Profile

Alessandra Meniconzi

“The frozen world needs our attention,” says Alessandra Meniconzi. Growing up in southern Switzerland, Alessandra had easy access to the Swiss Alps and spent her childhood in the mountains. Her connection to frozen landscapes is why she decided to document the fragility of the Arctic and the Alps and the devastating impact of climate change. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 1/1600 sec, f/10 and ISO800. © Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra has long been inspired by the ancient heritage, customs, and spirituality of indigenous people, whose traditional way of life is at risk of vanishing in the face of climate change and pressures of the modern world.

To date she has published four books and as well as being sold as postcards, calendars and fine art prints, her images have regularly appeared in magazines all over the world. She’s an award-winner 13 times over, including being heralded as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year two years on the trot (2011 and 2012), and has held exhibitions in her native Switzerland, as well as Russia.

Canon Ambassador Alessandra Meniconzi holds a baby eagle


Location: Switzerland
Specialist areas: Reportage, nature, travel, landscape, and commercial
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Inspired by art from a young age, Alessandra always knew a creative career beckoned, and it was her brother’s Canon camera that would be the catalyst. “When I was 20 I took my first long-distance journey,” she reveals. “It was to Kenya and that’s where I discovered how fascinated I was about travelling. And like any other traveller, I took a camera to share my adventure with the folks back home.”

Impressed by what they saw, Alessandra’s friends urged her to submit her pictures to several magazines. “It worked! The first thing I decided to do as a professional photographer was to go in search of uncontaminated landscapes; as a sort of last witness into our past millennium before the era of globalisation.” The gambit paid off, as a Swiss magazine eagerly published Alessandra’s images of the indigenous people of Southwest China, sealing her fate as a pro.

A Nenet nomad from Russia
The Nenets are the last remaining nomadic people Russia. The harshness of the tundra in the northern district of Siberia allows for the Nenets to roam freely, moving twice a year with the migration of the reindeer, following ancient routes. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra’s big break came in 2004 with her book The Silk Road, which features the people and cultures of the 2,000-year-old trade route that links the Orient and the Occident. Alessandra spent a decade on-and-off travelling by mountain bike through Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, North India, Pakistan, China and Eastern Tibet. “The charm of the Asian continent kept drawing me back; with its beautiful landscapes and fascinating cities, populated by a rich mosaic of people, where history and legend intertwine.”

Moving on from her time in Asia, Alessandra has recently expanded her efforts to encompass threatened areas of the Arctic and sub-Arctic. "Photography has a strong impact, so I want to capture stories of people affected by climate change," she says. “I am always searching for lesser-known indigenous peoples, because they are the best guardians of our planet. They are deeply connected to nature to secure their survival, and they’ve been doing things the same way since the dawn of time. The more encounters I have with different cultures and traditions, the more I realise that we are losing our cultural richness. Our planet is inhabited by an incredible kaleidoscope of ethnic groups, each with their own social and cultural traditions that must be safeguarded. Ugliness has spread to every corner of the Earth through globalisation and exploitation of the planet’s resources, so it’s my goal to record those who still belong to its landscape, before it’s too late.”

The fishing village of Xiapu in China
The small fishing village of Xiapu, in the Fujian province of China is home to many seafood farms which play an integral part in the Chinese food industry. Here, a fisherman tends to his crab farm. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/250 sec f/8 and ISO400. © Alessandra Meniconzi

What’s your photography motto?
“Less is more! I include just a few components and keep the composition simple. The background is free of distraction and the attention is on the main subject. Leading lines, geometric shapes or patterns help to strengthen the composition.”

How do you maintain originality when it comes to subject matter?
“I avoid anywhere with tourists, and even for popular subjects I’ll find an unusual way to photograph them. My favourite is a mix of the wilderness and indigenous people who have retained their cultural and social traditions, such as in the remote corners of Asia.”

Is it difficult travelling alone as a woman?
“Sometimes, but it’s not always a disadvantage. For example during my project on Salt Caravans in Dancalia, where the local population is Muslim, I had the opportunity to photograph women, which would have been extremely difficult for a man.”

Where do you think photographers can go wrong in this genre?
“I feel uncomfortable with how photography has developed. I’ve seen photographers be too pushy and throw the camera in people’s faces. They want to capture a scene, a portrait immediately because they can share it instantly. It’s like a competition.”

How do you get the most out of a person who isn’t used to being photographed?
“Photography is an art, so you need inspiration, thought and time. Invest more in quality than quantity. I spend time with people, I discover their traditions, and I make friendships. Travel and photograph with ethics and respect, that’s my philosophy.”

Facebook: meniconzialessandra
Twitter: SwissAlexandra
Instagram: alessandra.meniconzi

A Kazakh golden eagle hunter
Since her first visit 18 years ago, Alessandra Meniconzi has been documenting the Kazakh people of western Mongolia and the ancient practice of hunting with golden eagles. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/400 at sec f/4.5 and ISO160. © Alessandra Meniconzi

The one thing I know
Alessandra Meniconzi

“Never behave like the paparazzi, always be polite and respectful. The subject has their pride; they are not an object, but a person like you. It’s important to learn a few words in the language of the people you visit, and engage in a conversation with a smile. Always ask for permission before taking the photo and explain your intention. The success of a portrait depends on this initial approach. With experience you can immediately distinguish who wants to be photographed and who doesn't. Take all the time you need. Learning by your mistakes will improve your work more than your successes.”

Alessandra's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Alessandra's kitbag

Cameras

Canon EOS R

Building on over three decades of continuous EOS innovation, the EOS R System is based around a pioneering lens mount which offers greater creative possibilities and even more dynamic ways of capturing every moment.

Lenses

Accessories

Make-up brush

"For sandy and dusty conditions, this is very useful for cleaning my kit," says Alessandra.

Puffer blower

Alessandra says: "This is great for blowing away dust from my lens."

SD cards (16GB - 64GB)

"I prefer to use SD cards with less capacity because if I lost one card or something went wrong with it, at least I wouldn't lose everything," says Alessandra. "For my kinds of pictures I don’t need speed for recording so I don't mind using SD cards with less speed."

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