"For me photography is where I feel at home: it’s about exploration, communication, creative expression, and education."
Abbie's photography is rooted in exploration, communication, creative expression, and education. Joining us from the UK, Abbie's first commission as a Global Imaging Ambassador takes a look at urban beekeeping for the #FutureofCities project.
About / Biography
Abbie Trayler-Smith is a documentary and portrait photographer. She grew up in South Wales before moving to London where she studied law at Kings College. Trayler-Smith began working regularly as a photographer for the Daily Telegraph in 1998; here she spent eight years covering news and features worldwide, including the war in Iraq, the Darfur crisis and the Asian tsunami. In 2007, she joined Panos Pictures.
Her work has been widely published and exhibited internationally as well as receiving many awards. Her first major work, "Still Human Still Here," was exhibited at HOST Gallery in London in 2009, along with an award-winning accompanying multimedia short film. In 2013 she became a member of A Fine Beginning, the Welsh photography collective. Based in the UK, she is currently working on a long-term personal project called "The Big O" on childhood obesity. It was from this work that her portrait of Chelsea won 4th prize in The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Prize, London.
Commissions / Image Galleries
Honeybees have been having a hard time. Their numbers are falling and yet they play a vital role to life on earth. Without bees many of our favorite fruits, vegetables, and nuts could vanish from our shelves and ⅓ of our food supply would be gone. It has been claimed that without the honeybee we humans would last all of 4 years on planet Earth. Abbie met up with London beekeepers Chris Barnes and Paul Webb (Barnes and Webb) to discover more. The UK has an estimated 274,000 bee colonies, producing 6,000 tons of honey per year with the help of 44,000 beekeepers.
Describe the moment you knew photography changedyour life.
When I joined the student newspaper at university and discovered, along with an outlet for my creativity, other people who shared my obsession for photography. From then on I was hooked. There was no going back, and photography became my life.
If you could sum up your work in one word or one sentence, what would that be?
Emotionally engaging and intimate. (I hope!)
What is the most remarkable person, place or thing you have ever photographed and why?
The most remarkable thing was documenting the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami in Banda Aceh. It was incredibly moving being surrounded by an apocalyptic landscape and seeing that human resilience and response to a natural disaster. I definitely returned from that assignment a different person and a different photographer.
Otherwise, witnessing my first live birth at a remote hospital in a conservative area of Yemen was pretty incredible and being engulfed in a bright orange sandstorm in Mali was exhilarating.
Talk to us about your bucket list... what is on the top of that list of things to photograph?
My bucket list is soooo long. It starts with an intimate commission from Vogue, Time or Rolling Stone to document George Clooney’s life over a period of time with exclusive access, followed by a long term commission from National Geographic to look at the issue of obesity globally (I am currently working on a personal project in the UK called The Big O, an intimate portrait of the young people behind the obesity statistics). In fact any commission from National Geographic would be on my bucket list. Places on my bucket list (there are interesting people and stories EVERYWHERE!) would be Russia, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, anywhere in South America, the Arctic Circle, Iceland, and the list goes on and on!
If you had not become a photographer, what might you be today?
Not becoming a photographer was not an option once I realized I could make it my profession, so who knows. Being made to think about it, I’m getting psychologist, painter, chef… but really my heart has always been and will always be with photography.
Give us your thoughts about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program?
The best thing about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program is the support for documentary photography, providing new outlets to tell stories through is always a joy, and discovering the A7 which is a delight.
What is your favourite Sony camera of the moment?
It’s the A7: it’s small, light, records colour and light beautifully in large, juicy, quality files.