Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Being part of the VII Photo Mentor program has helped launch Anastasia Taylor-Lind’s career and has her on a trajectory to be one of the great photojournalists. Now living in Beirut, Taylor-Lind has positioned herself in a location where she quickly can get to a breaking event and thoroughly cover the subtleties of the story. Her photo essays have examined such diverse topics as stunt horseback riders, the female guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and English cidermen.
I have a BA in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport, which is an amazing and unique course that was set up by Magnum photographer David Hurn in the ’70s. I graduated with a BA in 2004 and then went on to do an MA in Photojournalism in 2008 at the London College of Communication.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
Ron Haviv, my mentor at VII Photo, told me that I must not chase pictures that don’t exist when I’m working. We all cook up these preconceived ideas of how a situation will be and what our story will turn out like, but fixating on these things means that we can end up looking for, and trying to make, pictures that don’t exist in that place. It’s a simple thing, but knowing that clearly helped me to relax and enjoy making pictures on a day-to-day basis.
What was your first job?
I was commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine to make a portrait of Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, together with her father Captain Mark Phillips in Gloucestershire.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
To enjoy the time and the freedom that being at university gives you to work on your own personal long-term projects. Once you graduate, the pressure is on, and it’s much harder to find the head space and the time to do what you really want to do. Being able to work to your own agenda is so important. I also think that one of the best things about studying is that you’re surrounded by your lecturers and your peers on a daily basis. At Newport, I spent three years surrounded by 40 or so like-minded people who loved photography more than anything else in the world—making pictures, looking at pictures, talking about pictures. I still have amazing friends and peers with whom I share ideas, edits and thoughts, but we’re spread out all over the world, and it’s not often that we have a chance to be together in one place.
What inspires you about photography?
Photography is a ticket into people’s lives; it’s a reason to make friends with people you’d never have otherwise met and to go to places you’d not otherwise have visited.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
The Canon EOS 5D, the EF 35mm ƒ/1.4L USM lens and the Canon Speedlite 430EX with a mini-softbox very occasionally for fill-in.
What’s your favorite piece of Canon gear?
The EF 35mm ƒ/1.4L USM lens. I only use fixed prime lenses as a result of my schooling at Newport University, and this one allows me to shoot in really low-light conditions handheld and without a flash, which is a revelation!