glitter in the eyes, how a person looks at the world – I love portrait photography for all that.
Some of your clients are big names like National Geographic, Asian Geographic, GQ Travel, and etc. How did you manage to build such a client portfolio?
Before I decided to become a travel photographer and quit my office job, I worked for 6 years in the publishing house of Conde Nast, and spent most of the time working as a photo editor in AD magazine. I watched thousands of photos, hired photographers, and worked on illustrative part of the magazine. This gave me a clear understanding of what exactly magazines and their art departments expect from photographers.
In addition, I do not only shoot my photo stories, but I also do myself all the writings and surveys on the ground. This is an indisputable plus for a magazine. To take my first serious stories, I traveled a lot and took a lot of photos – my first serious trip took 9 months, 7 in India and two in Nepal. From this journey, I returned with decent works to be published.
You have the amazing talent of being able to portray people in genuine manners no matter where they’re in the world. How is the process of photographing individuals in remote places different than the usual one?
In fact, it’s not that difficult to photograph people while traveling. People in remote regions have no preconceptions that they should look good on photos. They totally trust the photographer. The main thing is to find a connection with the person you are photographing, whether you speak the same language or not.
How are you usually received in these places?
Locals are always happy to meet strangers, for them you will always be the same wonder that they are for you. In the Himalayas, where I often work, live some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. They are always happy to invite you to their place, drink tea, treat you with the food they have in their homes, and ask you about what has led you so far.
What was your most memorable project so far? Can you tell us the story behind it?
One of the most memorable stories I have recently shot were the portraits of women with tattooed faces in Myanmar, for a project called “Inked”. I’ve noticed these women during my trip to the Burmese Chin state and a year later, I returned there to shoot a story for the Russian edition of the National Geographic magazine. First I needed to approve the topic with the editor-in-chief of the magazine and only then I could come back for the shooting.
I took portraits of these women in a laconic style on a black background, so that the viewer’s attention is focused – as much as possible – on the look and face of the heroines. The important point for me was to talk to women and find out why did they do these tattoos, and how did they feel about the tattoos being made by force on their faces during their childhood.
I photographed and interviewed 33 women from the age of 28 to 75 years old. The result was a project that now lives an active photographic life. “Inked” recently won the ND Awards and Tokyo International Foto Awards competitions.
What is the project you really want to do but still didn’t?
I have a long list of projects that I would like to make. Some of them are associated with travel and expeditions, part with Europe – Moscow and Berlin, where I spend a lot of time. I prefer to talk about projects when they have already been done. The more you talk about a project that has not yet been shot, the fewer are the chances to make it.
What are the key lessons you’ve learned since you started your career?
No matter how perfect the profession of travel photographer sounds, this is a job like the rest, in which to be successful you have to work a lot. You should always follow your dreams and the themes that really interest you. From there, you will make the most sincere pictures.
It is also important to try new things, both in artistic and technical terms. Communication with colleagues and people working in the region where you are
What piece of advice would you give to people that want to start in this field?
My main advice is to take pictures as much as possible. Always carry a camera with you! Attend thematic workshops, lectures, and as an ideal option, go on a photo tour with a professional photographer who will be able to share with you some rules and tips of shooting on location, and point you out weak and strong points.
What’s your plan for this year?
I plan to go shooting in the Russian North, make several trips in the Himalayas, organize four photo tours in Nepal and India, and travel through the former countries of the Soviet Union.
I would also like to take pictures not only when I travel or on expeditions, but to do portrait photography of regular people who surround me in my regular life.
We would like to thank Tanya for the interview and for taking some time to talk with us. To see more of her work and