We're thrilled to introduce Jennifer Emerling, one of Fathom's 24 Best Travel Photographers. In the profile below, Emerling tells us a little about herself and the voice inside her head that helps her shoot better.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a visual storyteller based in Los Angeles, specializing in projects about the American West. I am seeking to capture and understand the identity of American tourism, as I believe it's one of the defining characteristics of our country.
I just got back from a month-long trip to South America, where I celebrated my 30th birthday by traveling through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Some of the highlights from that last trip include seeing the spectacular, Mars-like scenery of the Atacama Desert (the driest desert in the world), as well as the Salar de Uyuni (the world's largest salt flat). I'm really into traveling to remote places bursting with character, color, and unusual landscapes.
How would you describe your photography style?
I consider the calling card of my photographic style my saturated, otherworldly perspective. I shoot with a child-like imagination to highlight unique experiences of traveling in America, which is both familiar and slippery in all of its wonderfully exaggerated folklore, whimsy, and natural beauty.
What do you love most about photographing on the road?
There are a lot of things I love about photographing on the road. First and foremost, I'm a big believer in serendipity, in being in the right place at the right time. Some of my favorite travel memories have been a direct result of that belief. A few years ago I was visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon when park rangers alerted us to a huge lightning storm approaching the visitor's center. It was too dangerous for us to stay inside the park, so we had to cut our visit short. It was a little bit of a bummer. But during the drive back to our hotel in Flagstaff, the stormy sky was beautifully illuminated with a sunset glow of pink, orange, and purple, and we saw lightning dance across the horizon and a double rainbow make an arc over the highway. It ended up being a memorable detour that couldn't be planned, but I truly felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be in that moment.
Serendipity has also served me well when it comes to finding the right people to photograph. Before a road trip, I'll research and plan my route around what will be the most photogenic places to stop and spend time. But I also listen to my intuition (that little voice inside my head), which often guides and connects me to the right people once I'm there. My intuition will encourage me to hang out at, say, Mount Rushmore a little longer, because I feel like I'll meet some travelers that will make for great portraits. Or it will push me to take a road less traveled to find someone special whose presence and interaction will elevate an otherwise ordinary landscape photo.
Where are you headed next?
At the end of June I'll be making an overnight journey to Isle Royale, the most remote national park in the continental US. Though geographically much closer to Canada than America, this tiny island with no roads can only be accessed by a three-hour ferry ride. It's home to a large population of wolves. It will also give me a chance to see Michigan, one of five states left that I have yet to visit.
Next up: Road tripping to Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, and the national parks sprinkled throughout southern Utah to continue working on my See America First! project.
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