1) Hi Freya, and congratulations on being featured as a globelle gal in focus! Can you tell us where in the world we'd currently find you?
Currently I'm in London. I just had a baby seven weeks ago so I'm grounded for the time being, although I've just applied for my daughters passport so hopefully it won't be too long before I'm on the road again. (This interview was conducted in November, meaning Freya’s baby will now be approaching the 6 month mark!)
2) What inspired you to first start travelling?
I come from a very international family, so I never grew up with any fear of travel or immersing myself in new places or cultures. Both my parents grew up in India and have lived in various countries, my grandparents as well, and so I just expected that my life would turn out much the same - and it has!
3) What's been your favourite place to visit, and why?
This is almost an impossible question to answer; I have a lot of places that I absolutely love.
Lately however, I've been thinking a lot about my trip to Japan, and how much I'd like to go back. I love how modern and ancient it seems at the same time, it's so full of culture at every turn, so clean, so naturally beautiful, and so full of amazing food! It's somewhere I'd like to bring my daughter some day, but then it crosses my mind that maybe I should wait until she's old enough to remember it.
I dismiss that thought pretty quickly though because I think travel is going to be an important part of her life from the very beginning and I want to start as we mean to go on with her.
Also, I'm a big believer in not saving up your dreams for the right time, but just jumping right in and making the things you crave happen today.
4) What's the worst thing that's happened to you since being on the road? How did you deal with it?
I was on assignment in Pakistan once, shooting a story on the coal miners in Chakwal not far from Lahore. I was in the mine when one of the tunnels collapsed and we were trapped for a short time and we had to climb through a hole in the collapsed rubble to get out. I dealt with it by taking out my camera and documenting the whole thing. My first thought was "this isn't a time for taking photos" but then I realised if I didn't do something to occupy myself I would probably lose my cool.
5) Obviously life on the road is about fewer possessions and more moments, but what is the one thing you can't travel without?
I'd love to say that I can't travel without a good book or my favourite scarf but truthfully I really can't travel without my phone. With currency conversion and a camera always on hand it's not very romantic but I'd be pretty lost without it.
And then I guess if I had to pick something a little less necessary I'd say I can't travel without a big cosy jumper - a good jumper serves so many purposes from blanket to pillow to editing tent when there's too much of a glare from the sun.
6) We adore what we’ve seen of your work as a International Editorial Documentary Photographer. What inspired you to pursue this career, and what you would be your advice to others looking to do the same?
I started out on this path because I was working for an international not-for-profit that had me travelling a lot for work and I just never lost my curiosity for finding and telling stories. So when I discovered photography and found it really brought those stories to life in a way that felt right to me, I was just hooked! Eventually I went freelance because I wanted to diversify the kind of causes I was documenting, and I never looked back. It's such an important part of who I am and I've poured so much of myself into my career that I'm looking forward to getting back to it after my maternity leave is over.
7) You’re also the founder of the #awakethelight project. Can you tell us more about the project, and the inspiration behind it?
I kind of haven't kept up with this. Whoops!
(HQ note: We love Freya’s honesty here. It can be difficult as passionate, aspiring individuals to keep on top of everything; sometimes, for something brilliant to develop - like a new baby - other projects have to fall by the sideline. We look forward to when Freya can put more time into her #awakethelight project).
8) What has been your proudest achievement so far through your work? And the best piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career?
For me, it's just the causes I've had the privilege to work on throughout my career so far. From wildlife and other animals, to people living such different lives from mine all over the world, it really is just a privilege to have access to people and places that so few people get to visit.
I was also shortlisted in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards which was exciting! But the best piece of advice I've ever received strangely was from an older photographer in my field who, when I asked for advice, told me I shouldn't be paid as a professional photographer because I didn't have enough experience. I know this doesn't exactly sound like advice but it taught me a lesson: that you can't always look to people above you to tell you when you're ready to do what you have been working towards. She thought I shouldn't be given the opportunity to deliver a professional campaign and I knew I could do it because I had already done it (and done it well). It taught me to rely on my own instincts when it came to my career and to use my own intuition when trying to figure out when to take the next step.
9) What are your plans for the future, and what do you hope to achieve through all of your hard work?
I have a bucket list of stories I'd like to shoot; I'd really love to get into underwater wildlife photography, for example! I hope to share a sense of connection through my work - helping people who see my photos find the human connection between themselves and the causes I photograph for, whether humanitarian or wildlife. But also I'm hoping when my daughter gets a little bit older I can bring her with me on some of my shoots.
I know working in this profession will be challenging as a mum, but I really want to make it work and carry on with the work that means so much to me. It's important for me to prove that I can do it, that my life's passion doesn't have to end because I'm a mum now, but also to show to my daughter that she can have a family and a meaningful career. I know that we're now living in a time where women shouldn't have to chose between their career and their kids, and even though this is a popular concept, it's still easier said than done. Society doesn't make it easy for women to work and parent, so most of the time we have to find our own way It's important to me that I show her it is possible and also important to make your passions a priority in life.
10) What does travelling mean to you?
Travelling means freedom.
I love to completely lose myself in a crowd, in a place I don't know, and in a culture completely alien to me. It's like a meditation, it makes me feel relaxed and free like nothing else. It's also about learning about multiple ways of life and the people living them. It feels like I'm learning new ways of relating to people and issues across the world with every trip which helps me not only in my photography work but also in expanding myself as a person.
11) If you could offer one piece of advice to those travelling for the first time, either as part of a group or solo, what would it be?
I think staying in tune with your intuition is the most important thing you can do when travelling for the first time, or the hundredth time for that matter. Listening to your intuition will help you know where you need to go and when, it'll help you get there with the right people and make sure you have the best and safest time.
There have been many situations I've been in with work where my intuition has kept me safe, and not listening to it has proven to be such a terrible decision. For example, when I was in that mine in Pakistan, it was the last mine we were going into after three days of shooting and there wasn't really any reason to go in because we had everything we needed and we were ready to wrap up and go home. But someone said they wanted to show me this mine because it had a unique way of working and although I was tired and ready to leave - and also just felt like I strongly didn't want to go into this particular mine - I agreed to go down there... and we all know how that ended. Proof it always pays to listen to your intuition.
12) And finally, how can girls get in touch with you, and keep up to date with your work?