The Spirit of Travel: Jessica Sample

216279-A1-010 001© Jessica Sample
© Jessica Sample
216279-A22-005-006 001© Jessica Sample
216279-A3-008 001© Jessica Sample
216279-A18-004-005 001© Jessica Sample

As a daughter of owners of a stock footage company, Jessica Sample grew up traveling the world with a camera. "My parents would take me and my sister to far-flung places like Africa, Indonesia, Tibet, and Bhutan," she recalls. "I would shoot roll after roll of 35-millimeter film and I loved the process of going to a new place and capturing the experience through my photos."

Still, Sample says she felt a bit nervous on her first professional travel assignment—to Parma, Italy, during her tenure as deputy photo editor of Travel + Leisure. “Arriving and scouting the town, I started to think about things like where I wanted to shoot based on light, and which places would be my night shots and my establishing shot,” she recalls. “It taught me to always be ready to catch those unexpected moments that really give you an authentic feel of a place.”

Today Sample’s diverse work has appeared in dozens of publications, including GQ, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, and Coastal Living. Sample eschews committing to any particular niche. “I think it’s hard to have a single specialty within travel photography,” she says. “One of the things I love most about shooting travel stories is they force you to work in many different kinds of photography—portraits, landscapes, food, lifestyle, interiors—which always keeps things interesting.”

On a recent assignment in the Andalusia region of Spain, Sample felt sure that the small town of Zahara de la Sierra would make an inspiring location. “Driving up to it was like coming across a town out of a fairy tale, with a castle-like fortress rising over everything. I knew I wanted to maximize my time there with late afternoon and early morning light,” she says. “I felt as if I had come across a secret town, and it’s exciting to capture and experience these undiscovered places, knowing they’ll soon become discovered because of the photographs I take.”