Australian Travel Photographer and Musician
Interviewed by Mark Orr
May 14, 2014
David Lazar is a travel photographer and musician from Brisbane, Australia, who loves to capture moments of life, beauty
and culture through photography. He is drawn to locations which have a rich cultural background and he is especially
interested in portrait and landscape photography.
David has been travelling annually since 2004, the year in which he became interested in travel photography as a genre of
art, returning from three months in India and Nepal. On his tenth trip in 2014, he worked on a book project for the Growing
Leaders Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago, revisited Brazil, and led a Luminous Journeys photo tour in Myanmar.
David is also a composer, teacher and performer of music, and has a Master of Music in film composition. To hear David’s
music compositions visit: http://soundcloud.com/david_lazar
You were born in Australia. Can you tell us a little about your childhood?
Yes I was born in Brisbane, Australia, and was a happy little child always playing, being creative and using my imagination.
What were your school years like and did you have formal training beyond high school in photography and
My best subject was music – playing the piano and improvising was the one thing I was very good at, and apart from
languages I did not excel in any other school subjects. Even the subject of art did not interest me very much at school and I
did not study it outside of the first year of high school. So it was a surprise to me later in life when I realised I had a real
interest in photography!
When did you realise that you loved the arts...and were your parents or siblings artistically inclined as well?
Yes there are artistic interests and skills running strongly all throughout the family – immediate and extended. Since I
started piano at age 5 – there was no conscious realisation that I loved the arts – it just was always so! I never had to be
forced to practice – I was always comfortable just sitting and playing around with the notes on the piano. I had a strong
memory and could pick things up by ear very well.
|Boy With Green Eyes - Sao Paulo, Brazil
|Underground Life - Valladolid, Mexico
You have travelled the world. Can you talk a bit about where you have been and what those experiences were
like? Do you speak other languages....make friends .....get a new perspective of life etc?
I’ve visited countries in South Asia, East and South Africa, a bit of the Middle East and recently Central America and Brazil. I
have been travelling for 2 - 3 months every year for the last 10 years. I am drawn to places that are not like what I’m familiar
with at home. For this reason I have not yet been anywhere in Europe – but I am sure that one day I will explore this region
of the world too, perhaps as I get older! I do like to learn a few words in the local language – it’s great for using with the
locals and getting a laugh and to start an interaction. I learnt Portuguese for my 2 trips to Brazil but that was because I was in
a relationship with someone there – so that was for a different reason I guess but I did get to use it when I was visiting and
staying with tribes in the Amazon region! So that was an interesting experience.
As for new perspectives on life – the experiences have all broadened my mind and I really enjoy meeting people from
different cultures and of different ethnicities. I learn that happiness isn't derived from material possession, and it’s touching
to discover that those who have little wealth are perhaps the kindest, most generous and strongest human beings on the
planet. They stay positive and they don’t complain.
Where has your work been published and/or exhibited and what awards or accolades have you won?
I get contacted often for the photos to be used in various publications. Some of these include: National Geographic, Asian
Geographic, Lonely Planet, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways in flight magazines, Luxury Travel Magazine, Abercrombie &
Kent, Dusit International Hotels, Photo Review Australia, Capture, Digital Photo, Digital Camera, Practical Photography, The
Australian Newspaper, UK Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Herald Sun. In 2012 I was the winner of the Travel category in the
Smithsonian Photography Competition, and I am currently a finalist in this year’s Smithsonian People category.
|Girl with Green Eyes and Red Headscarf
|Bhutanese Girl in Blue - A half portrait of a young
Bhutanese lady, who enjoys dressing in blue. Taken in the
town square of the peaceful capital city of Thimpu, Bhutan
Who are some of your influences and what is special about them to you? Favorite photographers or styles?
I was first influenced by Manny Librodo, then Joey Lawrence and then Art Wolfe. I noticed all these guys have something in
common – they consistently produce high quality and technically perfect work, showcasing the beauty in the world. From
that – I learnt to aim for technical perfection, and only show work that is ‘very good’ and never a shot that is just ‘pretty good’.
Those are three great photographers! I love their work and have seen a lot of it, especially Joey Lawrence's
work in Ethiopia. Ovation TV sent me his documentary "Faces of a Vanishing World". I'd seen it before but have
watched it over and over. Great stuff! I would love to interview all three of those wonderful artists.
What do you think of the fact that there are now so many 'photographers' in the world. It seems everyone has at
least a cell phone. Do you think it hurts or helps the field of photography?
I have no problem with it – if photography wasn’t easily accessible then I wouldn’t have gotten into it either! Maybe there are
a lot of ‘photographers’ as you say but they are all at various skill levels and talents. Another reason having a lot of
photographers can be considered good is that pushes the standard for constantly better work – so your photos have to
stand out from the rest. For me – I did this by shooting interesting and foreign subject matter that not everyone has access
to or will ever go and see. I also developed an editing style on my photos that makes them stand out as being very eye
catching and technically perfect throughout the frame.
I agree and in fact, think it is wonderful. This is an exciting time to be a photographer with all the new
Are you a fan of HDR and Photoshop?
I never did HDR in the sense that most people know it as (merging multiple frames together and blending the best of each
exposure)… but I am always changing the brightness and darkness of all parts in my photos so in that sense I am creating a
high dynamic range, more so than the camera normally captures. I use Photoshop on all my images that you see, with a lot
of subtle changes resulting in a piece that is hopefully harmonious and balanced to the eye.
|Father and Son Portrait - Vietnam
What is your favorite of your work....any specific photos? And what is the most amazing place you have been in
Myanmar is my favourite place – because the people there are so gentle and friendly and beautiful to be around. It also
feels like you are stepping back in time with old architecture and centuries old customs still being carried out today. There
are Buddhist temples and monasteries everywhere, and I think there is a peaceful and calm feeling as a result of this. My
favourite body of work was after my first trip to Myanmar in 2010. My favourite single photo of mine is perhaps the “One Day
a Masai Warrior” photo, because I really love how it looks and I remember how much had to happen to get all the elements
together to make this shot. I think I like people within a landscape style of photography the most – and this is hard to do as
suddenly you are trying to get two genres right within the one photo!
I want to ask about your music. I listened to all of it on the website. Who were your influences in music. Did I
detect some John Williams and James Horner/ they are two of my favorites?
Yes I like them both very much, and also James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman and Thomas Newman. I listen
to film music almost every day – it is my favourite style of music as it is so rich and diverse and can cover many genres (for
example mixing electronic beats with an orchestra).
Great composers all! I love Elfman's work with Tim Burton, Zimmer's.... well everything he does from the Da Vinci
Code and Pirates of the Caribbean to The Lion King! Thomas Newman did some of the music for one of my
favorite films "The Shawshank Redemption" and James Newton Howard I know from Waterworld, the Batman
movies and The Hunger Games....awesome music! Those guys have scored hundreds of films.
|Kids spinning a large prayer wheel in the town centre of Paro,Bhutan
|Bengali Friends - Two Bangladeshi friends play around on an old building at a train station.
|Tiny Lion Cub - This lion cub was smaller and less adventurous than his siblings and always stayed close to the lionesses.
Taken in the Masai Mara, Kenya.
|Two Friends Playing - Two Islamic boys play a hand game amongst the ruins of an ancient temple in 'Puthia, Bangladesh
|Australian Photographer David Lazar
|The Ascent - Three Masais help each other climb to the top of a boulder overlooking the plains of the Masai Mara, Kenya.
|One Day a Masai Warrior - The Masai tribes people live in the wilderness of Kenya and still uphold most of their traditional
values and customs. Traditionally, a Masai boy would only become a Masai warrior after he went out on his own and killed a
lion, as a rite of passage.
|Bow and Arrow Boys - Mrauk-U, Myanmar
What do you think is the thing that makes you want to do what you do? Excitement, travel, the people, the
It’s fun and ultimately satisfying to create good art that people respond to. Since I enjoy travelling and meeting new people
overseas and seeing how they live – it’s nice to combine all of this together and create these photos that not everyone is
able to create.
What equipment do you use and do you have firm preferences about brand...or will any camera work for you?
Nikon D800 with a Nikon 24-85mm zoom lens. Previously a D700, and before that a D70. I have never used Canon, but I am
sure it is just as good – what is more important is the person behind the camera. I like to pack lightly and not reveal any
camera equipment when I am walking around – I don’t take any flashes and I only take a zoom lens if I will be shooting
animals. I am not interested in the technology side of photography – I don’t follow latest models, accessories and gadgets.
What would you tell up and coming travel photographers....any advice?
Choose culturally rich and exciting locations around the world that interest you – perhaps look for places that are very
different from your own world for inspiration.
Be interested in the people around you when you travel and do not be afraid to interact with someone in a cheerful manner.
Have a happy, fun and relaxed demeanour, be respectful, and it will be easier to gain someone’s trust. Being comfortable and
confident with your camera is also important when working with people.
Try to imagine the shots in your mind and think about concepts, compositions and the light before you shoot.
Learn to use Photoshop to enhance your images and to help make them stand out. Watch online tutorials, read from
magazines and try to analyse other peoples photos that you like and figure out why something works so well, and try to
incorporate those elements into your own work. Learn how to use adjustment layers and layer masks. With this technique
you can paint in or out an effect on your photo, such as brightness, or a colour adjustment, just on specific parts of the photo.
|Three Fishermen on Inle Lake - Myanmar
What's next for you? Any projects you are working on or that are coming up?
I’m working on editing the photos from my travels earlier this year, and I’m also writing music for a teen sci-fi mystery TV series
called Avenue 13, for Singaporean TV. I will be running a Luminous Journeys photo tour in early 2015 to Myanmar again with
my photographer friend Aung Pyae Soe. We did it this year and it was a great success. I’ll also be working with Luminous
Journeys to go to Bali in 2015 to organise photo shoots there with other photographer enthusiasts who might like to join in on
the fun. We’ll go to various locations around the island including rice terraces, jungles, an active volcano on the island of
Java, and try a colourful underwater shoot as well. We’ll do some cultural set ups for sure with local people involved in the
scenes, so I’m certain that everyone involved will come away with great images.
Sounds very exciting! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I love your work and look
forward to seeing more from you!
Well thanks very much, it was a pleasure!
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