There's a unique beauty in the urban world. No more apparent is this than through designer and photographer Ben Richards' camera lens. From his unique perspectives of a pedestrian crossing, to the intricate details of a bustling market, suburban street or architectural masterpiece. Ben got our attention with his visual story of the deep ties and relationship we have with the built world. A world which most of us don't even stop to consider in the hustle and bustle of modern life.
It's a story that started when he picked up his skateboard and hit the streets of Europe, then developed when he became Designer & Art Director at Winkreative in London. Moving to the world's largest city, Tokyo, in 2019, his love of Japan is encapsulated in his work for the Monocle Book of Japan. His work has also featured in Suitcase Magazine and It's Nice That. Oh, he also curates @accidentalzine, a self-published magazine exploring the sometimes unpredictable nature of analogue photography. A gallery of artfully-placed light leaks and double exposure - we're enjoying this unconventional view on contemporary photography.
We talk to Ben about where his urban fascination started, and why photos should come second to experiences.
Tell us your story Ben. How has travel shaped your life and work?
My early experiences of travel were skate trips away with friends when we were teens. We would pack a single rucksack each, stock up on rolls of film and head out on a EuroRail pass for 3 weeks, shooting what we saw and got up to along the way.
Being on the backstreets of Paris one day and a derelict building in Berlin the next, was such an eye-opening thing for us at the time. Shooting film gave us the freedom of not worrying about what we shot, as we couldn’t look back over it until we got home.
Fast forward a few years, my exposure to what I guess can be called modern travel came through my work as a designer at agencies in London. Working on various projects for magazines around Europe, Asia and North America meant I would be exposed to new worlds and cultures on a daily basis, even from my desk in the London studio.
Trips to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan all fuelled my passion to continue to see the world through my camera lens, and in turn inspired me to move to Tokyo in late 2019. I love that feeling of being able to immerse yourself in a different culture, and my camera has been my passport for that in some respects. The way I travel may have changed from those early European trips, but I try not to move too far from that in how I shoot.
What place has been the most memorable for you?
Easy one – Tokyo! Never have I visited a place that has changed my approach and outlook on life so drastically. Since leaving my London job to pursue a new life in Japan, the country has never failed to amaze me every day.
What does ‘being real’ mean to you? In your own travel content, and in the travel content that you look for?
A big thing for me is experience. Nowadays it’s so easy to visit a place, get all the postcard shots, then go home. But did you really experience the area, the people, the food, the hidden gems that really make a place? The experience should always come first, and the photography follows.
I think there has been a shift towards much more genuine travel ‘content’ recently, or at least from those I choose to be exposed to. I try to limit what I look at, as that only fuels the non-genuine desire to be like someone else, and can often have a negative impact on a trip.
I do my research before I travel, using some key destinations as anchor points. It's good to get those out of the way, then the magic happens when you go off the beaten path, talk to the locals and follow your nose. I love looking for the finer details, seeing how people live, and creating my own unique attachment to a place, wherever in the world it may be.
Who do you love following for their real travel stories?
This is part of Not Just A Pretty Feed, our Q&A series with creators across the world, uncovering their unique and diverse travel stories. We learn how travel has shaped their lives, influenced their work, and what being real in the world of travel content means to them. Continue the journey with Indonesian-based entrepreneur and photographer, Roi Mitchel.