Jorge Abian claims to be in “early retirement” because he spends his time only doing things he loves: traveling, being with friends and family, and photography. But that doesn’t mean he’s not keeping busy.
Abian has loved photography ever since he was a kid and his dad developed images from the darkroom in their home. It wasn’t the only way his parents inspired his lifestyle—they also stocked coffee table books from Robert Frank’s The Americans to Ansel Adams in Color, which opened Abian’s eyes to the many adventures the world held for him.
Though past jobs have included stints at Tinder, Uber, and Trip4Real (acquired by AirBNB in 2016), Abian has spent the last year traveling and working on a book for Lonely Planet about “adventures for the modern explorer,” he says. “It’s going to be a coffee table book, so I’m going to accomplish one of my childhood dreams.”
Here, he shares his favorite cameras, his editing process, and how he stays grounded while constantly traveling alongside a selection of his photos on film.
When did you first become interested in photography?
My father used to develop black and white film in our house on the weekends. When I turned 11 or 12, he taught me how to do it, and that’s how I became immersed in the photography world. When I was 14, he gave me my first Canon F-1 camera, which I still have, and that’s the camera I use to take all my film pictures. The good thing about that camera is that it has a manual setting, so you can be in the middle of the desert or in the North Pole and you can still take photographs. It shoots manually at 1/60, which is the most real way of looking at the picture. It gives you really nice depth of field, so it creates very cinematic pictures.
How did you start to learn more about and develop your photography skills?
My dad used to have a lot of coffee table books, and that was all my inspiration. That’s where my passion for traveling and discovering new places came from. I still go back home and I will look through those books to try to find the next destination that I want to go to.
Is photography your full-time work now?
No, it’s not. It’s never been a full-time job, but it’s something that I’ve always done. I treat it more as a visual diary than as a job. I think that the moment it becomes a job, I will not like it as much as I do. I never want to lose that feeling and that love that I have for it. It’s a personal way of remembering emotions, remembering stories that happen during the trip, during an adventure. I look back at those pictures and even though you might just see a landscape, in my mind, I’m seeing what happened to my friend here, or that kiss with that girl there. Or that moment right before we all went skinny-dipping in the Arctic ocean.
Does traveling inspire the way you look at the world or the way that you live your life?
I think we’re all traveling at all times. I truly believe life is a journey. Every day when we wake up, it’s a new journey. Traveling is not about arriving; it’s about the going, the process of making this day or this trip as special as possible. Traveling has that magic sense—if we could keep that feeling in our everyday life, I think that then we would really achieve fulfillment. So, I don’t know if I treat travel as a philosophy, but definitely as a way of behaving and acting and walking through life.
What’s your favorite travel photo that you’ve ever taken?
I think that my favorite photo is the photo that I haven’t taken yet. Knowing that you haven’t taken your best photo yet is what makes traveling exciting.
How often are you traveling?
Well, based on what we just talked about, I’m traveling every day, 24 hours, seven days a week.
True! Let me rephrase. How often are you on an airplane?
In the last year I haven’t been in my apartment for even one day. I’ve been living out of my two Away suitcases for the past 340 days.
And how do you do that? How do you maintain work/life balance or feel normal and sane when your life is constantly moving?
I definitely like to keep a little routine. To ground myself every single morning, I try to have “me time.” I don’t know if it’s meditation or a gratitude practice, but for 30 minutes, I try to really be with myself and be in the moment. You know that phrase—it’s a little bit cliché—but home is where your heart is, and I truly believe that.
What type or types of Canon cameras do you use?
A Canon F-1 film and then I have a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. That’s the default camera that I usually go to, to shoot video and to shoot some of the images that you see on my Instagram. Most of the digital pictures that you see in my Instagram are shot with that Canon 5D.
Why are those the ones that you choose to shoot with and what features in particular do you really love on those cameras?
For the film camera, as I was saying, you can bring it anywhere in the world. You never run out of battery. It’s always there and the pictures that it takes are my favorites by far. I don’t really know how to explain the feeling of film, but it’s like no other. Something on film is like, I don’t know, it’s the caviar of photography for me. But that said, it’s become so expensive that you also need a digital camera.
What recommendations would you give to an amateur photographer who wants to improve their travel photography?
Look for the pictures that you love, the ones that create any kind of emotion in you, and then go out and try to recreate them. If you try to replicate the pictures that you like, in the end they will give you your own voice when you’re taking photographs.