An interview with Photographer Sandra Jordan


Sandra JordanFor anyone who’s ever wanted to travel and take a few photographs, life as a travel photographer must seem like the perfect excuse to view the world. And indeed it is, but what differentiates the snaps that all of us take to commemorate our holidays from photographs that we would pay to hang on our walls as art?

Sandra Jordan searches for inspiration and delves into her past experiences to show us how she transforms her passion for travel and art into scintillating photography. She caught her traveling bug from her grandmother who was still exploring the world well into her eighties. She has always admired the way her grandmother embraced every place and every person she met and it is this philosophy that Sandra has kept close to her heart in her approach to photography. As her art shows, there is more than meets the eye.


How did you get into photography and travel?

I travelled a lot with my family when I was young so was introduced at an early age to different places and cultures and have been lucky to live both in Austria and Turkey. I dabbled in photography a bit in my teens but life seemed to take over and it wasn’t until 2007 upon embarking on a 3 month train trip from London to Istanbul that I merged the two together. Now they have become a huge part of my life.


Who inspires you and influences your work?

As a photographer my inspiration comes from various places, I admire the works of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Ara Güler, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and as an artist particularly drawn to black and white photography, I particularly love the works of Chuck Kimmerle, Joel Tjintjelaar, Olivier Du Tré and Ebru Sidar. For colour photography I could look at Steve McCurry’s portfolio all day, his photographs are so mesmerising.


Which is the first place you visited that remains vividly in your memory?

Istanbul.  Whilst living in Turkey I often spent time in Istanbul, it's an amazing city, which for me has everything - great history, amazing architecture, wonderful people, good shopping, great food and boundless photographic opportunities on every single corner.  It's a place I'd very much like to spend a lot more time in with my camera, to really get under the skin of the city and the people that live there.


What was the first photograph you took that you are most proud of?

It’s quite difficult for me to pick just one photograph but one of my favourites though is a photo I took of a woman in traditional dress in a rural town in Italy.  Not necessarily because it is my best photograph, although a lot of people do comment on it, but more because it encompasses the essence of what I like to do. 

Woman in Traditional Dress photography by Sandra JordanI met this woman in the mountain town of Scanno in the Abruzzo region of Italy whilst she was out for her daily walk. I asked if I could sit with her and we chatted for about half an hour.  I say ‘chatted’, my Italian at the time was minimal and she spoke in a very heavy dialect but I was able to understand that she was 95 years old, had been married since she was 15 and had, a couple of months previously, lost her husband.  She showed me a laminated photo of him she had with her from the funeral with a description on the back of how he was her Angel.  It was incredibly touching.

I am glad I hadn’t taken her photo before talking to her and waited until after we had made a connection and I think this comes out in the photograph.


Which country/place would you most like to visit and why?

Oh, I can’t name just one, there are so many places still on my list that I would love to visit:

Uzbekistan for its incredible Islamic architecture

Iceland to photograph the large glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón

Svalbard in the hope to see polar bears

Hasankeyf an ancient town in South East Turkey before it disappears under water due to the building of a new dam

Rajasthan to soak in all the colour 

This has made me realize how much more of the world I need to go and see and photograph!


What is the most surprising place you’ve visited?

Fez in North Morocco.  Morocco was on my list for a while but I wasn't sure whether it would be a good idea to go as a single female traveller so kept putting it off.  I went for the first time last year and am so glad I did.  I had spent the first couple of days in the mountain town of Chefchaouen, a very laid back place with a small easy to navigate medina.  I was then dropped off at the gates of the Medina in Fez and it was a total shock. 

Blue House, ChefchaouenIt is an assault on the senses, a warren of more than 9,000 lanes, alleyways and dead-end streets alongside covered bazaars fit to bursting with aromatic food stands, craft workshops, mosques and an endless parade of people, men riding mules, donkeys heavily laden with goods and porters with carts to jump out of the way of. 

To be honest it terrified me and I spent the first afternoon hiding away in my Riad. One week later, having traipsed the streets, met the locals, tasted the food and, thanks to my amazing guide, seen a lot of Fez that the tourists just don’t get to see, I was totally in love with this city.


How do you organise your travel photography – do you have a plan before going out or just wander around for inspiration?

Most of my trips tend to be between 3 and 6 weeks so I do do a lot of planning before I go, in terms of the places I want to visit but once I am there I don’t like to be too structured, I like to go more with the flow and my feelings that day - it’s when I am just wandering around that I come across the best photographic opportunities and it’s a system that seems to work well for me.


What have you learned about the world through your art and travels?

Photography has definitely made me more aware of my surroundings and has enabled me to view the world and the people in it in a different way.  I’ve been able to immerse myself in different cultures and have met fascinating people who have allowed me a little ‘window’ into their lives. I have been amazingly lucky to have visited so many different places and to have been given the chance to learn about their different cultures and spend time with people who I would never have met under different circumstances.


What is your philosophy about art, travel and life in general?

In life treat others as you would want to be treated yourself, in travel respect the customs and traditions of the places you are visiting and keep your mind open to the wonderful opportunities that will no doubt fall in your path. 

My 5-year-old niece sent me a card the other day and on the back of the envelope she had written “Art is everywhere”. It really made me look around and think!


Sandra Jordan’s solo exhibition, Norway and Morocco, is currently at 10 Grosvenor Street, London W1K 4BJ until 6th September 2012, open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Her Arctic Trees collection will be on show in a group exhibition at Premiere Art Curious Duke Gallery, 207 Whitecross Street, London EC1Y 8QP from 5th July to 11th August 2012.

Cat, ChefchaouenSouthwold PierTwo of Sandra's works, Cat Chefchaouen and Southwold Pier, will be auctioned by Studio Upstairs in partnership with The Royal Academy of Arts and Pallant House Gallery to raise awareness for adults with mental health problems. Viewing night by invitation only at The Royal Academy on Friday 20th July. To support this cause and place a bid, please visit here >>

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