Julia and Yuriy Manchik are that couple-you know the one that can make snapshots and goofy tourist shots somehow look cool. Considering that they’re both photographers and Julia is a designer, too, then the fact that her Instagram feed looks like it was styled for a hip magazine spread comes as no surprise. Scroll beyond the impeccable curation, and Julia’s true passion is revealed: Julia and her husband have a serious case of wanderlust.
“We value a trip more than any possession.”
Immediately after their 2010 nuptials, they hit the road for six months and 16 countries. “The world is big, so we think it’s best to start early,” she said. Since their long trip, they hightail it out of town as often as they can-skiing in British Columbia or road tripping through Bolivia and Peru. They feed their travel habit through photography and design work in Seattle.
What was the best advice you received-or that you now give-about planning extended travel?
Apart from your first flight out and probably your first accommodation, don’t book everything in advance. My husband and I love having the freedom to talk to locals and other travelers and steal ideas from their itineraries. [It’s] way more efficient than trying to find friends at home who can give recommendations for a country they may have visited years ago.
So, allow for flexibility?
During our six-month honeymoon, we were going to chase summer by heading to Southeast Asia during our winter, so we packed light. A couple of months into our trip, we decided we didn’t want to pass up the chance to see Ukraine, our home country. We ended up making a big detour to Eastern Europe, something we weren’t planning on and weren’t prepared for in the least. People get so hung up on packing all the right stuff for a long trip. It wasn’t hard to buy warm hats, gloves, and winter boots. Next thing I knew, we were stepping off the train into a winter wonderland during Christmastime. It was such an unexpected turn in our travel plans, and much more memorable.
In terms of travel, where is the most photogenic place you’ve been?
Different countries for different reasons, but Turkey definitely stands out in my mind. We were mesmerized by the sprawling cities dotted with mosques, crumbling ancient historical sites, and crazy natural landscapes like Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle'” in Turkish. The colors and patterns in the textiles, pottery, lanterns, and markets were irresistible, especially in a desert landscape. Turkish people are stunning, and to our delight, they actually liked having their photo taken. Any place that has a strong culture and makes me feel like I’m far from home is incredibly inspiring for me to photograph.
It’s certainly not fair to say that taking good photos is easier when you’re traveling, but the new environments certainly keep inspiration piqued. How do you stay inspired when you’re at home in Seattle?
Oh, it’s absolutely easier to take photos while traveling than at home! But it doesn’t have to be far away. Even a weekend road trip or a day trip to the mountains inspires me to take my camera out. And once I have my camera on me, it automatically turns the switch in my mind to look out for interesting views or compositions. I don’t even have to try; I’m just more visually aware. It’s not even that exotic surroundings make for better photos, but simply the fact that you’re shooting more. Just like any skill or art, the more you shoot the better you get, and nothing gets you shooting more than a fun trip.
The one thing that has inspired me to shoot more around home when I’m not traveling is shooting with my iPhone and Moment lenses. It’s the most compact camera I have, it’s always on me, and it’s fun to experiment with different focal lengths on everyday scenes: a sunny breakfast on my table or a foggy view from my rooftop.
As a designer, do you resist-or indulge-the temptation to style a snapshot?
Unless you are a documentary photographer shooting a news story, I don’t see anything wrong with styling a photo. Especially if you enjoy the process. I definitely remove small distractions like a littered soda can, and at times style the shot entirely, searching for the right background, window light, and personal items for a styled lifestyle photo.
Shooting street photography really doesn’t require any styling, and I enjoy the shift in creative energy from styling the photo to composing the photo. At the end of the day, the photos are for you, and you should be able to do whatever you want with them. There are people who Photoshop the heck out of their photos, adding birds in the sky or reflections in the water, and although I wouldn’t do that, people should be able to create whatever makes them happy.
Photos by Julia Manchik