Meet Travel Photographer Marianna Jamadi

Marianna Jamadi is a travel photographer who digests the world through her camera. Her love of the craft and interest in the human experience is what inspires her to share stories through photos. She was born and raised in Long Beach, spent her twenties in New York City, spent a year backpacking through the world and is currently in the LA area eager to use her passport again.

This is my dad’s camera that he purchased when he was a University student in Germany in the 1960’s. The sound of the shutter release is synonymous with him. When he passed away, I inherited this camera as it reminds me of all of our travels together around the world.

This is a carved wooden snake that I brought back from a trip to the Amazon. I asked the artist to also sign the bottom of it. Being in the Amazon was a truly humbling experience and this reminds me both of my love for travel and also how powerful mother nature is.

Meet Marianna

Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a travel photographer and writer -- when did you first pick up a camera?
I grew up with a dad who always brought a film camera along with a VHS video recorder on our family trips around the world. I thought those things went hand-in-hand. Traveling and documenting. When I took a 35mm film photography class in college, that idea started to transfer over. This love of documentation was passed down a generation. While this was my first real personal investment into photography, due to my dad’s archives, I stumbled across a video of me at age 8, with a camera in hand taking pictures in Finland. It’s hard to know when I picked up my first camera, but I know I will never put it down. 

As I shot anything and everything on the side as I tried my hand at surviving NYC after college, I knew that if travel photography was going to be a reality, I needed a portfolio that supported that. In my late 20’s, tired of working dead-end corporate stints and side-hustles, I sold most all my belongings and backpacked around the world for a year. During this time I documented my travels on a blog and writing became another extension to share experiences. 

That trip really allowed me to unfold as a photographer in a real, liberating way and that is the spirit I bring forward in my work. Since returning from that trip (2014), I have never looked back and continue to work as a travel photographer.

What is your creative process like? What are you trying to capture when you’re shooting?
I am often guided by intuition and feeling. I tend to shoot what I feel, rather than what I think I should be shooting. The beauty of travel photography is the ability to transport a viewer to a place, culture, and/or destination. I try to tap into the spirit of a place, as to bring to life a still image.

What do you love most about photography?
I am fascinated with the idea that photography has the ability to freeze time. As we live from one moment to the next, photography allows us to hold a tangible sliver of the past. It can become the time-machine we desire, a portal to a feeling, place, time, memory, etc.  I also love that it visibly highlights perspective. You can have one object or scene and 10 photographers may take a different photo of exactly the same thing. I believe there is power in expressing our personal perspective and photography allows for this in such a beautiful way. 

In addition to your work as a photographer and writer, you’re the founder of Oh Good Grief, a supportive community for those exploring grief and loss. What compelled you to create this space and what do you hope to shift about the way we talk about death?
Oh Good Grief is a personal response to having lost my parents in a relatively short amount of time (2017, 2018). In my travels I had seen other cultures approach death in ways that felt so honorary, or at the very least permissive of grief, but I found myself spiraling in a Western world. It became clear to me that many people around me did not know how to talk about, deal with, or acknowledge loss in a real, honest way. 

I wanted to create a soft landing place for those who want to connect over grief. I have found the most healing in other people who have experienced loss and are willing to share their story. Also for me, expressing grief in some way felt like a necessary tool for healing. I created the Voices of Grief section as a way for people to audibly express their grief experience and also for the community to listen to each other’s voices and words. 

If anything, Oh Good Grief in an invitation to grieve. It is my hope that we can normalize the experience of loss in a way that brings us closer. We are in a time of both personal and collective grief and I believe the way to get through this is by doing it together. I hope, in the future, there is more expression and less repression in the grief landscape.

This is a necklace from the nationally loved brand Kalevala in Finland. This is from their series called Moon Goddess. It reminds me of my mom and my Finnish roots. This necklace has traveled with me all over the world in the last ten years.

Oh Good Grief is rooted in a project called Here__Have, which explores objects and their connection to memories of those we love. What has it been like to witness others sharing their stories and connections with these tangible objects?
Objects are a really great conduit to enter a grief conversation. With objects, the conversation is infused with life rather than the trauma of a death. Objects allow us to speak of the spirit of a person rather than focus on how they left us. It has been really amazing to hear stories that are evoked by a particular object. While the absence of a person can never fully be soothed, coming back to objects is a way we can keep the spirit of someone around us, with us, within us. These conversations have brought joy, smiles, laughter, and tears, and that full expression of a range of emotions is true to the grief experience.

What does your morning routine look like?
Once I get my coffee in hand, I will usually dive into a book while sipping away. Depending on how I am feeling, I may follow up with writing in my journal, doodling or other kinds of creative expression, or my most recent obsession is learning a language via Duolingo.

Daily rituals that keep you grounded?
I have been taking many, long walks during these last few months. As quarantine time really stripped us of a lot of our usual lifestyle habits, walking was something that was always available. A really simple exercise, but one that always leaves me with a more decompressed mind and body. Stopping for a cup of tea at some point in the day is also a great way to pause, reset, and nourish our body. 

Who inspires you? Whose work do you look up to?
I have always loved the photographer Sally Mann. She has a very powerful way of capturing the human experience that makes you think twice about what might be considered ordinary. While I love traveling the world and documenting, she has a real perspective around documenting what is directly around you and happening to you. In the documentary “What Remains,” she talks about her process around one particular project and she voices her worry that “she might some day perfect this.” While I used to really dwell on perfection, her words really allowed me to dismantle some of those expectations.

Favorite books?
- The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
- Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke
- To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee

Favorite blogs? 
Ignant & Feature Shoot