Meet Nilla – Photographer and Intrepid Traveller

Through the eye of a photographer, she captures life using light, a vista, or that unique look on a person or animal’s face. This is a talent not everyone possesses. One professional photographer who does it so uniquely is Nilla. Through her blogging platform, she inspires me and I am sure many more, to see a country and people in a different light.

In her own words, here is Nilla:

Thank you, Suzanne, for your kind invitation and this opportunity to share my work with your audience!

Nilla, when did you start to take an interest in Photography?  Also, when and where did it become more than a leisure activity?

At an early age of around 10. I started taking mental snapshots of places that I knew would look great on film, then returned with my 110mm film camera to take the shot. It didn’t take long before I learnt to take my camera with me everywhere.

Remember those awkward little plastic cameras that produced a very thin strip of negative?

The fascination I found in the 110mm cameras was how such a tiny piece of transparent plastic negative could contain so much information of a split second in time. The way in which one frame could tell such an intense and whole story, but still leave the story open to everyone’s interpretation still fascinates me.

I progressed to 35mm film, which trained my eye to take only one shot. Film processing and printing were expensive in those days. I learnt the art as a self-taught photographer, whilst making loads of mistakes. Followed by a course at 19, which I dropped out of after one year, as it stifled any creativity.

At a young age, I also loved to sketch, paint the occasional oil, and inked many drawings. I guess this helped the natural progression to artistic imagery to photography.

Photography is in my DNA and something that I do instinctively – although, each time I go out, I still learn new things.

In 2011, whilst still travelling through Morocco and South America, I built my Nilla’s Photography website and started a FaceBook business page. Then on returning to Australia, I began entering photography competitions and exhibiting. A lot of hard work but all this escalated my photography to the next level as a professional photographer. With thousands of photos from 30+ years of travel on 6 Continents, I struggle to select photos for competitions, exhibitions, websites, or to share on social media.

Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect of a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?

I don’t believe that locations and weather conditions are crucial aspects of a successful picture. Whilst important, I think the most crucial aspect is using your eyes, and I don’t think it really matters what photographic equipment you use either.

Many photographers nowadays seem to prefer ‘making’ a photo with software during post-processing, rather than ‘taking’ a photo with their eyes.

You can have the worst weather conditions, which result in the most sombre and moody photo. Weather is unpredictable, so you have to work with what you have to achieve the optimal result.

Tierra Del Fuego National Park – Argentina

What is your favourite subject?  Nature, wildlife, objects, portraits?

I love the challenge of Travel Photography, which includes Street and Documentary – both are fast or you miss the moment. For me, these genres portray people in reality as opposed to staged photography, which is easier to shoot, as typically, conditions are controlled.

There are no boundaries or rules with Travel Photography.

As a Travel Photographer, I am drawn to documenting the social conditions of both underdeveloped and developed countries, providing visual evidence of social differences.

Hard Times – Venice, Italy

I love taking candid photos, whether it is a street scene but especially, faces. I see someone’s face and know what the outcome will be in a frame. It sounds kind of weird, but it’s hard to explain.

My portfolio also contains landscapes and the occasional still life shot – I like to experiment and learn.

Manhattan Cube, New York, USA

How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with subjects to bring out their true self?

This is a hard one for me as typically, I take candid photos.

I always struggle with the dilemma of whether to ask permission or not before taking a photo. Occasionally, I’ll take a candid shot first then ask permission. The difference in the two photos can be quite stark.

If you’re passing through a place, it’s difficult to connect for five minutes with a complete stranger enough so that they feel completely comfortable with you taking their photo. Sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t.

Now and again, people can relax in front of a camera, and their true self is revealed in their eyes and face, but this is more conducive to a studio-style set-up that happens over time.

I find that taking a candid photo creates more of a mystery and although you don’t always see the person’s eyes, this is not always necessary. What do you think?

Hooded Man – Morocco, Candid photo

Burma Smiles – Myanmar (Burma), portrait photo

Who, as in other photographers, have influenced you the most?

I would have to say that greats such as Ansell Adams, Robert Capa, and Henri Cartier-Bresson are my main inspirations. These three artists cover landscape, documentary, and candid photography – my preferred mediums.

Considering the many decades ago that these photographers etched a mark in the world with the available technology during their era, you can’t but help admire their art.

Which one is your favourite lens and why do you prefer it?

As I’m travelling more often than not and for extended periods, I can’t carry a lot of camera gear with me, so I restrict myself to my Nikon D600 Full Frame a 28-300mm lens. I also replace this with a small Compaq camera on harder treks where weight is limited.

I don’t really have a favourite lens, but I do prefer fixed lenses for their superior optical quality and zoom lenses for ease when travelling. A lens also depends on whether I use a 35mm film camera or a digital camera.

 Zakopane, Poland

A downside to my 28-300mm zoom lens is the lens produces a lot of distortion when taking photos of architecture. This is because of its focal length. The distortion drives me crazy. The upside is that I don’t need to carry several heavy fixed lenses.

I have a couple of 35mm film cameras here in Italy and also several in storage in Australia, which I only use on day trips or when away for several days. The cameras in Italy have a 35-80mm and 28-70mm lenses. Zoom lenses are great for candid work. Back in 2011, I travelled with a digital and film camera and 2 lenses for over 10 months in South America and Morocco. I had to post the film back to Australia for processing and scanning.

Nowadays almost everyone has access to devices with which it is possible to take pictures. What do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other hobby photographer?

You can’t beat an eye for photography – but this is only my view, and I’m sure loads of people would disagree, arguing that post-production produces the best photo.

More and more these days, the line is blurred between photography and digital art. And although I love both, the distinction needs to be made to an audience. Passing up digital art as photography is not being honest with your audience. I do minimal post-production (straightening, contrast, dust removal for negatives), so what you see is what I saw.

 Opposites Attract – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Typically, the label of a ‘professional photographer’ is when you start to sell your photos. I’m not sure if this is correct as to sell your photos, you need much more exposure to your work today than during pre-internet days. I think it’s harder these days with the internet as there is so much accessible professional and hobbyist competition out there. This is backed up by the abundance of paid and free photography competitions, something that hardly existed pre-internet days.

Although today’s devices make photography accessible to everyone, I can’t but help feel that the actual art of photography is diminishing.

Do you exhibit your work?  If so, where?

I’ve found that exhibiting is the best way to gain exposure but also to sell my work – I should organise more…

I first started in Group exhibitions back in 2012: Shoreditch (UK), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Bologna (Italy), Brisbane (Australia), and New York (USA).

My work has also been in a couple of Fundraiser exhibitions in Brisbane where I donated several large canvas photographs, which were auctioned off to raise money.

Waiting – Laos, candid photo

In addition to Group Exhibitions, I’ve had two solo exhibitions: one in Brisbane, Australia and the other in Cerisano, Italy – these are much more stressful and challenging to organise. Although, I do prefer solo exhibitions as I enjoy speaking with people that have questions about my photographs; it’s more personal and a wonderful way to get feedback or different views, whether good or bad. I enjoy listening to people’s interpretation of a photo or to see their first reaction.

Nilla (4)_edited

If you’d like to see more of my work, then please check out my social media platforms:



Travel blog:







63 thoughts on “Meet Nilla – Photographer and Intrepid Traveller”

  1. Your photos are spectacular, Nilla. I”m envious of your creativity, already at an early age. It is awesome that you have been able to pursue your talents and dreams. Your portraits are stunning. Do your subjects sign a release form after they have agreed to pose? How do you approach people for photos? Do you just ask? It seems like most of your shots are candid (the way I “do” it), but my questions relate to when they are not. I have always hated confrontations and am usually too shy to ask someone for their photograph…

    I totally agree with you: “You can’t beat an eye for photography.” I don’t think post-production produces the best photo, either, but, like you said, opinions differ. Either way, you need something to start with and that “thing” is totally up to the photographer. Like you, I keep my photo edits to a minimum to represent reality. I’m not a professional photographer, but I have sold images with articles. Unlike you, I generally crave a blue sky for my photos (and my body). 🙂

    I enjoyed reading a bit more about you. Thanks for interviewing Nilla, Suz, I recently discovered her and started to get to know her a little bit. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow Liesbet, thank for your kind feedback!

      It’s hard to make a living as an artist and I only really started seriously pushing myself in 2011. Actually, it was my partner that pushed me and said “I needed a rocket up my @rse” – not to be crude, but he was/is right. I have him to thank as he totally believes in my work – I call him my manager! 🙂

      I’ll try and answer your questions as best as I can…

      Most of my people shots are candid, so no, it’s not usually possible to get a release form. Also, most countries in which I travel, locals do not speak let alone read English. So, I’m not sure how other photographers do this, which is also a problem when entering photo competitions. These days, may competitions request a signed release form.

      The random people I approach on the streets, markets, elsewhere, I simply smile and ask permission. If they say no, then I thank them politely and move on. If they grant me permission, I joke around with them (gestures) to try and make them comfortable then take a couple of shots. It’s usually only around 5 minutes. If I’ve taken digital, then I always make the point of showing all their photos. It’s gorgeous to see the smile on their faces. If the person has some English, I will ask for their email then sent them a copy. I guess maybe this is like a permission form? I always give the person my card if they’ve given me their email. Of course, if there’s no English, then it’s different.

      When I was 19, I managed an ‘Old Time’ photographic studio for 2 years. Remember the ones where you dress people up in period costume, positions them, then take the shot? I used an ancient Hasselblad Flatbed camera with a polaroid. We were only allowed one shot, unless someone blinked or the subject detested the photo. I took from one person up to 20+ and family pets in one shot. Hard, a lot of fun but you had to make everyone at ease before the shot.

      As you can’t choose a blue sky, especially when travelling, I shoot photos in whatever condition is presented and make the most of the available lighting. I guess it makes you look at the scene in a totally different way.

      My background is a Technical Writer in IT – I document a lot. So for me, photography is also documenting time. Guess it’s the right and left sides of the brain kicking in – who knows, I love to do both. 🙂

      Sorry for such rambling but let me know if I haven’t answered all your questions. Thanks again to you and Suz! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks Suz!
          The studio was a lot of fun but also taught me how to try and get the best out of someone’s face, regardless of the face, under pressure of one shot.

          Weird, but even today, I always look at a face and see the best feature/s for the best outcome.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Ha, ha I new that would be your response!
              I can only imagine, there were a lot of Russians in Vietnam with street signs in Russian in Da Nang. Whilst I don’t have anything against Russians (or anyone), I felt that this whole area has lost it’s authentic culture.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Very true and the blending can be good or not so good.
              The French legacy is in the incredible bread you can buy in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. But especially also the Banh Mi pâté in Vietnamese – wonderfully delicious!
              The Chinese influence in Malaysia’s cuisine is also amazing…need to start travelling again. 😉

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Janis. I hope not just to tell a story but to provide people that don’t travel a snippet of what it’s like in a different part of the globe.

      Interesting that you say my images tell a story. These days, if I’m entering a photo competition, I’m expected to write something about each image. Sometimes I’m marked down as I’ve written too much and other times, not enough. For me, an image should be strong enough to tell its own story, with only the requirement of the location in words.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A fabulous post Suz, and interesting to read of Nilla’s processes of taking a photo. I really like her comment “Many photographers nowadays seem to prefer ‘making’ a photo with software during post-processing, rather than ‘taking’ a photo with their eyes”. A lovely interview, thanks for introducing Nilla to us all and I’m off to check out her links.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Debbie.

      I’m glad we share similar views on what a photograph is opposed to maybe digital art. I’ve had so many discussions with many people from different walks of life on this subject. As more and more post-processing software becomes available, cheaper, and easier to use, more photographers prefer to use this tool over their eyes and camera. I truly hope that photography is not becoming a dying art.

      Liked by 2 people

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