Commercial photographer Mary Doggett has just returned from a six-week, solo trip around Europe, with just her camera for company. Here, she shares her journey
We last featured you two years ago – how has life as a photographer been for you since then?
I’ve settled into my groove and feel more established as a commercial and wedding photographer. I’m lucky that I have a number of businesses who regularly use me. Also, I’ve rewritten my website and I think my portfolio now represents what my brand is all about – affordable visual story-telling, delivered in a friendly and fun way. I don’t care it’s a cliché – I still pinch myself that I’m doing what I love.
I’ve especially enjoyed working for Norwich BID (Visit Norwich) and the Norfolk & Norwich Festival for specific seasonal briefs and events. Photographing life in the streets, meeting the locals, and photographing the best a destination has to offer, is ridiculous fun, I just want to do more of it! That’s why I’m developing my Travel and Hospitality arm of the business to hopefully work more in this sector.
Is it fair to say you’ve just revisited your love of travel photography in a big way? Where did you go?
You could say that! I’ve just been travelling for nearly six weeks around Europe via train using an Interrail pass for the most part. With a bucket list the size of a house, it was hard to pin down a list of places to visit but in the end, my route took in Paris, Zurich, Lugano, Como, Bellagio, Naples, Palermo, Cefalu, Dubrovnik, Maramures in Romania, Bratislava, Vienna, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, then home. You have to be time rich to travel by train but now I’m hooked.
Would you recommend inter-railing as a lone woman?
Definitely. There’s a sense of community with fellow travellers, especially on long train journeys. You often end up travelling with locals who want to give you tips and advice on where to head to. It’s easier to chat face to face over a train carriage table where you have plenty of personal space rather than being chin to chin with your neighbour on a flight. It puts people in the right frame of mind to enjoy travel rather than endure it.
The interrail app means that you can plan journeys accurately to ensure you don’t end up with a three hour wait in the middle of the night in a desolate station. You have to be savvy and check where your hotel or Airbnb is in relation to the train station when you arrive of course, then make a judgement call about whether you walk it or taxi it.
Generally, you take the same safety precautions as you would in your own country. My most feared part of the trip was getting a night train at 11pm from Naples, which, if you read one too many guidebooks, can put the fear of God in you (pickpockets and thieves run amok in the train station, apparently). It turned out to be one of the best experiences of the trip. The train station was well lit and airy, with lots of travellers around. The night train was a beast which comfortingly clinked and clunked its way down through Italy via Messina and into Sicily and I woke to the sun rising over the Sicilian coastline and the guard delivering my breakfast. Heaven.
Any highlights of the trip?
Visiting Maramures in northern Romania was incredible. I had a fixer there who translated for me and meant I could properly ‘meet’ and chat to the locals. It’s a very rural area where the population values it’s ancient traditions. I was invited to attend a funeral of an old lady from the village which was fascinating. The following day was a joyful, local Spring festival with lots of folk costumes and music. Naples, too – in fact all southern Italy – was captivating.
Where was the most picturesque, in your opinion?
Hard to say. People and landscape blend into one for me so it’s not always about the breath-taking views. If pushed, I’d say Bellagio in the Italian lakes, and Cefalu on the coast of Sicily looked sublime as the sun set. Zurich and Bruges were very pretty to wander around, too.
What was the aim of the trip?
I wanted to experience Interrail and just travelling where the mood took me, but for the business I wanted to create a bank of images I could use for promotion to tourist boards and travel companies. I also wanted to dip my toe into travel writing. Many travel articles these days have the photographer writing the copy, too – it’s more cost effective. I’m writing an article about my trip to Maramures, Romania and will be sending an outline to some travel mags to get some feedback on marketability.
What – or where – is next?
I want to get to know more people in the travel world, so writers, editors, travel businesses, and really learn more about the industry. I’d love to work more in the UK, too – that way my Jack Russell, Rosie can come with me on my travels (it was grim leaving her for so long).
And of course, I want to continue to work with the lovely people and businesses of Norfolk. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some cracking wedding couples already this year, and I’m looking forward to the rest of what the summer has to offer.
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