Thursday, February 3, 2011

'The Bud' Magazine Cover + Interview


Nigel Simmonds, Photo Editor at The Bud Magazine in Bali, contacted me several weeks ago to see if I'd like to be interviewed for their Spotlight series in the Jan/Feb/Mar issue of The Bud. I deliberated for about a millisecond, then said yes please!

Read the full interview at the bottom of this post.

I had worked with Nigel before on a past feature (written by my friend Mike) on Ketut of Eat Pray Love fame. Marjorie Green and I had taken pictures of our visit to Ketut and the images were used in that story.

The Bud is 'the definitive guide to the creative, holistic and spiritual centre of Bali'. If you're in Bali, you will find a copy at any major news stand until the end of March. If you'd like to order a copy, contact

Click on any image for a closer look.


Tracey, what does photography mean to you?

I had always expressed myself through acrylic painting but knew I was no Friday Kahlo. So I played it safe and studied Business whilst filling my electives with Fine Arts in university. In the last semester of my degree, I took a darkroom photography course and realized how expressive one could be with a camera; therein, discovering my new paintbrush.

After 6 years of working in the corporate world, taking night courses in digital photography and embarking on short travelling photo expeditions when I could, I quit my 'real job' as a Communications Manager in February, 2008 and set off for SE Asia. This marked the beginning of my career as a full time photographer and essentially a new lifeblood.

I often think of the people I would not have conversed with and the places I may not have traversed if I didn't have this fire inside. Being a photographer has connected me to amazing people and places, transformed me into a curious wanderer and allowed me to see the world with eyes wide open.

Richard Avedon said it best:

And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.

Where are you based, and how is Bali viewed in your corner of the world? 

Vancouver, British Columbia is my base city at the moment, but I'm looking for a change. Shanghai and New York are high on my list!

I think Bali is a bit of a mystery for many of us in the exotic place in a far off land that one only dreams of travelling to. The gregarious people, fascinating culture and exquisite landscape can be depicted in pictures somewhat but I've always said that one really must go to Bali themselves to experience the magic that lingers there.

What are some of the misconceptions about the countries to which you travel to shoot?

I think the most common misconception before leaving for SE Asia was that I wouldn't be safe as a female travelling alone. But on the contrary, I felt safer there than I do in most North American cities.

When did you first pick up a camera?

I always had a camera growing up but it was more about preserving memories of friends and family. My parents took pictures and video of virtually every important moment in my life. There are storage closets brimming with 8mm film, beta tapes and polaroids. So they may have influenced my need to document a little!

Having a pretty sentimental side, it gives me comfort knowing these fleeting moments in life can be captured and revisited over and over again, instead of slipping into the subliminal abyss of my memory.

Have you always shot in digital, or did you start out in film?

The darkroom course I took in university was strictly film. I had to made a pinhole camera from scratch as my first official photographic device. This helped me to thoroughly comprehend exposure, shutter speed and depth of field. I could spend all night in the darkroom engrossed in making the perfect print, messing with dyes and cheese cloths...burning and dodging, pushing and pulling.

I shot with film for 3 years until my camera was stolen in 2005, so I made the switch then. Digital has made my life easier in a lot of ways, but I still long for those experimental, dare I say romantic, nights in the darkroom.

What do you shoot with when you are travelling? (camera, lenses, tripod, flash etc)

Camera: Canon 50D
Lenses: Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 LII, Tokina 12-24 f/4.0, Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L, Canon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS
Flash: Canon Speedlite 430EX
Tripod: Manfrotto 190 b
Audio: M-AUDIO Microtrack II

I shoot wide much of the time, especially for street photography as seen in my NY images and use a telephoto for shooting surfing. I rarely take my tripod or flash and usually choose just one or two lenses as I prefer to travel as light as possible. I also have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 when I want to shoot video or don't feel like schlepping a heavy DSLR.

My IDEAL camera kit would be a Canon 5DII with a 7D as a back up and a few good prime lenses. Dreamy.

What software do you use for colouring and retouch?

I use Lightroom to import, catalogue, rate, keyword, caption, post process and export. I bring images into Photoshop here and there but for the most part Lightroom has everything I need as a photographer.
As I am starting to shoot more video, I use iMovie to compile photos, video and audio for short multimedia pieces.

Your images are 'feel-good' in that your pictures often portray romantic situations and places. Do you ever document suffering?

I'm very active in supporting animal rights and environmental issues and always searching for ways to make an impact. One of the reasons why I name Asia as a place I'd like to live is because of the dolphin slaughter happening in Japan and much of the consumer base for shark fin soup thrives in China - two issues that lay dear to my heart.

James Nachtwey describes using photography as a tool to 'shake people out of their indifference - to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest'. Images speaks louder than words in many cases and I'd like use that power to make a difference somehow.

I am also inspired by Nick Brandt, a fine art photographer, who documents the vanishing beauty of the animals and landscape in East Africa in a way that is awe-inspiring and demands attention.
Ideally, I would like to work with environmental organizations such as Sea Shepherd, Wild Asia, Greenpeace and shoot for magazines like Earth Island Journal and National Geographic.

What are the qualities you look for in a good photograph?

Photographing what you feel instead of just what you see is something I learned from taking a workshop with David Alan Harvey. Photographs are a reflection of the person taking them..a mirror to who we are and what's going on inside.

Ultimately, if the image tells a story, evokes an emotion, conjures up a memory or a dream, starts a conversation or just creates some good old ocular bliss, that photograph has succeeded.

Do you plan your shots, or is it a question of 'see it, shoot it'? it happens. I prefer spontaneity. It's a thrill to discover for yourself what Bresson meant by the decisive moment.

"Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."

- Henri Cartier-Bresson - 1957

Photography as 'art' is a difficult commercial medium. There are probably more profitable careers to follow...
How much of your time in photography is spent not using a camera?

Quite a lot unfortunately. Much of my time is spent in front of my laptop editing, key wording, captioning, organizing and backing up hard drives, marketing myself, learning about new technologies, what other photogs are shooting and what's happening in the industry. I also freelance as a business writer. I do love every aspect of my career, but like most photographers, I would always rather be out shooting. 

If there is a single message in your work, what is it?

I believe there is art in every living moment...spontaneous moments balanced by a quiet affinity and the profundity to be found in even the most fleeting, everyday occurrence. The most banal occurrence has the potential for iconicity.

Where do you next plan to travel?

I am very interested in the religion and culture of surfers and their connection to the ocean, so am hoping to visit Hawaii again and possibly Chile, early in the new year.
More photographic expeditions will be planned through South America, India, Asia, Africa, Europe and definitely back to Bali someday too. In the words of Susan Sontag, "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list."

And lastly, how can we view more of your work?

My website is From there, you can link to my blog and photo gallery. 


Gregory said...

Great, great interview. Both insightful and refreshing. Awesome work, Trace.

Dad said...

That's MY girl! God job Tracey from your proud papa.