Wind beneath my Wings….
Walter Astrada is a Multi-Faceted Photographer, Documentary Film-Maker, Story Teller, Winner of Several National and International Awards. Currently he is driving his "ATHENA" and Crowd Funding to travel the world
“Among all the machines, the motorbike is my favourite machine.”. Walter is a Man on a Mission. His dream and current ambition is to do a road trip across the world. To the uninitiated, he has covered 26 countries coast to coast to date. Walter has ridden a whopping 60 thousand kilometres since he left the comforts of his home in Barcelona. Walter reminisces fondly "Just the idea of not knowing how to use a motorcycle 4 years ago,to now a World Traveller this entire trip has been wondrous and memorable"
“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to un-crinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not until now, known it had.”
Walter has self financed his trip. But, he is also looking at crowd-funding throughout destinations. He sells his beautiful photographs and postcards from the journey to achieve this daunting task. Please donate to the cause and spread the word.
Some people spend a lifetime searching for their goal, but not Walter. He was fortunate to visit an exhibition of Argentinean press photographers and knew what his calling was. After finishing high school, he attended a couple of workshops on photojournalism . The best students were awarded an internship with the National Newspaper, La Nacion. No marks for guessing that Walter landed this plum internship.
While he did not land a job as a photographer, he decided to continue working on his portfolio before leaving Argentina,his motherland. However, before deciding to take the plunge he showed his work to the photo editor of La Nation.
Walter quotes "After he finished looking at it, he asked me if I was working for anybody. My answer was no because I made the portfolio working on my own. He offered me a 3-day test to be a photographer. On the third day, I was working as a photographer".
Two years on Walter resigned and was traveling in South America. AP [Associated Press] took him as a correspondent in Bolivia first, later Argentina and Paraguay, From March 2005 until March 2006 Walter worked as a freelancer for Agence France Presse in the Dominican Republic and was represented and distributed by World Picture News.
In March 2006 he moved to Spain .During 2008 and 2009 he covered Eastern Africa from Uganda.
The project he is the proudest, is a burning issue that plagues the world "Violence against women","I think it is a real important issue, a global problem". He worked for the cause in Guatemala, Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Norway to highlight the plight of these women and bring it to a Global Platform. ‘The Under Pressure Project,’ living with people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis in Europe are some of the causes for which Walter has been lending his voice and lens as a freelancer based in Barcelona, Spain.
As a training member of the World Press Photo,he conducts story telling workshops to help telling stories with cameras. He believes that every photographer is a natural storyteller, However, some of them need help and guidance, whilst some of them just need a little push and encouragement. Walter believes "Basically many people want to tell stories with their cameras but most people are really focused on single images.The idea of the workshops is to discuss what we need, to tell stories and help photographers to develop their capabilities for the same".
His workshops are hands-on and based on trials and tribulations to achieve perfection. He creates an atmosphere conducive to try different ways and if the desired results are not achieved, they look for other options. He does not call these trials as “MISTAKES”, but “PART OF A LEARNING CURVE”. Such is Walter's commitment to the project that he gives lectures and workshops based on his long term projects as a professional photographer and documentary video maker even on his road trip through Skype.
As a Photo Journalist he been in the fore front and covered Kenya’s Post Election Violence, Bloodbath of Madagascar, Haiti in 2004, 2006 & 2010, Cholera in Haiti and the widespread hunger Epidemic in Uganda.
As a news photographer with 20 years experience in covering unrest in countries and conflicts in Africa," I was used to rituals of blowing into town, covering the breaking story and leaving". Though it did excite him initially, he felt it’s the kind of grind that hardly leaves little time to get to know a place.
He wanted the freedom to explore and do street photography, capture the various nuances, pause, ride along depending on his whims and fancies and not be dictated by the next calamity or natural disaster.
"I loved Adventure books when young so traveling was always on my mind."
Walter philosophies "You can´t predict how your life is going to be, I´m more about pursuing what make me happy and trying to do what I really want,instead of trying to be thinking" The promise of faraway lands kept him on the edge. He knew he had to travel for his own self. Not one to introspect or retrospect, his decisions are based on experiences and information available that time. He never regrets his actions and calls them his “LEARNING EXPERIENCES”
He completely lives by the idea of “NOT TO OVERTHINK”. as he feels If you think too much, in the end you’ll never do it. He wanted to go around the world, and thought he could do it on a motorcycle, he went ahead learnt to ride a bike and for the past 2 years has been living his Current Dream.
Amongst his challenges is to keep the sense of adventure and enjoy the experience of traveling day in and day out. He says, "One has to be prepared physically and mentally for the unknown and not be bogged down by the hard work". Like,when traversing through Mongolia, not a single human being crossed his path. The journey felt lonely and long. "Alone in the middle of nowhere with your overactive brain telling you about imaginary and impending breakdowns, punctures or falls". But this mirage too passed and oasis was within reach.
This innate traveler does not prepare beforehand on his road trip, other than visas in advance if they needed. Only the first leg of the trip between Barcelona and Vladivosto was scheduled and planned with details due the extreme winter in Siberia that was expected.
He carries everything he should need on his au-pair. Tent, cooking gear, some spare parts for the bike, sleeping bag, clothes, computer, cameras and extra passport photos for visas to name a few.
Before embarking on the trip he was faced with a big challenge of financing on the move. Not one to give up, Walter made a dedicated site where he is selling prints of pictures he takes on the trip, he accepts donations, contests raffles amongst his contributors and organises workshops in some countries he is passing through.
" Some beautiful paths can't be discovered without getting lost.” His dream of the world tour on a Royal Enfield motorcycle and make a photographic project is on the anvil. He feels there are another couple of years till he realises this, till then he dreams, breathes and lives this project.
Every country he is yet to visit is on his bucket list. Walter feels his road trip is the “MOST CRAZY THING” he has done till date.
Though he has coursed through India before on the project on 'Violence Against Women', but traveling through India on a motorcycle was an eye opener. He could live the culture, heritage and the vibe that threads through our country.HIs only regret is to have not traveled to the Himalayas since he reached it when it was winters and the roads on the pass were shut for commuters.
"The changing digital landscape and the onset of social media has impacted opportunities and profitability for bloggers/photographers. There are times when it aids me", but he feels it has given rise to the perception that photography is not expensive and easy to acquire as a skill. The hard work and your experiences before your photography become renowned is a journey that most people do not want to know or see. Since everybody has a camera,a lot of people consider themselves photographers just by carrying a camera or a camera phone and fail to understand the skill and art behind every photo and the story it portrays.
Every photo has 1000 stories and every photographer can weave a different picture through his photos. Walter, we look forward to more anecdotes and stories as you chart new vistas and explore new horizons. Till then with The Wind Beneath your Wings and Athena for Company may you slay Dragons ....