Strangers In A Stranger Land; Travel Photography And A Whole Lot More

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.--Augustine

Of all the things photography does, showing us distant lands was one of its earliest functions. Before direct flights to Beijing, the first photographs of China that appeared in National Geographic gave readers a sense of what the country was like, even though few would ever make the trip. Two of this month's featured photographers take us to exotic locations, one to a road less traveled in the good ole U.S.A., and the other reinvents the portrait genre while taking us on a journey to inner space. If you get a chance, check out my own travel photography efforts at

© 2007, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
Wendell Phillips began his career in 1981 as a news photographer in Manitoba, Canada. Today Phillips documents environmental stories, social issues, and international developments for agencies, including the United Nations and Canadian Red Cross. A compelling collection of some of his recent work is collected here in galleries, most of which are sorted by geography with some based on topics such as People, Sports, Scenic, and Photo Essays. I looked to the "Cuba" collection first because I'm fascinated with the island and was rewarded with an amazing series of black and white images.

The site format typically shows a montage of images; clicking on any of them opens a larger photograph that includes navigational arrows that if you keep clicking take you seamlessly into the next collection. The Cuba gallery is filled with photojournalistic images that go beyond showing what something looks like in an exotic locale and takes on aspects of compassionate art of the kind most of us have not seen since the work of the late W. Eugene Smith. Phillips' talent extends beyond "f/8 and be there" and his images of AIDS in Thailand have a spiritual connection with Smith's images of the effects of mercury poisoning in Minamata, Japan; these images are filled with the same kind of strength and heartbreak. His color images of Xinjiang are even more powerful because of how Phillips uses color. These are not just the same images shot in monochrome but with color added; he makes color part of the story and we are all the richer for the experience. Whether shooting in East Africa or Greenland, Phillips' expressive imagery fills the frame with joy, sorrow, and an appreciation for life that makes this website the most moving I've visited in a long time--maybe ever.

© 2007, Wendell Phillips, All Rights Reserved
Jeffrey and Julia Woods own a portrait and wedding studio in Washington, Illinois, and are part of that new breed of shooters whose work combines photojournalism and fashion photography that's executed with style, skill, and passion. Their website should be an inspiration for all portrait photographers, starting with a design that enhances their imagery but never overshadows it, yet nevertheless leaves an indelible and positive impression with potential clients. The site's animation is spectacular and ran smoothly under Windows running the Firefox browser, but slower with Apple's Safari on my Power Mac G4.

The site includes video clips and galleries for all of their portraiture specialties, featuring names such as Family Life, Senior Life, Baby Life, and LifeScapes, a collection of fine art photographs that initially I thought didn't fit within the site's overall purpose, but upon consideration, does. The video clip is shot in a decidedly MTV style showing the Woods at work on their Posh Kids promotion, including the finished warm and totally adorable children's photographs. Wherever you look on this site there are portraits that are fresh and a break from all of the "me, too" photographs that often pass today for family portraiture. The Woods often capture not who you are but who you would like to be. I'll take either one. Before you leave the site, click on "The Need To Change" icon on the splash page and visit a similarly named site for information about the Woods' workshops and seminars.

© 2007, PortraitLife (Jeffrey and Julia Woods), All Rights Reserved
Idaho native and nature photographer Garett Koehler is studying to become a biologist at Idaho State University. When not photographing, he's usually off fishing, backpacking, or snowshoeing. His no-frills website showcases his work and is organized into collections that include "Landscapes" and "Scenics," although I'm not sure what the difference is between the two. In looking at the images contained in those galleries, the quality of vision and execution are both superb, but "Scenics" contains a few more images that have an element of drama to them, as exemplified by Koehler's "Light Through Trees."

His take on "Flowers and Plants" as well as "Macro" may or may not be helped by their monochrome approach, but I confess to liking creepy crawlies such as the snail appearing in "Macro" better in black and white. The "ick" factor is less. It is in "Panoramas" that Koehler's vision begins to soar and he's clearly free to show the quiet landscapes of his native Idaho to us with these wide-format photographs. I wish there were more of 'em. The same is true of his infrared imagery but given that the guy's going to school full-time, I'm appreciative that he has taken the time to share his visions of Idaho with all of us. Thanks, Koehler.

© 2007, Garett Koehler, All Rights Reserved
Don Fleming is a travel photographer with a great-looking Flash-based website that covers his journeys to exotic locales such as Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Amazon River. The Cambodia gallery includes moody photographs of what is to me the most intriguing set of structures in the world--Angkor Wat. A sunset shown with reflections of the temple in the water is one of those gee-whiz shots that exemplify Fleming's work on this series. The streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the Vietnam gallery seem serene and peaceful and his journey up the MeKong River is different than Willard's trip up-river in Apocalypse Now. Instead of danger around each bend, Fleming's voyage is full of photographs of cherub-faced babies and a compassionate look at people at work trying to find their way in the world. Fleming's travels in the Baltics could not be more different and is reflected in a different style of photography that tends to be crisper and more colorful than his Asian imagery. "Showings," although it's only one page, is like so many aspects of Fleming's site and so cleverly designed that you just have to see it. (I don't want to ruin it for you.) There's also a list of upcoming expeditions, including one to Borneo. Can't wait to see Fleming's "wild man" shots!

© 2006, Don Fleming, All Rights Reserved