Freya Dowson started life on a sunny beach in Bermuda, grew up among the lakes and forests of Canada, and planted her own roots in England. She now travels the globe as a professional photographer, capturing moments that make foreign lands feel much closer to home.
Words & Photography: Freya Dowson | @freyadowson
You have travelled and lived in so many amazing places from such a young age and have some beautiful footage and photos growing up. Do you think travelling from so young influenced you to become a travelling photographer?
I think it definitely did! Both of my parents came from very international backgrounds – they both grew up in India (my dad was born there too), and they’ve both lived in multiple countries so I really felt like I had to live up to that. My family has always been very international so I’ve never found travel too intimidating. Also, my mum is a painter so I’ve watched her filter travel experience through a creative lens – I didn’t realise that I was following the same path but now that I look back I realise I was heading towards travel photography all along.
When was this the first time you picked up a camera?
The first time I picked up a camera for travel was actually the year I dropped out of university. My mum came to visit just before I dropped out and bought me a little film camera as I think she knew I was about to embark on my first solo adventure. I took that camera along with me as I travelled through Spain and Morocco and looking back at those photos I can tell the kind of photography I was leaning towards even then, although I didn’t know it. I shot a lot of street photography in Morocco and even now I love shooting life as it happens – although these days there tends to be more of a focus on storytelling.
What is the most inspiring/memorable place you have travelled to? With and without your camera!?
The most inspiring place I’ve travelled with my camera has been… that’s so hard, there are very few places that haven’t inspired me! India is an old favourite and I never seem to tire of shooting there. Most recently Japan has been incredible…but I’m not sure if I’ve travelled anywhere without my camera recently – it comes everywhere with me even if I’m just walking the dog!
As a photographer, you must have some moments on your travels with work/personal that will forever stick in your mind, can you share a few with us?
I feel like I have so many of those moments!! How to even pick one? I was in Wales this past weekend and I was sat on a cliff at sunset amongst some wildflowers and looking out over the ocean, it was pretty amazing and breathtaking. I love any travel experience that takes you into the raw side of nature – that takes you out of yourself for just a little bit.
What does travel mean to you?
Travel to me means being a citizen of the world. I’ve never felt too out of place in any one country because travel to me always means trying to relate with another culture or empathise with another life in some way. We’re all human beings and we are all more similar than I think we would like to admit. It’s about connecting the dots between different ways of being which in turn helps to shorten the space between us all.
What's in your bag? What are the travel essentials that you can’t ever be without?
I always travel with my stills camera and my vlogging camera, three lenses, my laptop, two hard drives, and all the assorted leads and chargers plus a lot of memory cards. On top of that I’ve got my phone with all the music and audiobooks I need, then there’s my notebook for when inspiration strikes, my yoga mat for when I have enough energy to actually use it, and my travel pillow which gets used more than the last two items!
We know how much time goes into editing afterwards, what keeps you sane? What do you do in your down time to balance out the hours of editing?
In my downtime when I’m not editing a shoot, I’m usually editing a photo for Instagram or something. I don’t find editing feels too much like work because that’s still such a big part of the creative process for me, I love playing around and trying different things – and then working out how to shoot a photo differently to influence the edit. But when I’m not shooting or editing I’m usually filming and editing a vlog… I think most photographers keep up their work because they love it, and so for me there’s very little space between my job and what I enjoy most in my down time.
Apart from family, friends and your husband, what are the things you miss the most when travelling?
Hot showers!! And sometimes healthy food. And wifi connection. Sometimes when I’m shooting I’ll have none of the above and then when I land at a hotel with a hot shower I’m happier than ever. When you’re travelling and you’re rolling around and climbing stuff for a good shot, not having a functioning shower is especially difficult.
Being self-taught, do you have any starting advice for others who are on a similar path/want to become a travelling photographer?
I think the best advice is to keep going, even when it feels like you’re failing. I get asked a lot about how I got to where I am, or to give advice to new photographers, but the truth is that no path looks the same and what worked for me may not work for another. Whenever you feel like you’re looking for an answer on how to build a career like this, chances are it’s usually 'keep working hard at it'. And if you love it, it won’t feel hard – it’ll just feel like you’re getting to do a lot of what you love. And when it comes to success whether it’s with clients, or social media numbers, or recognition, just remember that no amount of success will ever feel like enough if you’re chasing it for external validation. Chasing that kind of success is a thirst that never goes away no matter how much you have.