Jessica Fradono has made a name for herself as a photographer for some of the world’s swankiest places. After working in a corporate job for many years, she decided to follow her passion of exploring new places and took her camera with her on the road. You can find her Instagram here.
Tell me about the Dishstance: how it started, and how photography has been a part of your creative process.
I moved to Austin, Texas in 2012 after visiting for three days and falling madly in love with the city. I always had a thing for food, but my adoration for the Austin food scene was off the charts. I was exploring the city voraciously and had learned so much in my first couple of years. People were constantly asking for recommendations and a few friends suggested that I start a food blog. I thought it would be fun and finally came up with the name over a few mezcals, singing “she’s going the dish-stance” (Cake) at a Mexican restaurant with my friend, Katie. Maybe I had some foresight, because it was intended to be a blend of food (dish stance = how much I loved that last plate) and travel (distance), although it started with a focus mostly on Austin food.
This really drove me to want to make drool-worthy photos, so I invested in some professional photography equipment and enrolled in the Austin School of Photography. It really became a passion for me! I was working a full-time job as a corporate executive at the time, and I spent all of my spare moments learning and practicing photography. Although my initial goal was food, my favorite, and most published work, turned out to be cocktails. In 2017, I decided to leave my corporate job and my favorite place I’d ever lived to go out and photograph the world! I am always very thankful for the chain of events that led me to find something that continues to be a big part of my life now. My time in Austin was a lot of fun, and I made so many wonderful, life-long friends there.
You were in Cappadocia, Turkey. Can you describe what the area was like? Was it different or similar to any other places that you’ve been?
Cappadocia is a special destination and so unlike any other place I have ever been. The landscapes are amazing, the rock formations otherworldly, the sunsets are sublime. It is full of natural beauty and interesting history. There are horses, castles, underground villages, “fairy chimneys” and more – it really felt like a real-world fairy tale and I had to pinch myself several times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
You also run a design brand, Trvlr. How do you find inspiration for your prints?
As a photographer, I was taught that it is my duty to tell a story in a single visual snapshot, which can be hard since the viewer isn’t there to experience the other senses that go along with that moment. Putting my work on various products has changed the way I see things. What we like as a photographic print may not look as good on a product, so entering this realm has expanded my mindset into a kind of dual mode. I am an innate explorer who is constantly looking for things to capture — it’s rare that I don’t have my camera in hand when visiting a new place. I find beauty all around me and it always feels like a challenge for me to capture something that I think is beautiful that others would agree with. It sounds so cheesy, but inspiration really is out there — everywhere I go I find things that motivate and inspire me. I am very attracted to vibrant colors and patterns — you will find these themes prevalent throughout my work.
What advice would you give photographers who want to capture Cappadocia properly?
Definitely plan to stay at least three to four nights to capture all this destination has to offer. The balloons only fly once a day – at the crack of dawn. If the weather conditions are not good, the balloons may not fly at all, or they could go up late which will not give you the lovely sunrise backdrop. It is best to spend one morning at Sunrise Point to capture the views from the ground, then head over to the Love Valley area to grab shots of the descent and landing area. A second morning should be spent in a balloon to get a bird’s eye view and close-up shots of the set-up and ascent.
You need a third morning from a scenic deck at one of the cave hotels –- some of them even set up a staged kahvalti (Turkish breakfast) table specifically for photography shots. Although the balloons are a magical sight, they are far from the only things to see and do in Cappadocia! You will want to spend your days photographing the unique landscapes, fairy chimneys, underground cities, churches and cave homes in the open air museum, Uchisar Castle, colorful carpet shops, evil eye trees, and gorgeous sunsets over sublime rock formations! For sunset views, I recommend visiting Crazy Ali’s Panorama Cafe and taking a horseback ride through the rugged terrain. The food was also quite good – Top Deck Cave Restaurant and Pumpkin stand out as two of my more memorable dining experiences. Another great photo op would be to catch a dinner show and see the Turkish Twirling Dervishes traditional dance (bring a tripod).
You’re an advocate for slow travel–how do you think that’s shaped your style on the road?
Although I can never be a native in the places I visit, I feel that slow travel puts me somewhere in the space between a tourist and local. The philosophy has made me significantly more aware of my environmental impact as a visitor and I like to live by the motto, “take only memories leave only footprints.” I make efforts to build relationships with local people and learn as much as I can about their cultures so I can respect their customs, religion and traditions.
Since I started out with a focus on food, I still see a lot of things through that lens. I am a social learner, and I do I research online, but the best recommendations come through conversations and connections with locals. I am a pretty fearless eater who is genuinely interested in learning and trying, which always seems to delight people. I have seen the connections you can make through cuisines, and to be honest, most of the foreign language I learn are food-related words. This means that I can be your best friend when it comes time to place your order.
When I left home two and a half years ago, I had no idea that I was a “slow traveler.” One day I was talking to a friend about the slow food movement and I made the comparison to my own travel style. Sure enough I looked it up and found out it was already a thing and, much to my dismay, I didn’t invent it. I was also relieved to know that there were others out there who had the same philosophy because sometimes I felt like I was very different.
Where are you headed to next and what do you hope to get out of it?
Hoi An, Vietnam for my second visit! When I was there last time, it was the full moon and their monthly Lantern Festival. I was very focused on the night activities, plus it rained a lot so I didn’t capture enough of this incredibly photogenic city in the daylight. It is a place that has been on my mind ever since I left — it kind of felt like unfinished business. Every time I see images of it, I have a strong urge to return and capture that historic beauty with my own lens. I often make plans to return to places that I loved to spend more time there and take in the culture. This time I will be there for three weeks and I am stoked to have a second chance!
Photos by Jessica Fradono.