Travel Photographer: Andre Costantini

This New York-based photographer captures photos that make a difference.

Andre Travel Main
Andre Travel Main
Andre Costantini

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What is the inspiration for most of your travel photography?

Most of it comes from assignments. Some of it is on the side, but the majority of it is commissioned. Either I'm following a dance company around Europe or I'm going to Brazil for a film project.

What kind of assignments have you recently been working on?

The majority of my travel from the recent years have been to Brazil and Africa. For the Africa stuff, I was working for an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that delivers supplies. It was a combination of portraits of people we meet along the way and regular travel photography.

Many of your photos involve people, how do they typically react when you approach them with a camera?

It definitely varies from place to place. Kids all around the world pretty much give the same response, which is that they smile. When you're in really remote places, people are more amicable to the idea. Especially since I can show them a digital picture, they tend to get really excited about that. If you take someone's picture walking around the streets in New York, they're going to wonder how you're going to use it. They feel like you're somehow violating their space somehow.

How often do you find yourself working on the road?

It depends on the month, but I'm probably traveling about 50 percent of the time. In March I was home for about four days. I was in Brazil and Puerto Rico. It really depends on the assignments.

Do you have your packing down to a science by now when it comes to gear?

It definitely depends on the assignment somewhat. It's great to have your whole arsenal. If you don't take one lens, that's the one you're going to wish that you had, but I have been able to cut it down. The standard lens I carry is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD. After that, I have a 28-300mm VC. One has the speed and one has the range.

Where do you get the inspiration for some of the more abstract images you make?

I think it shows up the most in the travel stuff. Sometimes a form or line or color just stands out to you. You're presenting as little information as possible, but still trying to convey a message. I don't specifically go looking for it, but I am drawn to that kind of stuff.

Do you shoot all day when you're on assignment or do you try to skip the harsh midday light?

A lot of these assignments only allow us a certain amount of time to get the material that we need. We'll travel three hours to get to a location, have 45 minutes there and then have to move on. It becomes very concentrated. If I had my druthers, I would have more time to shoot, but I have to get the images and convey the story in the time I have. There's not much time to think about what you're going to do, either since you've never been to this place before. You have a sense about what the images should convey, but that's about it.

Are there specific difficulties that traveling as a photographer brings with it?

There's a beauty in a people in the assignment, but there's also the realization that you're faced with people that have a lot of need. There's a lot of poverty and a lot of intense stuff that brings an emotional attachment. You have to be able to disconnect with that in order to photograph. It's so different. I was recently down in Haiti, which as we all know has just been crazy. We photographed for a day and one of the things was this orphanage. This kid is absolutely adorable and there is a little bit of a tear stain on his cheek, but he has a big smile on his face. Then you find out that he lost both of his parents in the earthquake. When you're covering a situation like that, you can come away with a great picture, but you have to attach all of the emotional reality to it.

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