As my list of countries grows, so do the number of times I leave my camera behind

A day with my camera in Shanghai, China. Photo by  Gage Fletcher

A day with my camera in Shanghai, China. Photo by Gage Fletcher

When I was 20-years-old, I went on my first big trip. I chose India. I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect, but I knew I had a burning desire to experience a very different part of the world and meet new people. While it may not be the first vacation choice for many, it couldn’t have been more perfect for me. Camera in hand, my first hour in Mumbai can only be summed up in one word: overwhelming.

Everything was new. My senses were overloaded.

Animals I had only seen on farms candidly trotted across the street while rickshaws and cars dodged pedestrians in a sort of organized chaos. People smiled. People hurt. Buses were adorned with beautiful paintings. Nothing was ordinary and everything was worth a snapshot. I’ll never forget locking eyes with a man and his daughter as they left their home in Goa on a scooter. I took their photo and that was followed by an exchange of smiles. When I looked down at the screen to review the moment I froze, I experienced a rush I had never felt before:

I was addicted. Addicted to capturing foreign places and faces. 

When I got home, I thought nearly every photo I took was worth sharing. How could they not be? The country was so beautiful and exotic to me. I unloaded hundreds of photos onto my computer.

My career in journalism started, and my camera became an extra limb. When documenting and observing is your job every day, you can't help but do that everywhere you go, especially when you're surrounded by brand new landscapes.

Fast forward seven years and I’m in China with my partner. Prior to meeting him I ventured on several solo adventures.

As I boarded more planes, I noticed the number of photos I was taking dwindling. It wasn’t because I didn’t find these places beautiful or because I didn’t enjoy taking photos anymore, I just became more selective about the images I wanted to take home.

My recent journey to China was the first time I ever had fewer than 60 photos selected as proper documentation of a trip. At first when I saw how few photos I was truly proud of, I was disappointed. But then, I played back memories in my mind of times when I intentionally strolled camera-free:

Through a countryside in the hot sun where women picked greens on a farm. I marveled at how hard they worked.

An evening exploration through a lively city called Dali that ended in a bar listening to local musicians and indulging in Chinese beer (and not worried about monitoring my expensive gear.)

Attending an art exhibit demonstrating child’s play in a time before cell phones. It was a series of powerful installations, and I took my time with each one.

When I look back on those moments, my memory is clear and my back was free of the weight of my camera bag, allowing me to walk for 30 kilometers in comfort.

My love for photography and sharing global beauty will only continue to grow. But as I grow too, so will the number of times I choose to leave my camera behind. 

I hope you enjoy a few of my favourite shots from China, to see the full album click here.

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