Dispatch 27: Wondering on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Wondering on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Interview & Photographs with Collin Richie
Louisiana-based photographer Collin Richie makes a living with his vivid commercial work, timeless wedding photography and emotionally-charged photo-journalism in Baton Rouge. During the area's great flood of 2016, he spear-headed the HUMANS OF THE WATER effort and photo collection that we featured in the debut issue of the Wonder South Journal with words and images by Richie's collaborator Frank McMains.
While he maintains a breakneck pace and multiple shoots daily, each year Richie sets a far-flung course for some deep part of the world he has yet to explore, leaves his work behind for a month, and zealously adventures onward somewhere new.
Wonder South caught up with this talented photographer after his most recent international trek. Interview and images follow:
Where exactly did this latest adventure take you? And how long were you traveling in Asia?
For this trip, we set out to cross Eurasia. Starting in Hong Kong, and ending in Moscow one month later. A combination of rail, boat, and bus. I believe we crossed eight time zones.
When would you say your interest in exploring foreign countries this way really begin? What triggered it and why do you think this type of travel is something you seek out?
My interest in travel began at age 12, when my parents sent me to live with some friends in Klagenfurt, Austria for the summer. For me, its about pushing the envelope. Seeing things that your average vacationer would pass over due to time constraints, distance, or challenges. I am currently pursuing the Traveler's Centurion Club, a group of travelers who have traveled to 100 approved territories or countries.
As a photographer, while traveling in Asia, how do you view the people and landscape there? Are there moments when you aren't a photographer and experience it without thinking about the visuals or capturing a moment?
I just try to be polite. So many tourists from Western cultures will shove a camera in other's faces; I try to take a step back, ask permission in the native language, and be as natural as possible. I usually shoot one day, and scout and tour the next. I never bring a camera to a museum or anything I want to enjoy. At the Hermitage, I was amazed at the amount of people with selfie sticks pushing and stressing to get meaningless images rather than just enjoying the Leonardo da Vinci paintings.
What did you learn about the people of this part of the world?
I learned the most about the Mongolians. A week through the country by a mid 80s UZA Soviet van, staying in yurts, and sipping airig really brings you face to face with their culture. They identify with the smell of burning animal dung, while texting and streaming gangster rap. Its quite a dichotomy of modernization and thousands of years of nomadic life. You cannot travel this country without the hospitality of the Mongolians.
What was the most beautiful vista or location you visited there?
Suzdal and Lake Baikal in Russia or Central Mongolia.
Of the many places you visited, which would you recommend to a friend as the most essential to see and why?
Ometepe Island, Nicaragua; Jaipur, India; Talinn, Estonia; Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia; Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. So many really!
Any universal advice for fellow travelers or those thinking about traveling overseas? How do you approach each journey and balance seeing a lot with not being a "tourist" or not overstuffing your schedule?
I never set a schedule, and I always book one-way travel. Being flexible is key. I start one place with a goal to reach another, but I don't want firm plans so I can enjoy places I like, side trip based on other's advice, and bail on places that aren't what we thought they would be. We also never stay in hotels. Would you pay $300 a night for a used mattress? No; we stay in private rooms in hostels, that average $15-$20 a night, with a communal bathroom and kitchen that are always spotless and great bases to meet other travelers and save money. Finally, I always take cell phone snapshots of transit and metro maps. Easy reference and always in your pocket.
Below is a special collection of Collin’s recent photographs made along the Trans-Siberian Railway: