Meet photographer and filmmaker Maria Belford, an avid traveler who describes herself as “constantly moving, restless, and looking forward to going somewhere new and seeing what it has in store for me.” Based in New York, she’s photographed streets from Queens to Crimea, and focuses on the small everyday moments in life. Her documentary photography explore themes of feminism, marginalized youth and immigrant communities around the world. We chatted with Maria to learn more about her inspiration, her travels and her photography.
What first inspired you to become a photographer?
My grandfather lived with my family when I was very young and had a subscription to National Geographic magazine. He would always sit me on his lap and show me all of the amazing photos taken all over the world, and it instantly inspired me to travel as well as created a desire to learn more about photography
How do you explore a new city?
Very slowly and always by foot if I can. I don’t want to miss anything, and like to discover things by letting myself get a bit lost. I will often stop and spend time at places that intrigue me whether it’s a park or a little bar or a street vendor and that can lead to locals making suggestions for where I should go to next, which always helps.
Who are some of your favorite street artists?
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and her Stop Telling Women to Smile project is something I’ve been following closely and admiring for along time. She combines photography, illustration and wheat-pasting to create street art that addresses issues surrounding street harassment and women’s rights.
Tell us about some of the best street food you’ve eaten?
Doubles, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They’re a very popular street food in Trinidad, made with flat bread, curried chickpeas, hot pepper, mango, and tamarind. They’re so incredibly delicious, and are inexpensive and eaten by all of the locals. Every Trinidadian person I know would ask me “Did you have Doubles?” when I mentioned that I had visited Trinidad. The first time I tried them, I had been walking for hours, wandering around the downtown area of Port of Spain on an especially hot day, and I finally came across a Doubles cart in Independence Square. The lady serving them was making them at rapid speed, as there were constantly people swarming the cart. When I got mine, I sat on a bench and happily enjoyed them. Such a simple concept and so inexpensive so they’re accessible to everyone.
Apart from photographs, what mementos of your travels do you bring home with you?
I always try to bring back a painting or some type of visual artwork from a local artist in whatever city I’m visiting.
What is your favorite Bly Product?
I would have to say the Ghanaian handpainted barbershop signs. I think they are so unique and interesting and I’m especially intrigued as I’m currently working on developing a new documentary photography project about beauty salons.
What city would you love to go back to?
I’m currently itching to go back to Port of Spain, Trinidad. It’s such a vibrant city and the locals are all so genuinely kind. There’s a fantastic art scene there as well, with many of the people living there being involved in various creative endeavors, whether it’s pan steel drum bands or painting, or even photography. I met so many fellow artists just by walking around the streets of the city with my camera.
Where should Bly go next?
Crimea! Now it’s part of Russia, however it still has a wide array of Ukrainian cultural influence, as well as Crimean Tatar. There are so many Crimean Tatar artisans living in the mountains along the Black Sea that make beautiful jewelry, pottery, textiles, etc and the scenery is incredible.
What’s your travel motto?
“Nothing happens when you sit at home.” – Elliott Erwitt
It’s simple, but straight to the point. Everytime I step outside my door, something new could happen. Taking that a bit further and traveling somewhere new, taking myself out of my comfort zone, opens me up to a world full of new discoveries, possibilities and experiences. I try to constantly be in movement, planning a new adventure or trying something new as often as possible.
See more of Maria’s photographs, and learn more about her work, at www.mariabelford.com
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