Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do?
Hello! I’m a Japanese-American travel photographer and writer based in London. I had a fairly nomadic upbringing that inspired my love of adventure. And I worked in journalism for several years before deciding to turn my passion project, Erika Explores, into a creative business for all things related to travel.
This is a challenging time to be running such a business, but I have come to believe it is an opportunity to reflect on my experiences and practice gratitude. Travel is a privilege, and I hope when the time is right, we return to it with more love and respect than ever before.
As we begin our new #DTBehindTheLens series, we’re aiming to spotlight female travel photographers who are not only artists in their field but also showcase more than just a female figure in a photograph.
Why do you think it’s important for women photographers to be celebrated?
About four out of five working photojournalists are male — which means that a majority of the time, we are viewing the world through the lens of a man. It is crucial in photography (and all other forms of media!) that we are inclusive of and give voices to all genders, ethnicities, races, and sexual orientations.
What change would you like to see happen in the travel industry?
I want all of us — travelers and professionals in the travel industry — to embrace an approach that is adventurous, curious, and kind. To make well-informed choices about where to eat, shop, and sleep. To support locals and small businesses. To recognize and take a stand against tourism activities that exploit animals, people, and the world’s natural resources. Now that all but essential travel has stopped, it’s become evident what a luxury any travel otherwise really is. We all need to behave in a way that reflects that.
What is one of the most enthralling experiences you’ve had while photographing the world?
I remember sitting on a rooftop terrace in Marrakech last August, looking down at the bustling main square. The call to prayer sounded at sunset and the sky turned pink. Gas lanterns were turned on and smoke from the food stalls wafted through the air. It was absolute madness and made me feel intensely alive. I was photographing the scene below me, and had to put my camera down to take it all in. I just had this overcoming urge to stop what I was doing to thank the universe for its existence (and mine).
Through your experiences, what has travel taught you? What lessons does travel bring to those who experience it?
Travel has taught me that the world is a fascinating place and I know very little about it. That is both humbling and thrilling. It motivates me to never stop learning, to always strive to become a better person. Travel reminds me that I am forever a student, and I must keep my mind and heart open. I hope that’s what we all get out of travel.
Have you ever faced any hard circumstances or issues as a female travel photographer?
In all industries, particularly male-dominated ones, women who are assertive can be perceived as “difficult.” But it’s so important to advocate for yourself, to know your worth, and to be clear about how you expect to be treated.
What piece of advice would you give to new female travel photographers?
Get to know other female photographers — they are your community, not your competition. I love connecting with creative women and sharing experiences, as well as information and inspiration. Not only is there room for us all, but there is room for us to grow together and change the landscape of travel photography for future generations.
What is your editing process like? Any helpful tips for beginners?
Photography, like all forms of art, is subjective. I gravitate toward warm, earthy tones and images that possess a nostalgic feel. But there’s no right or wrong way to edit, it’s about finding an aesthetic that looks and feels right to you. So pay attention to what inspires you. Art, movies, music, quotes — any and everything. I think finding and developing one’s editing style comes from studying the things we are drawn to. Then we bring aspects of these things we love into our own creative work.
What is it that you aim to photograph during your travel experiences?
I want to capture moments and scenes in a way that feels like something between documentary and dreamy. Because that’s what travel feels like to me — real, but surreal at the same time. This planet is truly spectacular. I hope my photographs reflect that and do justice to the sentiment in even a small way.