Creative Traveller: Palani Mohan

Which destinations have inspired you?

The kind of places where you witness something that you weren’t expecting to see are the places that inspire me the most. When you stop somewhere for something to eat or you meet somebody along the way and that leads to something else, those are the things I look forward to the most – things that happen by serendipity, by chance. If I see an old couple sitting at a park bench in Rajasthan I love to go up and ask them who they are, do a portrait of them and find out their stories.

Where would you like to go that you haven’t been?

I’ve shot in over 90 countries but I haven’t been to the North Pole – so I’d love to go. I would also love to go to the moon.

What kind of camera do you use when you travel?

I use all different types of cameras; it depends where I’m going. I don’t think the camera is the important bit at all. I think what you do with whatever camera you have is the important bit.

How have platforms like Instagram and the rise of camera phones changed travel photography? 

Everyone can take thousands of photographs without even thinking about why they’re taking them. I think Instagram is a wonderful way of communicating but there can be a downside. Because there are so many images out there, people spend very little time actually looking at the image on their screen and looking for the finer nuances and detail of it.

What’s the biggest mistake that people make when taking travel photos?

Taking lots of images without really slowing down and thinking about why they’re taking them. My advice would be to limit the number of images that you’re taking and look through your viewfinder, look through your camera lens and really see what you’re photographing before you do it.

You live in Hong Kong – what are some of your favourite places to go?

I love the energy of Hong Kong, I love the can-do attitude this place has. People who haven’t really been here and explored it think that it’s a big city, with lots of buildings and people. But actually 70 per cent of Hong Kong is national park. It’s an incredibly green and lush place – there are beaches and fantastic walks you can go on without seeing anybody and then you can come home and go down to the theatre and have drinks at the bar. The food is amazing here too. I’ve been here for a very long time and there are still many places I haven’t been.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming tour with Abercrombie & Kent.

What I hope to achieve during the trip to Ladakh and Mongolia is to take the level of photography that people are at up a couple of notches. All the seven or 10 people on the trip are going to be at various stages of their photography and my job is to really get them to the next level, get them thinking about and looking and understanding what they’re photographing. That will be the goal.

 Image by Palani Mohan 

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