Still captures of a sunburnt country. The next of exotic worlds. Australian photographer Renae Saxby captures that universal feeling that transcends country or culture - human connection. Her portraits capture a moment in time - one filled with life and spirit, a snapshot of a rich life in motion. She shares with the world the vast and less-explored beauty of the Australian outback - from Broome to Dampier Peninsula and beyond. But her ultimate skill lies in her ability to connect, through intense, intimate, up-close personal portraits - immersing herself amongst people and everyday life in India and Nepal, and exploring Indigenous Australian culture through a photographic collage for Desert Pea Media.
Renae's is a story of seizing the day. By changing the course of her life, her search for a deeper sense of fulfilment revealed opportunities along the way - each of which she dove into wholeheartedly. From months spent in South East Asia and Nepal, to photographing the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday in his home temple in Dharamsala, and the Burning Man festival! Renae inspires, and reminds us that anything really can happen, if you believe in it.
Tell us your story Renae. How has travel shaped your life and work?
Travel has shaped the way that I live, how I interact and my deep appreciation and admiration for the different cultures of the world. Grass roots, slow travel where you take the time to immerse into the local way of living with the people is how I like to travel. Then it is an exchange, not just a passing through.
I am passionate about sharing the stories of the people I meet. The world needs more unity, more compassion and equality and each portrait I take I hope creates a connection that helps to move towards this.
Which place in Australia has been the most memorable for you?
My most memorable moments travelling outback Australia would definitely be exploring the Kimberley region. In particular the Dampier Peninsula — deep red dirt, white sandy beaches and turquoise water. It’s rich in Indigenous Australian culture. There is magic out there and you can feel it.
What does ‘being real’ mean to you? In your own travel content, and in the travel content that you look for?
Being real to me mostly means showing real connection. Most of my work is cultural portraiture, and I believe if you don’t take the time to make a real connection with someone before you capture their portrait, there is no real depth.
When looking for travel content I want to see the real culture that exists in places. The real people. A glimpse into the life of the people that exist there and the landscape. Not just a planned travel pic of someone standing in the exact same place as all the other Instagrammers — gets a lil boring.
What role do you think travel plays in bringing together different cultures — both offline and online?
Travel, if done authentically and slowly, allows you to connect to the people and the culture of a place which leads to appreciation and celebration of diversity. To me that’s what it really comes down to — connection. It may be in the flesh or it may be connecting by looking into the eyes of someone through a portrait and seeing that they too have a story.
Who do you love following for their real travel stories?
See more of Renae's work at @renaesaxby on Instagram.
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 Melbourne-based travel journalist and photographer Justin Meneguzzi.