Around the world on a Royal Enfield: After 12 countries, daring photojournalist now in India
Meet Walter Astrada, a 42-year-old international photographer, who is currently on a world trip on his Royal Enfield and has covered more than 13 countries till now. He started his journey from Barcelona in Spain nine months back and for the past three months he has been touring the north Indian states.
After living and working in different countries for more than 19 years as a photographer for news agencies like Associated Press and Agence France Presse, and covering conflicts and creating documentaries on social issues, he decided to continue seeing the world.
Nine months back, he began his world tour. Talking to The News Minute about his world trip, he said, “I had decided to load a Royal Enfield with the minimum necessary things with the idea of going around the world. It is more like going back to the origins of my photography, when I enjoyed taking my camera and walking the street. Let’s say I want to take pictures of life in the street in the cities or countries I pass by.”
He has travelled to 13 countries till now as part of his world trip, some of which include Italy, Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, South Korea, China and India.
In India, he has been to Rajasthan, New Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya till now.
Astrada doesn’t use travel guides while travelling. He feels travel guides are often treated as a “gospel” and many follow all activities just the way it is mentioned in the guides as if “a curse will befall on a person.”
He mostly uses GPS while travelling and even carries maps of the countries he is journeying through. Sharing his travel experiences on his blog, he writes that in September 2015, while he was in Vladivostok, a city in one of the easternmost points of Russia, he was warned by local people to not take a particular road due to the presence of bandits and thieves on the stretch. Astrada however used the very same road and crossed it without any problem.
His experiences in India so far have been anything but uneventful. From facing problems in getting his bike from airport customs to the heavy traffic in the country, Astrada has seen it all.
“In India,” he writes describing the traffic, “you drive on the left; but that’s just the theory. In practice, you drive through anywhere and in whichever way you like.”
Describing Indians as “curious people”, Astrada writes about how he is frequently asked by random people where he comes from, where he is headed to and whether they can take a picture with him. So much so that it has become a “daily routine”.
He is currently in Manipur and will be going to Myanmar on February 2, 2016.
In the past, he conceptualised a project on violence against women in four countries to show it as a global problem. The four countries he studied in this project were: Guatemala, Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Norway. Another project was about multiple sclerosis in Europe, where he worked in 12 countries to show how people and families are facing the consequences of this.
Walter Astrada has repeatedly won the World Press Photo award for several years in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He also won the British Journal of Photography award in 2007, World Press Photo award in 2009 and three awards at China International Press Photo Contest, besides many more.
Astrada took to photography after being inspired by attending a photography exhibition at the age of 13. Those pictures left an indelible impact on him. Recounting that instance, he says, “I told myself that if someone else’s picture could have such deep impact on me, then my photos could do the same to others.”
He will be attending the first international photography festival, which begins in Chennai on February 26, 2016. He will be conducting a photography workshop on ‘Street Documentary and Reportage.’
Walter Astrada’s advice to amateurs, “I think curiosity and ethics are the main things. If you don´t have curiosity, you won´t go out and explore. And if you don´t have ethics, your work won´t be trustworthy.”
These are few of his work:
Note: All these pictures have been used with the permission of the photographer.