Why I Take Photographs

Barbara Weibel in front of a camel caravan carrying salt bocks at the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, one of the hottest places on earth
Barbara Weibel in front of a camel caravan loaded with salt bocks, at the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, one of the hottest places on earth

When I was about 11 years old, my uncle gave me an old 35-mm film Leica camera. It was a relic way back then. It didn’t even have through-the-lens focusing. But it had an excellent German ground-glass lens. I was instantly addicted. I carried that camera everywhere and nearly sent my parents to the poorhouse from the cost of film developing.

Around the same time, someone gifted my father with a subscription to the National Geographic Society. It was a luxury that my milkman father never could have afforded. He treasured those monthly magazines and refused to throw them away, instead letting them stack up in our front hall. Entranced, I would arrive home from school each day, plop down cross-legged on the front hall floor, and spend hours immersed in photos of peoples from exotic, far-flung lands. By age 12 I knew that I wanted to be a travel photographer for national Geographic.

But, as Woody Allen famously said, “If you want to make god laugh, tell him about your plans.” By the time I turned 17, I knew I had to get away from my dysfunctional family. Six months later I quit university, ran away from home, and got a job. Paying rent, buying a car, and feeding myself soon became my foremost concerns. I relegated my dreams to a distant corner of my mind and set myself to the task of climbing the corporate ladder.

However, I never completely abandoned photography. For the next 35 years I dabbled in it. I even had a darkroom in my house during my first marriage. But my passion for photography truly blossomed when I finally fled the corporate world, started Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel blog, and began pursuing my true passions of travel, writing, and photography.