Annapurna Mellor is a travel photographer based in Manchester. Her work has taken her to over 60 countries, and her images have been featured in National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, Time Out and Lonely Planet. Even more impressive? She’s entirely self-taught.
How did you get the travel bug?
My parents are avid travellers, which might be obvious from my name - I was conceived in the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal, after they spent two years cycling around the world. As a child we lived all over the Middle East and Australia, and we went on holidays to places like Fiji and Sri Lanka, so I grew up with an appreciation of other cultures and countries.
When did you first pick up a camera?
After I finished my degree in arts management I booked a ticket to Kathmandu and spent a year travelling alone around Asia. I blogged about my trip, taking photos with a basic Canon camera. I was hoping people would like the writing but they kept commenting, ‘Your pictures are really good!’ So I got more and more into that side of it.
Burma was the turning point. I took photographs there that are still in my portfolio. It was the first time I really focussed on people and local culture. Somehow Getty Images found my blog. They emailed me saying: ‘We think your images will sell. Would you like to join us?’ I signed a contract with them and that was the start of my professional career.
Pushkar, India (Photo courtesy Annapurna Mellor)
Your first big assignment?
Going to Jordan with Ford cars. I went from backpacker hostels to a five-star hotel.
The project you’re most proud of?
Shooting in Ibiza for Lonely Planet. Throughout my childhood, their guidebooks were the ones we used, there were piles of them all round the house. They’re the dream brand.
What are you trying to capture in your images?
I’m looking for the story of a place. Instead of landscapes, for me it’s about what’s happening on the streets - what are the people are like? What are the markets like? How do people live their day-to-day life?
How much do you research a destination before a work trip?
You have to know a place inside out before you get there. Of course, spontaneous things happen, you meet people and they tell you about secret places. But being really prepared boosts my confidence when I’m travelling alone; I know exactly how to get from A to B, so I’m never stuck. Instagram is useful when I’m planning shots. I’ll search a city on Instagram and if I spot a location that makes me think, ‘ooh that’s interesting - maybe I can shoot it from another angle’, I can message whoever posted it and find out exactly where it is.
Tokyo, Japan (Photo courtesy Annapurna Mellor)
Tough question: which country do you most enjoy visiting?
India is my soul-home. I feel so connected to the culture when I’m there. And it’s so big, it’s like its own continent. I love the Himalayan region; on my last trip I went to Tawang in the north-east corner, nestled between Bhutan and Tibet. It was a challenge to get to: you have to drive for two days and cross the Sela Pass, which is the second highest motorable road in the world. But it’s worth it. It’s this magical, heavenly place up in the clouds.
The travel photographers do you admire?
Don Farber. He’s photographed lots of Buddhist communities everywhere from Japan to Thailand. Alison Wright - she shoots for National Geographic. I follow lots of photographers on Instagram but right now I keep coming back to @freyadowson, @hellopoe and @alongdustyroads.
Packing essentials (passport and camera aside)?
Postcards from England. I write thank you notes on them for people who have particularly helped me on my travels. And incense - it makes a grubby hotel smell, and feel, like home.
Tawang, India (Photo courtesy Annapurna Mellor)
Where have you yet to venture? What’s top of your must-visit list?
So much! But I’ll say Iran, Ethiopia and Zanzibar.
Something you always bring back from your travels?
Tea. My kitchen is full of it.
What are you reading?
Where the Indus is Young by Dervla Murphy, she trekked across Baltistan in Northern Pakistan in the depths of winter with her six-year-old daughter.
You get to choose six women to invite for dinner. Who?
Patti Smith, Linda McCartney, Alison Wright, Lynsey Addario, Joni Mitchell, Tenzin Palmo. We’d enjoy a vegetarian feast and talk about cameras and our travels.
Qualities you look for in a friend?
Open-minded, caring, passionate.
Three words that describe you?
Independent, introverted, intuitive.
Back to Morocco. It’s a dream to photograph.
Chefchaouen, Morocco (Photo courtesy Annapurna MelloR)
Follow Anna's adventures on Instagram @annapurnauna and see more of her photography at annapurnamellorphotography.com!