First, we should say that we don't claim to be the world's best photographers! Far from it...but we are among it's most passionate, and we love to practice our art as we travel and try to use our skills to make small changes that we feel will improve the state of the world. We like to enjoy life and mix with decent people and also help like-minded photography enthusiasts such as yourself to make the most of your image-making opportunities whilst on the road and hopefully use your photography to introduce positive change into the places you yourself visit and live in.
How? Well, we advocate slow travel for a starters, encouraging you to travel less frequently and stay in your chosen destination for longer. So if you're planning on going to Marrakech for the weekend as many Europeans do we'd say forget that! Take more time off and stay for a week instead! Marrakech is well worth the extra days (if only for the great food you can eat there and superb hotels you can stay in), you'll have a richer experience (seeing the real place rather than just a few well-photographed tourist sights) and you'll also make longer but fewer journies each year, reducing the amount of engine pollution you're indirectly responsible for.
We also try to point you towards locally owned businesses such as restaurants, hotels, guides, excursions providers and souvenir shops who operate in an environmentally sound way and who invest the money you pay them back into the local economy. As well as this we try to put you in contact with people with whom you can make portraits within the structure of a meangingful exchange based on friendship, rather than you grabbing a candid shot when they're not looking or you paying them, which always leads to unsatisfying memories and does very little to close the gap between tourist and local that seems to grow wider as the years pass. Follow our advice and in years to come you won't look back on those portraits you took in Toronto, Fez or Rome and struggle to recall who the person was, you'll look at them and say 'that was the guy who served me dinner at that remarkable restaurant' or 'I bought a colourful ceramic pot from that girl, she sat us down for tea whilst we bartered, she was a lovely person wasn't she...' or, 'that was the busker we tipped in the square, what an amazing talent they had!'
You can be sure that every business that we talk about in our guides is friendly, unless we mention otherwise. We were both raised in polite families - Lamia within an Islamic household in Bangladesh and Canada, David within a traditional environment in England - and recognise the value of treating our fellow humans decently so we don't like to encourage unfriendly people by giving them our business. We've found that most travelers feel the same way. It's not just about politeness either, if somebody can't be bothered to be friendly to you how likely are they to serve you food worth eating or keep a hotel or attraction worth visiting? Most unlikely, in our experience.
How do we compile our guides, and decide what goes in and what stays out? Simple. We want to give everybody a chance, if they're worthy of it (yes, we have an opinion!), so when we decide on visiting a city we check out the popular guidebooks and internet sites (LP, Rough Guide, Bradt, Frommers, Trip Advisor etc) and contact almost every single hotel, restaurant and tour company listed (why 'almost'? Because if a restaurant feels compelled to serve nothing but the youngest, most cruelly treated animals - or products made from them - such as Foie Gras or twenty different varieties of duckling, veal and baby this or that, they're off our list, as are overly commerical companies that seem like they're not doing much, if anything, for the world they inhabit). If they bother to reply, and in the manner of their reply satisfy us that they're a business worth promoting, then we visit them (our rule is we pay for nothing and they get use of the photos we take for their own promotion, but we're free to write as we want). Bottom line is, if you see a place listed in the Lonely Planet or any other popular guide but not in our guide, chances are they were too busy/rude to reply to us, or they're just not the sort of business we think you should be dealing with.
We also have a policy of eating and staying at every single restaurant and hotel we report on. It may seem like a tough thing to achieve, to incorporate everybody who strikes us as worthy of a visit with the time that we have available (we can only do so much in the two or three weeks we put aside for each city). But we've managed it so far (there are not nearly as many decent hotels, tour companies and restaurants in major cities as you might expect, if you take ethics/friendliness into account) and what having a policy such as ours does mean is that everything we report on, we've experienced. We haven't just visited the place, met the manager and then had a quick look round (times that process by 40 or 50 hotels and you have your average guidebook). That's not what a real traveler wants nor is it any fun for us, so that's not what we do. And our policy and process leads us to good people. The mere fact that, having seen how we operate, a hotelier or restauranteur invites us along proves something; they can see we value good ethical practice, honesty and friendliness so if they're not offering that, they'll steer well clear!
To make it clear, we don't pay for anything except flights. The rest - tours, hotels, meals - we get for free. The deal is simple. We have a good time on our travels, and then we provide a handful of PR standard images to every tour, restaurant or hotel we deal with (between 10 and 30 depending on the length of our involvement). They're free to use those photographs as they please, they have no restriction on worldwide license/usage rights, and we can provide the work in any size from 100kbs to 20MB. Ask any Pro Photographer to price what we're offering; they'll give you a probable estimate of between £2,000 and £7,000. So, we don't eat or stay for free, and we don't give reviews in return for freebies; we offer a very decent service on a bartering basis and after that we're free to review as we like. If our reviews are mostly positive it's because we have a decent policy in place that prevents us from getting involved with most of the unethical/money focused people and businesses in the first place.
Hopefully by adopting the policies that we have, and offering pointers to help you avoid those who care only about money and instead give your support to polite, local business owners we'll ensure that not only will you get meaningful photographs in exchange for your kindness but you'll also help to make the world a better place by avoiding the bad and encouraging the good.
If you're interested in our approach, we also have a sister site that deals with outdoors activity - Trek and Run
P.S. We don't work our photos up on Photoshop very much or use trickery such as HDR. Therefore you can be sure that whatever image of ours you see on this website also exists in real life and is something that you could enjoy, and photograph, yourself if you visited the scene in person. We shoot with a Nikon 3200 and a Nikon D7000, Lamia in RAW and David in Jpeg, and we have a two minute rule regarding Photoshop - if a photograph takes longer than that to work on, it doesn't get included in our guide!
I left secondary school aged 16 and, finding myself unable to settle into regular employment, set off to join the French Foreign Legion in Marseille (I failed, got scared at the gates). Over the following few years I and my camera wandered through over 70 countries, gained a passion for wilderness walking, long distance running and the romance of the road and enjoyed photographing my adventures in England, Scotland, France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, India, Sri Lanka, Malawi, South Africa, Canada, China, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Poland.
Notable journeys include twice crossing the Sinai Desert on foot alone without map, compass or supplies, walking over 500 miles across Turkey from the Black Sea coast to the Meditteranean, a 5 week solo exploration on foot of the west coastline of Lake Malawi in Central Africa and a 650km coast to coast crossing of Sri Lanka by foot and bicycle.
I stopped talking in the third person when I was 39, have thankfully never written my own Wikipedia entry and only Google myself on the 29th February. I'm the inventor of the CJS Photographic Process (Contra Jour Solarisation), a means of achieving solarisation 'in-camera' using 35mm SLR combined with Harman Direct Positive Paper, and my photographs have been featured in several films, 25 books and 32 solo photographic exhibitions including London, Tunbridge Wells, Rochester, Istanbul and Dimbola Lodge on the Isle of Wight, one of the centres of traditional photography in the UK. I've also lectured on the subject of Pinhole Photography at the British School in Cairo, Egypt and the University of Antalya, Turkey.
I'm very interested in sustainable, eco-friendly business practice and the 'Gift Economy' and regularly exchange service for service (for instance, completing photographic work for hotels in return for a room). Bartering or living in the Gift Economy probably isn't a realistic answer to the current world's increasing problems, bearing in mind what the majority of westernerised humans are like, and it certainly doesn't do my bank account any favours at all, but I believe that expecting more from yourself and less from the world in return, and also working hand in hand with a less ecologically demanding, more generous form of capitalism, could ease a few issues.
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