- What does visual peacemaking mean to you?
Visual peacemaking is really nothing more complicated than the result of a decision-making process. We’re all photographers who travel and take photographs along the way. Visual Peacemaking is what happens when we choose to point our cameras at the more positive aspects of what we find on our travels. Rather than focus on conflict and hardship, we concentrate on resolution and hope. Each of us, photographers and non-photographers alike, tend to draw to us the things that we concentrate our attention upon. It makes more sense to seek out those things which convey promise and hope.
- What motivates you to be a peacemaker?
Without wishing to be glib, the alternative is simply unpalatable. Shouldn’t we all be peacemakers? Imagine if that were so.
- Have you ever felt stereotyped?
No, I don’t think so. My work is pretty distinctive although the subject matter might be familiar. You’d have to try pretty hard to stereotype me. Some people assume that I’m a polite, tea-drinking Englishman and that’s a certain kind of stereotype but, in all honesty, it’s one that I’m happy to encourage,
- How does your camera get you to reflect on your world and your life?
It doesn’t. It’s a means to an end but it could just as easily be a notebook and pencil, a video camera, an audio recorder or any other medium through which I could record my experiences. I’m pretty detached from the hardware to be honest and if I didn’t have a camera then I’d still choose to travel to the same locations and to wander through the same markets and streets. I suppose the camera gives me a practical reason to do that and that’s why, without it, I’d still like to have some method to record my journey. Reflection, introspection and careful examination of our place in the world are all natural, instinctive desires and perhaps the camera does polarise that tendency but, ultimately, that kind of reflection and self-examination is a personal responsibility.
- What do you like to photograph best?
Smiles! I live in Thailand, the “Land of Smiles”, and not by accident. I’m drawn to places where there is a community spirit, perhaps because we seem to be increasingly devoid of that in what some people refer to as the “Developed World”.
- What technical aspect of photography do you find most challenging?
Post-production bores me. I know that the process of realising the scene that you originally saw in your mind’s eye when you snapped the frame is essential and I’d rather get that right than leave it to somebody who might apply a different interpretation to my image but, honestly, if I never had to switch a computer on again, I’d be delighted. I like what Henri Cartier-Bresson said: in essence; once the frame had been made he’d lose interest. The thrilling part of photography for me is the moment leading up to and the split-second of releasing the shutter. Anything after that is just window dressing. OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement. It’s rewarding to see your images coming to life and being used in the real world but that’s more of a commercial consideration. The act of photographing is what initially enthralled me and it’s that which still consumes me today.
- Is there a particular group you feel is misunderstood or stereotyped that you’d like to document common humanity amongst?
Where should I start? Pick up any national newspaper of worth and you’ll find examples of groups being stereotyped. Misunderstood? That’s a very long list indeed. Do I have any favourites? I’ve photographed refugees, political and religious, and I suppose that any group that have been displaced would get my attention. We are creatures of habit by nature so losing a home and being forced to flee to unfamiliar lands with unusual customs would seem to be one of the hardest things to overcome. I imagine that it removes your sense of belonging, your sense of identity and heritage and those are tough things to replace.
- Do you have an idea worth sharing?
I have a million ideas, whether or not they’re worth sharing is another matter. Here’s one idea that may be worth sharing: I am continually amazed and inspired by the resilience of the human spirit. I’m gobsmacked when I meet people who have lost everything but who continue to find hope where one might expect there to be despair. I’m continually humbled when I find further evidence that it’s often those who have least who give the most. I find these things to be uplifting for me. I’m inspired when I encounter people who, on the surface at least, can benefit from my help. What actually happens is that any assistance I am able to give is quickly overtaken by the generosity and compassion of those I meet and it’s me that ends up being the greatest beneficiary. So what’s my idea? It is this: Volunteer! It’s not a new idea but it’s one that not enough people act upon. Volunteering at your local hospice, orphanage, free medical clinic or old people’s home will repay you tenfold for whatever time you give. Volunteer your time, volunteer your skills, your energy and your experience. Put these things at the disposal of the organisers of your chosen charity and make yourself available, without expectation of reward. I guarantee that you will leave your first volunteering experience thinking that Christmas has come early.
Gavin Gough is an independent, freelance travel photographer. Currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. Gavin travels extensively, working on assignment, on commission, creating stock images, writing and teaching.
Gavin works primarily as an assignment-based freelance photographer. He has been commissioned by a variety of NGOs, humanitarian and charitable institutions and has completed commissions for organisations as varied as Sony, Vanity Fair magazine and the Vietnamese Tourist Board.
Gavin produces stock photographs for Getty and Lonely Planet images. His vibrant stock collection includes images from more than forty countries which have been reproduced in hundreds of newspapers, magazines and books and are regularly featured in publications such as National Geographic, Geo, Vogue, The New York Times, The Guardian, and many more. His stock images have appeared on everything from postage stamps to magazine covers and billboards.
Gavin co-founded the popular Bangkok Photo School, where he still teaches photographic theory and practice in the classroom and out on location. When at home in Bangkok, he also offers private workshops to individuals and small groups, offering photographers the opportunity to spend time with a professional photographer in parts of the city seldom seen by visiting tourists.
When time permits, Gavin contributes articles of words and pictures to several photographic and trade publications, relating his travel experiences and offering technical and career advice to enthusiastic photographers around the world.
Gavin’s work and blog can be found at http://www.gavingough.com