To celebrate Passion Passport’s five-year anniversary, we teamed up with ONA Bags and created a collection of travel-inspired camera bags in five limited-edition colors, each chosen to represent the vibrant nature of travel and the rich experiences that can be found around the world.

We gifted a different colored bag to five talented photographers and challenged them to incorporate them into their shots, and daily lives.

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Next up is Freya Dowson, a landscape, portrait, and wildlife photographer whose stunning shots from communities around the globe are as beautiful as they are impactful. We caught up with Freya to learn more about her journey with photography and how the bag impacted her creative process.  

Creatives utilize multiple mediums to express themselves. Why did you choose photography?

I thought I would be a creative in lots of different ways before I found photography — I tried out painting, writing, dance, and many other mediums. I thought I would be a cook at one point, then a children’s book author, and I even studied to become a journalist. But photography was the one creative outlet where I got carried away in the process and lost myself in telling stories. It felt very natural, and I never doubted that it was the tool I needed to express my ideas.

How has photography changed the way you look at the world?

Photography requires me to define what it is that I’m drawn to when taking a picture, and how I can use whatever it is that attracts me to tell a greater story. I now see the world in terms of light and color and shadow. When I started shooting on assignment and making money from documentary photography, I learned to dig out stories from what I was seeing as I traveled and it’s a habit that’s hard to give up, even when I’m not on assignment. Now, seeing stories and pictures everywhere feels very intuitive, and it has altered the way I view the world. It’s taught me to be more reflective, to reserve my judgement as best I can, and to be more curious about the world around me and the lives of others. It’s also showed me the beauty in being observant and how to pick out the little details that often go unnoticed.

Tell us a little about your creative process — how do you go about planning a shoot?

Any shoot always starts with as much research as I can manage. The more I know about what I’m documenting, the better able I am to tell the story. I think that’s pretty standard for most photographers, though. Personally, I like to get to know who I’m working with, what their motivations are, what makes them tick. In the chosen environment, I like to understand what kind of light I’m working with, when the best time to shoot is, and what kind of scene I’m capturing — sometimes it’s in the air, sometimes it’s underground, so occasionally I need to learn a whole new way of photographing in order to do a shoot justice, and that takes a lot of time and preparation. I also like to have some time to adjust to where I am and settle myself for a shoot, especially if it involves something particularly difficult to stomach like child labor or animal cruelty. Sometimes I have to just jump right in and get to work, but if I’m able to take some time to settle myself first, then I do that.

How does your environment impact your work?

I think that as a documentary photographer, you always have to be adaptable. So, depending on what type of environment I’m in, I look for ways to adjust the way I move and work. Sometimes a situation will require me to get involved and roll around in the dirt with my camera; other times I need to stand back and become part of the furniture. Early on, I learned how to feel comfortable in all kinds of situations — if you’re caught up in worrying about how you’re adapting to where you are then you’re probably not focused on what’s going on around you.

How would you describe your photography experience with the ONA x PP bag?

I think getting used to a new camera bag is like working in a new pair of trainers. In the beginning, it’s always going to be a bit uncomfortable and awkward, but if it’s the right one, then it’ll eventually feel like an extension of yourself.  I found the ONA x PP bag to be very minimal and simple to use. It wasn’t cumbersome and it was easy to access what I needed — I barely registered it while I was out shooting, which is ideal. If you notice your camera bag, it’s probably because it’s getting in your way. The ONA x PP bag is actually a lot smaller than the bags I’m used to working with which, as it turns out, I much prefer! Anything that streamlines my working process and allows me to focus more of my attention on what I’m shooting feels like it’s helping me be more adaptable, which I really appreciate.

How does the bag facilitate your creative process?

The bag definitely allows for more agility. It’s lightweight and uncomplicated, so I’ve found it enables me to react quickly and move around as I need to. I like to climb around a lot while working to try and get new and interesting angles, and having a bag that doesn’t get in my way is important. Also, the strap moves back and forth across my shoulder easily, so I can shove the bag quickly from my front to behind my back without getting it caught on my clothes, which is another plus.

How has the signature bag color inspired you to get creative in your city?

Most of my work is based overseas, so I don’t get the opportunity to photograph much around my own city. It was nice to take on a project that allowed me to look at my own neighborhood of east London through a photographic eye, and work on styling something. These bags definitely offered me a different color palette to work with, although the gray of this bag definitely reflected the moody London skyline.

Why do you think collaboration in the travel/photography space so important?

I think collaboration in the travel and photography space can really help to make both so much more accessible to those who are interested. I’m always sharing with the people who follow me what I feel is important or useful to me and my work — I like to share stories about my travels, and I always give a shout-out to any products or services that help me along the way when I think they can also help others.

Through collaboration, you can bring some really great ideas and brands to light that other people may not have heard of before — for example, I heard about ONA years ago through word of mouth, and they’ve been a great brand to support over the years. Without collaborations, some amazing things would go unheard of — not only brands, but amazing locations to shoot or little-known villages somewhere really rural, even really important causes! Some great work is being done through collaborations to highlight wildlife conservation work and fund education for children in need as well. There are so many ways to use collaboration and influence to do some good in this world, and support small business along the way.

Like this interview? Stay tuned to read more in our ONA series — and if you’re a photographer, consider grabbing a bag for yourself!

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Passion Passport’s community includes explorers, creators and storytellers from around the globe. Their travel experiences have challenged them, shaped their perspective of the world and given them a better sense of who they are. Both online and off, Passion Passport offers the opportunity to connect with one another, to share those pivotal moments, and to travel with purpose.