Bart Och - Travel Journalist

It happened about a week after the eruption of Bardarbunga, the largest volcano on the island. We were sheltered in the small confines of our tent when the massive storm hit Iceland. Most people decided to flee the campsite and trade their tents for a hostel. As those with less money in their pockets, we stayed expecting to be literally blown away.
Although the night was pretty unbearable, we woke up the next day feeling victorious – yes, our tent withstood the test of mother nature. Somehow, on that cold, damp ground and feeling like I was hit by a train, I decided to live for such moments because those are the ones that make me feel alive.

Three weeks earlier, I was ready to turn back and go home. I am glad I didn’t and pushed through it. I was made in Iceland and from that point on, I forgot how to fit in the life that I was so reluctant to go back to: low-paid job, unpaid bills, cinical people, mundane chores, meaningless conversations … boredom. I didn’t know how exciting life can get once you step outside your comfort zone. Travelling has not only taught me how to be resilient but also how to be humble and more appreciative of the things I used to take for granted. 

I eventually taught myself how to use a camera, and it wasn’t long before I quit my job in a pub. Fast forward a few years later, I sold most of my possessions, and, left with just a bunch of necessities, I packed my backpack and went out the door of my small apartment on the outskirts of London for the last time. It was both scary and liberating at the same time – the inability to foresee the next month, week, a day even. I am restless and I get bored quite easily; I can no longer stand the idea of staying put in a place for more than a week, let alone settling down for good. I wander constantly and I have grown to like the uncertainty that comes with my passion for travel.

Many people think that I’m crazy or that perhaps I’m running away from responsibilities and adulthood. But I travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape me. I don’t think I could be happy doing anything else. I came to this understanding in India where I stayed for over a month and where I tried Couchsurfing for the first time. I spent countless hours talking to my host about my travels and he listened like there was no tomorrow. I realised that not everyone gets the same chances in life, though we often have the same desires and aspirations. I realised that through my stories and my photos, other people can get to hear about and see the world that I fell in love with. I also realised that journalism is incredibly important not only for the sake of preserving the memory of today but in shaping our future. I want to show all the people that there is beauty in sorrow but there are also real hardships and catastrophes around us happening as we go about our daily lives unscattered. The significance photojournalism has on people is huge – people are visual creatures with a very short attention span. So to be able to communicate something that is important, I feel compelled to shoot images that people are likely to stop at and explore further for themselves. Travel and photography are not just about beautiful people enjoying exotic places and drinking coconut water on the beach. It’s about the exploration of the society, immersion in the culture, adventure and coming face to face with poverty, tragedies, and sometimes finding beauty in the ugly.