Didyer Zarate is a London-based creative freelancer passionate about travel, photography, film and cinematography. Take a journey into the unknown with him...
Introduce yourself (name, current location, profession, passion and what interests you most about travel, etc.)
My name is Didyer Zarate and my current location is in London, England. I am a creative freelancer in the world of Art. What interests me about travelling is going into the unknown and experiencing something new – really taking myself out of a comfort zone; out of something I’m normally accustomed to. That culture difference, the food, the water, the air, and the people. It’s all an incredible experience for me to grow as an individual.
How does photography influence the way you travel and see the world around you?
Your perception can change in so many ways…When I look back at the image I can completely see something different. I love that I can get a different vibe from the image. It also influences me, because one of the things I can do when I take photos is I can harness a particular moment and really enjoy it for what it is – I love that I can do that. It’s almost like seeing it through another eye, because photography is just that.
What sparked your interest to travel to India? Which region(s) did you visit?
I think I’ve always for some reason wanted to go; it just seemed like a completely different country from any other country I’ve ever heard of or been told about – and it was!
I don’t normally like to have expectations of things, but of what I experienced I definitely say it was how I pictured it and more. When I was quite young I already had this image of how India was going to be my mind. Since I was 7, I’ve always been fascinated with it. I think it’s so beneficial for us to learn and grow. I visited quite a few regions; probably about 7 states (including Goa and Kerala). My first time going to India was incredible; the second was just as inspiring.
What has been your favorite approach to photography while travelling? Did you generally strike up a conversation with your subjects or just candidly capture the moment? How did people react to being photographed?
To be honest when it comes to photographing people I’ve had different experiences each time, for example the image of the little Indian girl (where she’s got the bangles on her wrists and ankles). I was mesmerised by her presence, even down to the details of her jewellery, the bunch of leaves she was holding and the textures of the wall. It’s almost as if that moment was synchronistically placed there in order for me to photograph it. These are the magical moments that define my photography.
With some of the other captures, I did have to pay the subjects (i.e. the lady in the green sari with the jug on her head). She asked me if I wanted to take a picture and of course I was like “yeah!” but then after the picture was taken she was like “you gotta pay”, LOL. There was another candid picture moment of a guy with a turban and a white kurta with a brown jacket. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to have his picture taken, but looking back at the final image, it was the contrary. I’ve been conscious not to take people out of the natural moment, as that can change things. The image just doesn’t become real anymore. I think most of the pictures of the people I’ve taken tend to be candid and in the moment. My photography captures more of a natural organic flow of people’s raw emotion and life experiences.
How did you plan for your trip? How did you navigate between each city?
You know what? I don’t plan for my trips. I’m such a firm believer in going with the flow of time and trusting in the moment because I just feel like it always turns out so much better than planning. Planning takes me out of the now and limits my options, travelling freely and spontaneously is something I am practising more of. This was the state of mind that I preferred to have whilst I was travelling India.
Did you have any expectations or preconceived notions about the culture you would be exposed to? How did they differ from the way the culture actually was?
I had some expectations of India that were met but some weren’t necessarily true; it really just depended on where I was. For example, I didn’t realise there were so many religions and different languages. I also found out that in India some of the names given to certain curries are not the same that we have in the UK; they either don’t serve that dish or the name is completely different.
Please describe your travel experiences (what was the overall culture/experience like?)
When I went to India it was my first time travelling alone. I think my travel experiences usually bring many lessons of the self. Metaphorically speaking it's almost as if gateways of opportunity are open for a new look on life. Looking back to how my life was before, it made me become more aware and conscious of things about myself. When you’re living life on autopilot, sometimes you fall into the same habits of doing things unconsciously. Going outside of the norms of life forces you to wake up and see things in a different light. It changes many things (by choice) and made me think about life in a deeper way – with more gratitude. It reminds me that I am a self-empowered being and you realise with self-discovery that everything will be OK and we have so much to be grateful for. These types of experiences can bring anyone closer to being happier, healthier and more abundant.
What foods did you eat? Did you have any favorite/unfavorable culinary experiences? What kinds of people did you encounter? Etc.).
I ate Indian food in different parts of the country (which had its own type of food). Some of my favourites were naan [bread] with garlic and cheese; also I loved the breakfast servings of the south Indian cuisine – idli [rice-cake] and some of the veggie curries (with chickpeas or lentils).
I wasn’t really a fan of their sweets (which I found waaay too sweet). My least favourable food experience was the spice, to be honest. I’m getting better at it, but unfortunately I don’t do well with food that has too much spice! Sometimes in India I would struggle with this. I remember one experience when I went to a restaurant, I was so hungry and I was hoping that it wasn’t too spicy; I asked the guys for no spice and they were like ‘yeah’. When the food came it was like spice galore!
I encountered all kinds of people from all over the world.
How did this trip differ from trips you’ve taken in the past? What surprised you most about your experience?
Each journey is never really the same for me; they all pretty much differ. I experience many different things on many levels whether that is emotional or physical. One thing I can say that was different was travelling on my own which was challenging at times, but saw the beauty in doing this on my own.
What surprised me the most? I remember one time when I was in a place called Om Beach, Gokarna (state of Karnataka). I was woken up in the middle of the night, hearing ‘om’ noises and it was almost as if people were chanting outside. Was it the waves creating that sound? I don’t even know, but it was very mysterious and I was fully intrigued.
What would you like people to know about your experience within the country that is little known?
I think I would strongly advice people to make up their own minds about India or any other country for that matter, instead of listening to negativity from the media or even hearsay from others. I heard a lot of this prior to going India but I wasn’t going to let this stop me. In the end I had a wonderful experience! My advice: trust yourself and just go for it, if this is something you want to do then do it and create your experience.
Travel has a tendency to look very glamourous, though that is not always the case. What types of challenges have you had during your trips and how did you overcome them?
I think there is a tendency to experience loneliness whilst travelling by yourself – it’s understandable, but there’s two ways of looking at it. You can either feel ‘lonely’ or ‘alone’ there’s a difference. Being alone - I consider to be a positive state; a time to reflect, be comfortable in your own skin, enjoy the freedom that solitude brings or even just have fun with whatever you’ve chosen to explore in this world. On the flip side, we can feel lonely which is a negative state that tends to need the external approval from others, companionship and material distractions etc. Each challenge being unique to the individual but nonetheless loneliness is absence of others whilst aloneness is the presence of oneself.
What is your favourite/funniest memory from your trips? Is there a particular moment you would relive given the opportunity?
One of my favourite experiences was in Cambodia and it was my birthday! I met quite a few people and the person I travelled with (a close friend of mine) surprised me with a birthday cake and it was so good! We went to a beach called Otres beach, it was such a beautiful experience. Everything about it; I remember feeling so much peace and tranquillity. I had a beautiful birthday – one I’ll never forget. Everything about that experience was great.
Please pick and note your favorite picture you have captured during a trip and share why it is your favorite. This could be anything humorous or interesting that the reader would not know from just looking at the image.
My favourite picture has to be the image of the Indian girl I’ve spoken about previously with the bunch of green leaves in her hand. I just love this image because it really captures the rawness of India. In fact if I could manifest a person that represents India, this would be her. From the green symbolism she carries in her hand to represent the incredible lush jungle and green scenes I have experienced to the innocent vibe she is giving of that I feel also correlates to the innocence this country had to offer.
What’s next for you? Do you have any final words of photography tips or advice?
I am delving more into film and cinematography. I love film and capturing intrinsic moments. I’m currently working on new film projects that will involve a more surrealistic approach. Sometimes I can go into the fields of fashion and music production. I’m an open artist who doesn’t limit myself, and let whatever needs to be expressed through any means of art, whether that be painting or even dancing.
Advice? I find one of the things I’ve come across is that a lot of people tend to doubt their photography based on external expectations, but I think you should just do what you wanna do and be content and happy with what you’ve shot, because there’s so much to an image that you don’t see in that particular moment that later on you’ll see what you’ve captured is beautiful, because there’s only beauty to be captured. Don’t try to make everything feel perfect and right. Do what feels right in the moment and trust that. Enjoy what you do and be happy with that.
Images taken by Didyer Zarate
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