TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER: JEROME SHAW SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH A LENS
Imagine being able to travel the world, exploring exotic destinations, eating the most unique foods, sipping native beverages, while discovering a completely diverse way of life. Travel photographer and writer Jerome Shaw doesn’t have to imagine this scenario, he actually lives it. MMJ. was able to locate Mr. Shaw on the map and he was so kind to share some of his incredible journeys with us.
KELLY: What sparked your interest to become a travel writer and photographer?
JEROME: I come from a very small town in Nebraska. Certainly, as a child, my family didn't travel much. A few trips around Nebraska and Kansas with my father (who ran the J.I. Case tractor dealership in our little town), delivering tractors and other farm equipment, were about the extent of my travel experiences growing up. About as far as I ever got from Hayes Center, Nebraska in my first 10 years were our annual summer trips to Colorado.
After my brother, Jim, brought home a camera with him during his break from college, I became interested in photography (I was 12-years-old). My first paid commercial assignment was photographing for the catalog of an Appaloosa Horse breeder. I’m sure I was very annoying, but my parents humored me. I had a darkroom before I had car.
After studying Fine Art at the University of Nebraska, I quickly learned that my plan to become a famous “art” photographer, getting a gallery and a book deal and make millions wasn’t going to play-out. I moved to Aspen, Colorado where my brother was managing The Nugget Lodge on Main Street. I’d never been to Aspen, but I was an avid skier (well, as avid as a Nebraska Cornhusker could be). I accepted the job as assistant manager at the Nugget and was seduced by Aspen.
I wasn’t much cut out for life in the hospitality industry: making beds, cooking breakfast and doing bookkeeping is not for me. I found there was niche for a photographer somewhere between the local portrait shooter and the well-known ski photographers that were based in Aspen. I clawed my way in, went commercial, and postponed my graduate studies.
It was while I was in Aspen that my brother formed a film production company. I worked on projects with my brother and fellow photographer, Roger Morgan. Pat Griffin often joined our crew and we began making TV commercials, documentary films and eventually ski and adventure travel films.
I’d have to say that it was working on a television series sponsored by Outside Magazine for the Discovery Channel entitled “Sir Edmund Hillary’s World of Adventure” that cemented my love of travel and provided me with an opportunity to travel widely for the first time.
KELLY: When traveling, how long are you usually away from home?
JEROME: I usually have a very defined trip-length planned when I travel. And, for reasons of business and personal preference, I often keep my travels relatively short. For me, 10-14 days is best for business. However, my personal travel style is to go to a single destination and stay for month or two. I like to be in one place for as long as is practical. This way I get to know people, the pace of life and local hangouts. But unfortunately, this method takes a toll on business and personal relationships.
KELLY: Can you tell us a few of your favorite spots off the beaten path?
JEROME: The Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia cast in a central role by Herman Melville in his book Typee, and it is one of my recent favorites that are off the beaten path - waaaay off the beaten path. The Marquesas Islands are 1000 miles northeast of Tahiti. The main access for this chain of islands with names like Ua Poa, Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa is aboard the freighter Aranui 3. I took a 14-day trip onboard the Aranui a couple of years ago. It is one of the best trips I have ever been on.
KELLY: Is there a destination you would want revisit over and over?
JEROME: New Zealand is one place that I would visit over and over. I lived there for a year and did not see nearly enough of this geographically diverse and visually dense country. Also, Brazil is my current mistress, specifically Rio. If someone calls tomorrow with a trip opportunity, I’ll be on the next plane. There are so many places in Brazil that I want to experience. Russia and Ukraine are places I have visited more than once, but I haven’t been back for many years and would like to return. In the US, Alaska is a place that I could visit once a year and never tire of.
KELLY: Where have been the easiest places to write and/or photograph?
JEROME: Peru and Ukraine, because the children are beautiful and the elderly are very photogenic. Alaska, due to its immense size and the landscapes are vast and uncluttered. But Brazil, The Marquesas Islands, and Russia were some of my favorite places to photograph.
I can’t think of any particular place that is easy to write about – but places where you get totally immersed in the culture and people prove easier to write about than places you have a tepid experience with.
KELLY: The hardest?
JEROME: As far photographing people, The British Virgin Islands was the most difficult. The people there often turned away from the camera or wanted money to have their photo taken. Weather often makes a normally photogenic locale difficult. I have had that happen in many places, but the most memorable have been in the Fiji Islands and Rio de Janeiro. Days and days of rain and gloom made getting good shots of exterior locations very tricky.
Another place that proved very difficult to capture was the lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. They rightly placed a lighthouse on this rocky outcropped. It’s foggy there often, but the best photos of the lighthouse are made when the fog lifts. It took many, many drives out to Peggy’s Cove before I finally was fortunate enough to get that quintessential photo of the lighthouse at sunset.
The most difficult places to write about are places you are indifferent to. Love or hate make for better stories than indifference.
JEROME: I’m going to cheat a bit here. I don’t know what the street name is and suspect that it is not even one single street that winds its way up from Rio Centro to the hills of the Santa Teresa district of Rio de Janeiro. But I love this street and the homes and shops that line it.
I recommend you take the streetcar called bondinho, or the "little tram" (tram leaves from a station at Largo da Carioca) up to Santa Teresa. Part way to the top is a stop with a great little pizza café, and near there - up some stairs - is a wonderful Book Hostel Rua Francisco Muratori, 10 - Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20510-180, Brazil. There are many wonderful B&Bs in Santa Teresa and some are in artist homes.
If I ever get the opportunity to live in Rio again, you’ll find me wandering the streets of Santa Teresa, whatever their names.
KELLY: I was surprised to learn you don’t spend as much time behind the camera as one would think a travel photographer would. What takes up the majority of your time?
JEROME: Marketing and getting the next job take up a lot of my time. The normal every day minutia of operating a business also devours many hours per month. I’m also a writer, so research and writing combine into one of the largest blocks of time I spend away from my cameras.
And then, there is the management of the photographs I have created. I spend as much time editing, captioning and preparing the images for publication as I do creating them. The fact that digital photography has changed the nature of travel photography won’t surprise anyone. But many people don’t realize how is has impacted the amount of hours photographers spend behind the camera. Many of the services that I once relied on a photographic lab to perform, I now can do myself on the computer. Certainly the computer consumes more of my time than it did 20 years ago.
KELLY: Where are you off to next and what do you want to accomplish in these travels?
JEROME: Next up is a trip to Nebraska to go sailing with one of my best friends. I know, ‘sailing and Nebraska’ doesn’t sound like a natural. After that, I’ll spend most of the rest of the summer in Colorado with the possible exception of a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have trips to Glenwood Springs, Boulder and Aspen on my summer itinerary.
I have a busy fall travel calendar, with the highlights being The Big Island of Hawaii, Bora Bora and the Riviera Maya in Mexico. I am also planning trips to Mesquite and Las Vegas, Nevada to cover events and Florida.
Each year I make my Travel Wish List and, amazingly, even with such far-flung, exotic destinations included, I usually manage to score an assignment or invitation to at least one a year. So far, I haven’t had a hit on any of my 2012 list, but Bora Bora will take care of that. Some of my other wishes for 2012 are Bali, Tibet, South Africa, Iceland, Italy and Argentina.
For more information visit www.jeromeshaw.com
Kelly Shannon is a native Californian & journalist who believes each of our unique lifestyles creates our very own way of life; from our preferences of art & literature to fashion & music. Deeply intrigued by the creators and innovators of trends, style, and vitality, she is also the Editor in Chief of MMJ.