The world through his eyes: Photographer Daryl Hawk reflects on 30 years of ‘Unconventional’ travel
Photo: Daryl Hawk / Contributed Photo
In the 30 years Daryl Hawk has traversed the globe, the individual magic moments he discovered along back roads and remote destinations remain distinct, but he also has developed a collective wonderment. Consider it the ultimate souvenir.
“I have always felt that everything I am seeing and experiencing is rubbing off on me and entering my soul, my mind and my heart and affecting me as a human and who I am,” says the documentary photographer and explorer. “It has put my life in perspective, more than anything else. I am more grateful. I don’t take things for granted.”
This past year has been a milestone for the longtime South Wilton resident. He is celebrating 30 years of marriage to his wife, Heidi; 30 years as a documentary photographer and explorer; and his first year as an empty-nester (his youngest son recently headed off to college). With his wife, he also runs Hawk Photography, which specializes in travel, corporate, weddings and editorial photography.
On Oct. 14, he will share his travel images during the 2018 Marie Hurley Travel Lecture at the Ferguson Library in Stamford.
Hawk relishes opportunities to tell the stories behind his photos. He visited Ecuador, Argentina, Bhutan, New Zealand, Antarctica, India (including Ladakh), Oregon, Canada, Cuba and other locales.
“I hope 30 years from now, I’ll be giving a retrospective on 60 years of my work,” says the 1975 Westport’s Staples High School graduate. “As long as you can see clearly and your vision is strong, you can shoot into your 90s and a lot of well-known photographers have done that. So, that is the goal, to always do what you love the most.”
Today, when so many corners of the world have been discovered and explored, is there room for excitement? The moniker Hawk, 61, gave himself early in his career may be the thing that allows him to remain optimistic and enthusiastic about finding those nooks and crannies that still have the power to fascinate and exhilarate.
“‘The Unconventional Traveler’ was the name of the television show I produced,” he says, of the cable talk show he ran for 10 years, with more than 100 shows that feature leading explorers. “It also is the style of photography that I developed on my own. I am a self-taught photographer and self-taught traveler. I like to be alone, free, and really immersed in the landscape and cultures of the people in the countries and regions in which I am visiting.”
Hawk’s approach is his own, but he was deeply influenced by the travel photographs, storytelling and spirit of exploration and discovery in “National Geographic” magazine. He has read the publication for the past 50 years, starting about the time he received his first camera, a Polaroid from his grandmother.
Since then, he has kept his approach simple. He typically takes two cameras and two lenses. He’s got his memory cards and batteries, which are a lot easier on his musculature. Until about 10 years ago, he was hauling hundreds of rolls of film in big canisters. He started with Nikon, but has switched to Canon. He likes to shoot pure — no manipulation — and he does not pose his subjects.
“The most important thing is the way you see the world around you,” Hawk says. “Taking in all the important factors to produce a great photo, like lighting and composition, you try and say something new and different and give a unique perspective on things.”
There is one such photograph that is particularly memorable for Hawk. It’s the 14-color mountain range he photographed in April 2013 in Argentina after a tip from a local. “When I got there, I was so moved by the color and the light and the beauty of such a unique mountain range, that I sat down and wrote a poem. Everybody knows about the seven-color mountain, but very few people know about this.”
Hawk captured the gray, pink and tan layers of the stratified land mass of Mount Hornacal. “I didn’t want to leave,” he says, but leave he always does, returning to the rustic environment of his Connecticut home and his photography studio.
“When you are in such remote places, that are so different from what you are used to, and you are totally disconnected from the outside world for weeks at a time, it can be a real difficult adjustment when you are flying over New York and you see the lights and you are soon on the roadways and in traffic,” he says. “Then, you are just back to the daily routine of technology and life and all that goes along with it. It takes a while to get readjusted.”
The world’s cultures and the people who move them forward in terrain that is everyday to some, and exotic to others, endlessly fascinate Hawk. He searches to translate the ordinary to the extraordinary in an ever smaller world.
“I have always felt like a wandering sponge,” Hawk says. “I try to soak up everything around me, with all my senses going into overdrive. I love hearing and talking to people. Some photographers are obsessed with the photography. For me, it is 50-50. You can’t have your eye behind the camera the entire time. It’s when I have my camera down, and I am not shooting, that I have some of my most incredible memories.”
Daryl Hawk’s talk “Distant Journeys,” for the 2018 Marie Hurley Travel program will be 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Ferguson Library, One Public Library Plaza, Stamford. Call 203 351-8208 or visit fergusonlibrary.org.