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An Interview With The Slow Traveler

Tell us a bit about your history with photography and Instagram.

Back in 2014, I took a night course alongside my 9-5 office job and learned how to use a DSLR. The year after that I left my job to travel. I started taking lots of pictures and spent hours every day doing photography tutorials online. And not long after that I got photographs published in a magazine (right place, right time: those photos were terrible). I started using Instagram regularly in 2016 and it sort of took off in March that year while I was in Mexico. It wasn’t an overnight thing though. I was literally working at it all day every day. I got my first 1000 followers and it just sort of went a bit mad after that. It was Mexico City’s beautiful facades that did it, I think!

Do you believe that organic growth is possible for everyone post-algorithm, or is there a place for gaming the system?

Organic growth is now the only way. Suggested users doesn’t happen anymore which is how a lot of the big accounts grew quickly in the early days. I did quite well in a relatively a short space of time, but it’s not because I was doing anything profound. The stuff I was sharing was popular at the time.┬áBut being an active user is how I continued to grow. Instagram will always reward certain trends and sticking to those trends will lead to more likes. But there’s so much more value in sharing stuff you love and having a smaller audience who also love that thing.

Your photography has a beautifully consistent look that results in a very attractive feed. Do you have tips for those of us struggling to find or stick with a cohesive style?

It took me a long time to find my style, and I don’t know that it even is my style, more a mixture of colours and tones that work for me and my pictures right now, and probably work for lots of other people too. If you scroll back to the start of my feed, you’ll see I’ve tried lots of stuff, moody and dark, minimal, through to the stuff I do today. I’m sure my style will continue to develop and change. It’s just about trying stuff. Try it all. Why not.

Can you share with us your photography equipment and preferred editing platform?

I’m currently using a Nikon D810 with a 35mm lens, I use Photoshop and VSCO to edit for Instagram. My preferred presets on VSCO is the A range.

Tell us about those gorgeous windows! Do you really spend a lot of time gazing through them?

Those big old crooked windows are better at keeping than a hole in the wall, but not much better. The place is freezing in winter. (And like a greenhouse in summer, but I’m not complaining about that just yet.) But they are beautiful. They make the place so light and airy. And my plants love them! I definitely gaze (people watching sort of gazing) but my window images that I share on Instagram are all staged.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I like what Picasso said: something like, inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. Work at it and keep working at it and “inspiration” will come. Ideas tend to come to me when I take myself away from it all. In the shower, out walking. But my pictures on Instagram are mostly travel and home, so I’m not usually trying to work out a big concept for this stuff. It’s more about trying to create a mood or tell little stories through the places and things I find pretty. It’s about colour and light.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Over the last couple of years juggling full-time work and a full-time degree has been really tough. The work I do at university usually deals with social issues, it’s not aesthetically pleasing in a traditional way. Because the two are so different, at times I’ve asked myself if one is more important than the other. But they both feed into the same thing, which is photography. As long as I’m learning and getting better, it’s all good.

How do you structure your days, and how does time on social media fit into your schedule?

I’m almost 33, and have only just realised the value of to-do lists, so structure is still quite a new thing to me. My time is split between Instagram, magazine work, and my degree. I guess it just depends on what deadline is coming at me quickest.

What is your best advice for keeping your followers engaged?

Beautiful images are great, but it’s about being there and talking to the people who engage with your work. Captions are a great way to start conversations. I think my captions are just as important as my photographs.

You recently hacked your own Instagram account with a fascinating experiment! What was the motivation behind this?

There’s this idea that we can do whatever we want if we try hard enough. If we fail, well, we mustn’t be trying hard enough. It’s not strictly true, and it’s very problematic. Social media can make this problem worse because a lot of what we share looks so perfect. I’m very aware of my role in this, and I wanted to challenge the way I portray myself online and the effects of that portrayal.

The Slow Traveler is in the mentor seat this week in our members-only forum, where she’ll be answering our burning questions. You can also find her on Instagram (@theslowtraveler) and on her blog, The Slow Traveler.