Esteemed image makers name their favorite locations.
BEHIND THE LENS
When encountering people in primitive cultures in New Guinea, Chris Rainier often relies on common sense, friendly eye contact and body language. “There’s a universal way of being human,” he says. “It’s taking the time to be careful about the way you conduct yourself, stepping lightly — culturally, emotionally and spiritually — with the people. The quality of a portrait is in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship. If one can unshackle oneself from that notion of what you’re trying to get out of a situation but rather what you can give to it, the byproduct will be fantastic photography.”
• In the wilds of Mongolia, Brown W. Cannon III does not recommend going it alone. “Hire a good guide who can grant you access to people and places that are truly authentic,” he says. “A guide can enable you to spend more time shooting and less time searching.”
• While shooting in China, Carolyn Drake advises: “The Chinese government’s interest in holding a tight grip on the region and the stories coming out of it can sometimes make shooting there difficult. There are plenty of cultural differences — this is their place, not mine.”
• Jodi Cobb suggests taking your time in French Polynesia. “You have to slow down to the rhythm of the islands and the tides, and sharpen the senses that civilization has dulled and denied,” she says. “Otherwise, you will be defeated by the sheer beauty that you can’t really capture.”
IF YOU GO
Some places seem to have undeserved reputations. “The biggest challenge to shooting in Syria is the preconception among Westerners, especially Americans, that it is a dangerous country,” says Peter Aaron. “This appears not to be the case. The people of Syria could not be more welcoming. Since the country has been shielded from the West through economic sanctions, there’s little evidence of advertising, and their world looks like a throwback to more-innocent times.” But he adds a caveat: “Due to U.S. government measures, there is no reciprocity between American banks and Syria’s largest bank, so bring lots of cash.”