AN INSPIRING INTERVIEW WITH SIMON KOY, AN AMAZING TRAVEL AND STREET PHOTOGRAPHER WHO TOURS THE WORLD CAPTURING SOME OF THE MOST MAJESTIC PLACES
■ conducted by Bartosz Och | photos by Simon Koy
When it comes to travel photography, it’s best to ask someone who is really familiar with it. Simon Koy has already gone through two world journeys. He works for magazines, newspapers, agencies, and advertisers. Among them are Der Spiegel, Das Feinschmecker, Brigitte Woman, BMW Magazine, and Mercedes Magazine. Join us for an interview with Simon Koy about places, bizarre experiences, travel photos, and how the professional is doing this.
Simon, you have been obviously travelling for a very long time. You have been to many places and taken a serious amount of pictures. When did you begin your journey with photography?
I liked travelling since I was 16 years old. I travelled the whole of Europe three times by train. In this time, I took a lot of analogue pictures. That’s when my love for photography began.
In 2006, I set out on my serious journey with photography when I decided to do my diploma in China on “New China Amusement”. I travelled for a month along the Gold Coast in China from Beijing to Hongkong. It was the first time I flew out of Europe and I really liked the different culture and habits with all the good and the bad.
That’s also when I did my first jobs for magazines. Afterwards, I had a lot of publications of my diploma works in different publications. It was the start of my career, actually.
Do you think that education in photography, or arts in general, is important?
For sure! In my opinion, the education in arts is important. I grew up with art because of my parents, so I already had the background. But it depends on what you are interested in. It shouldn’t be any kind of force to get interested in arts or photography. If someone is more into physics or other stuff, I also admire that.
What is your favourite place you have been to and why? What made it special?
It’s very difficult to say where my favourite place is. There are so many, worldwide. But I really liked Georgia and Armenia because I didn’t know much about these countries and I was so surprised how culturally rich they are. Monasteries and castles everywhere. The amount of world heritage is huge. The food is delicious and people are very friendly. So a good mix to travel!
Is there any place you never wish to go back to again?
I wouldn’t say there is one place I would never want to go back to again because every country has it good and bad sides. It’s all about the taste. The Emirates don’t blow me away because I am not all that much into shopping. In my opinion, in this country, everything is about shopping and artificial sightseeing. Everywhere you go it’s about luxurious lifestyle. And the contrast between people is huge. Everyone lives for themselves. It’s strange to see. Otherwise, it was very interesting for taking pictures.
How do you go about photographing people on the street? Do you ask their permission first or do you simply take their picture and walk away? Have you ever got in an unpleasant situation while photographing strangers?
Normally, I try to ask people, but sometimes there are situations when it’s better not to ask because it’s in the right moment where nothing should be altered. Then, I show the photo to the person I photographed, and, normally, they are surprised and laugh because they don’t recognise that I took a picture of them. I try not to be unpolite, so I almost never had any unpleasant situations. In Morocco, it was a bit tough sometimes when I did pictures on the streets. It depends on what country you are in. In some countries like Morocco, you definitely should ask before you take a picture. In India, it’s not a problem.
What’s in your travel bag? Do you tend to travel light or heavy?
I try to travel light, but when I go away for more than a week, I also take my laptop, external hard drives, and other equipment with me. So it’s not that light anymore. But the less you have the better it’s. [editor’s note: this 2 TB ultra slim portable hard drive is the best one I’ve found]
One situation or a person you wish you had taken a photo of but didn’t?
There were so many of these situations. Sometimes you are not fast enough and unable to get the picture you wanted. Other times, a person didn’t want you to take pictures of them. That’s life!
Do you first travel to places and then get inspired to shoot, or do you know what and where you want to photograph before you travel to a place?
I first travel to places and see what it’s got to offer for me. Then, I let it flow. Sure I study the places when I plan a trip, but the details I figure out when I’m in the country.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to anyone?
If you are able to travel, you know that you are the minority who can afford it. It’s not normal and we should be happy about it and should keep that in mind!