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VOL. 126 | NO. 245 | Friday, December 16, 2011

Vanderford Takes Camera to All Corners of Globe

By Andy Meek

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Photographer Amie Vanderford spent her birthday last year in Nepal. She was thousands of miles from Memphis, but it was in some ways like she was right at home.


(Photo: Ben Fant)

Vanderford, a photographer who barely finishes unpacking from a trip to one far-flung locale before she’s planning a trip to the next, followed her venture to Nepal with trips to India, Zimbabwe and, most recently, Peru.

She just got back to Memphis after spending four months starting in late July on a photography and volunteer excursion to Peru. While there, she trained her lens on the locals, took thousands of photos and at the same time did whatever volunteer work she could find, like tutoring children and rescuing animals.

Vanderford plans on publishing a coffee table-style book of the photos she took on the trip.

At one point on her trip, she found herself climbing a mountain and reached a height of 17,700 feet – taller than any point in the contiguous U.S. Even today, remembering those months that included taking two treks, at one point getting lost in the jungle and scaling a mountain, the tone of her voice rises in telling the story, almost as if she’s convincing herself it actually happened.

“I climbed a mountain. I climbed a freaking mountain, man!” she said. “I was so shocked I could do that. How could I do that?”

It’s clear in looking at Vanderford’s recent past that while she lives in Memphis, she’s undeniably a citizen of the world.

She also was fascinated by cameras from an early age. Being born into a military family meant frequent travel, and she quickly fell into a routine of snapping images of any place that fascinated her – which turned out to be everywhere.

“I always wanted to share the world with everybody else and get them to be as fascinated about the world as I was,” she said.

“I always wanted to share the world with everybody else and get them to be as fascinated about the world as I was.”

–Amie Vanderford

Even if that means, like her recent trip to Peru shows, she has to travel far and wide to do it. In that case, Vanderford can be found running at a full sprint down the road less traveled.

She pursues her own opportunities, makes her own luck and writes her own story. Rather than wait for a freelance job to materialize, she turned to the crowdsourcing site IndieGoGo and raised almost $3,000 in donations for the Peru trip.

“Conquering fear is another big thing of mine,” she wrote on her IndieGoGo page. “Fear stops us all from being happy and experiencing things that may enrich us or may teach us a valuable lesson.

“Although I fell in love with rainforests many years ago when traveling in Costa Rica, I admit that I am a bit apprehensive about spending a month in the jungle with no electricity and no roads, but because I fear it, I must face it. Giant tarantulas and all!”

She had specific reasons for this latest in a string of international travels, camera in hand. She wanted to “find the good in the world” and use photography to tell stories and get people interested in causes.

She also wanted to go to a foreign country where she spoke the language, which she hoped would help her get more immersed in the culture and not function the whole time as an outsider looking in.

Since she speaks Spanish, she quickly zeroed in on South America. Argentina was high on her list, but she felt it was too European, and thus too familiar.

“I never felt so happy in my entire life,” Vanderford said about her time in Peru. “I felt alive. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was excited by every single thing I saw.”

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