Meet Amanda Bjorn (@amandabjorn): artist, musician, image-maker, curator, and the founder of Women Photo Tours. Truly a one-of-a-kind travel photographer, Bjorn's images draw connections between space and body. Through the lens of her Rolleiflex camera, which she inherited from her grandfather, Bjorn photographs people she has built relationships with along her extensive travels. Traveling became a way of life for Bjorn at a young age, taking trips to Latin America with her parents throughout her childhood to visit her family. A need for adventure was passed down from Bjorn’s grandparents who were both artists from Miami and started the first American school in Ecuador before settling in Guatemala for the remainder of their lives.
Bjorn says she’s always felt at home in Latin America, with Latin culture influencing her art-making. An attitude that she took with her when initially traveled to Cuba as an assistant for a National Geographic photographer. Her experience there as a member of the island’s creative community is what inspired her to begin hosting photo tours for women. Fluent in Spanish, Bjorn melts the hearts of locals and has a way with people that reflects in her portraits. Her photographs remain first and foremost connected with the landscape, highlighting what makes each place special to her, featuring backdrops like sandy beaches, desserts, rural countrysides, and Havana’s rooftops.
The care that Bjorn pours into those she photographs extends to those who travel with her on the tours she organizes for female artists. Her tours have taken women to Guatemala, Cuba, Panama, Mexico City, and soon to Puglia in Italy. She has had many imitators, with none coming close to replicating her innovative and idiosyncratic attitude towards seeing the world. Bjorn works to provide authentic experiences, fostering relationships between those on the tour and local practitioners with adventures like a visit to a women-run co-op built into the itinerary. Bjorn is determined to break travel out of the typical tourist mold, which lacks cultural exchange and offers a boring sanitized view of the places she loves so much. She makes a point to teach everyone on her tour how to say "May I take your photo?" in Spanish, breaking the usual stranger relationship present in travel street photography. Amanda also strives to help other female photographers gain confidence in their work, working with them to build their portfolio through portrait sessions with local models while on tour. Models which feature in Amanda’s own photographic work and who need support in beginning their careers.
Amanda approaches photography as the key to becoming a supportive part of people’s lives and often plans her tours in collaboration with another female artist. Her newest Italian tour will feature the Italian photographer Piero Percoco and cooking lessons with an Italian female chef learning the art of focaccia. Amanda’s photos of Italy set the mood with bright colors glistening under Apennine sunshine. While all undeniably beautiful, Amanda’s photographs also hold a tinge of nostalgia, a longing for a time gone by. A need to connect with those around her remains ever-present and is surely something most photographers can understand. The camera becomes a way to discover places and people outside oneself, the ethos of travel photography.