Greg Goodman has checked into forty-four countries, helped save a burning village in Thailand, slept on the floor of the Indian trains (without a ticket) and survived to tell the tale. Arguably, there are few people who have travelled as far and wide as Greg, and fewer have had more diverse experiences.
The well known travel photographer and storyteller has been able to capture some of these beautiful moments on his lens and showcases it on his popular blog adventuresofagoodman. In this exclusive interview with Tripoto, he opens up about all the Goodman adventures, scares and the man behind the lens himself.
1: Before you began your travels, you described your life as a tug of war. Tell us more about that?
From a young age, I dreamed of being a businessman. My favourite fantasies were “CEO of Hollywood” and “comic book store owner.” After college, my reality was more like, “entry level desk worker trying to rise the Corporate America ladder.” For a while, everything was perfect; I had a business card, pay check and healthy social life. However, perfection is fleeting; and, within a few years, my chosen path no longer fulfilled me.
Finally, fate and love brought me to a small Nicaraguan village for seven months. Along the way I took local chicken buses, picked beans, climbed trees and met some of the most incredible people on earth.
Travel and life abroad was my new dream; but, the security of corporate America still held a powerful draw. Nine years later, I still catch myself thinking about how much easier another desk job would be. To have that steady pay check, health insurance and a “career.” But, that doesn’t make my heart sing. Sharing photography, telling stories and traveling the world… that’s the stuff my heart’s songs are made of.
2: When did a camera become your travel companion and why did you choose photography as your medium expression?
I often joke that I asked my parents for a sibling and they gave me a camera. That’s not entirely true; but, on long family vacations, the camera sure provided a whole new world of entertainment.
Fast-forwarding a few decades, my current love of photography began in 2006; while I was living in Nicaragua. I was awed by everyday life in the village. It was so different from anything I ever had seen or experienced.
Snapping photos wasn’t enough; I knew I needed to share the journey with friends and family back home. So, every month, I found my way to an Internet café and sent out an e-mail update with the latest images and stories.
The response was overwhelmingly positive; which fuelled my drive to find a bigger and better way to share. Even today, it’s that same goal that fuels my Web site, career and passion. Above all else, I strive to inspire others to get out and explore our beautiful world. To see everyday life through someone else’s eyes; and to understand that all people are the same.
3: Why would you travel in the Indian trains without a ticket? How did that work out for you?
Ha. I assume you’re referring to the time I had to sleep on an Indian train floor? Or, perhaps the time we had to bribe the ticket collector to avoid the police? I don’t actually recommend hopping on a train without a ticket; but, sometimes there’s no other choice.
Like when you arrive at the station right as the train is leaving. Or, when the train is fully-booked; but you still need to get on it. The most amazing thing about all of these stories – and traveling life in general – is that it always works out!
4: How are you able to embrace such challenges and inconveniences when other loath them?
Don’t get me wrong; I struggle with the challenges and inconveniences as much as the next traveller. I’ve had my share of outbursts and meltdown; but, I don’t let those moments define my travel.
Knowing that I will eventually laugh at whatever ridiculous situation I’m in – and writing the story in my head as it happens – has gotten me through some very difficult times: like that night on the Indian train floor.
6: You prefer cities over countryside. Yet it is often in the countryside that provides scenic shots. How do you reconcile the two?
You know, I’ve always believed that I prefer cities over countryside; largely because I grew up in New York City and have mostly lived in big urban centers. But, over the years, I have softened on that stance.
Recently. I’ve also a lot of time focusing my photography on natural settings: on landscapes and nature. Because you’re right; the countryside often provides the most scenic shots. However, I also love photographing a beautiful landscape with evidence of humanity somewhere in the frame.
7: How do you conceptualise a photo story? Is it an in the moment thing or meticulously thought of?
Often, I am writing the story in my head as it’s happening. I frequently record videos of my voice to help me remember the small details or any poetic prose that I think of in the moment. Later, I will type out those audio notes and combine them with my unedited recollection of the event. Then, more often than not, the story goes into a folder where it remains for months or years; until I’m finally ready to publish it. This delay really helps me look at the tale in a whole new light; and to see it through the eyes of my readers.
8: Do you doctor the photographs or prefer to post them unvarnished?
I call myself a Digital Photographic Artist; which means I use every tool at my fingertips to recreate a vibrant memory. While traveling, I rarely have a chance to choose my light or how much time I spend in one place. It’s usually, “I’m here. It’s there. Snap. Move on.” That’s why the digital darkroom is such an amazing place.
Most of my images have been post processed in Photoshop; often using dozens of layers to create a new work of art from the original digital file. In fact, I often adjust my camera’s settings to create an intentionally imperfect photograph; with a coherent idea of how I will later post process it.
9: Tell us about the moral dilemma of a photographer caught up in human tragedies like war, violence or in your case village on fire?
The village fire you mention was one of the most thought-provoking photographic experiences of my life. On one hand, I wanted to help put the fire out. On the other, there were more than enough people already dumping water buckets. Plus, I had an amazing opportunity to get once-in-a-lifetime photos and document the experience.
In the end, I spent more time helping the bucket brigade than I did documenting; and we got the fire out and saved the village. However, the experience made me incredibly appreciative of the daily moral struggles that war or event photographers must experience.
It has to be so difficult to stand by and watch other people suffer. Yet, there’s a certain obligation to record the moment for prosperity. I honestly don’t know how they do it!