Talking Traveling and Photography With Elida Marie Berntsen!

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We had a chat with the 20-year old photographer Elida Marie Berntsen. As a photographer she captures stunning landscape and portrait photography with movement and authenticity, in warm and inviting colors. At the age of 17 she sailed around the world, sleeping in hammocks for a year as an exchange student! With us, she talks about her love for photography, all the beautiful places she’s traveled to, and where she sees herself in five years!


Firstly, we would love to know more about you!

My name is Elida Marie Berntsen. I’ve just turned twenty, and at the time of writing I’m a student at a one year boarding school located just outside Trondheim. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, eat way too much ice cream, sleep, watch crappy romantic movies, and of course, take photos.

I’ve always been very fascinated by the world and its variety of cultures, landscapes, animals and people, and I love to travel and experience this world of ours. I’m an adventurous girl (or maybe more of a young woman?!) that loves to travel, explore and capture all kind of moments with my camera. When I was 17 I sailed around the world with “Skoleskipet Sørlandet” (an old tall ship, we slept in hammocks for a year!) as an exchange student. We started this incredible journey in Hong Kong, and ended our voyage in Norway 10 months later, after visiting all 22 countries divided in Asia, Oceania, Africa, South-America, North-America and eventually Europe. This was one of the most memorable years of my life, that made me see the world from a new and more realistic perspective. By watching with my own eyes the injustice and the disturbing contrasts between poverty and wealth both in and between countries, made me more aware of the still-existing problems in the world. Through this year filled with traveling and meeting with new cultures, I also found out that photography is something I really want to do for the rest of my life.

What got you into photography to start with? 

I think it was when I understood that I could express my creativity and feelings through photography. Later on the interest of taking photos grew, as I got a bigger insight of how photography actually can emphasize different feelings, thoughts and moods. This I experienced especially when I got the chance to visit and take photos in two huge slums in Kenya where I through my photos, hopefully managed to emphasize the poor circumstances they're living in every day. 

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What inspires you?

I don’t think I have one special thing or a person that inspires me, but rather the entirety of all the people I am surrounded by daily, all the people I’ve met through traveling, and everything I can see, hear and smell wherever I go. Even if it’s just a two minutes walk to the shop alone in the pouring rain, or walking through a crowded fish marked in a small town up in the mountains in Tanzania. I think the whole world is my inspiration!

Who or what inspires your photography

A big inspiration for me is the talented photographer for UNICEF, Simon Lister, because of the way he uses photography to emphasize and inform the people about the very important, and often «forgotten problems» children experience every day, such as extreme poverty and child labour. Also, Hannah and Nick, the travel couple behind the sensational Instagram profile @saltinourhair, is my number one inspiration when it comes to travel photography. And last but not least, Colin Ross and his beautiful wedding photos. 

What’s in your mind when you take a photo? 

For me, it's extremely important that the photos I take gets as «perfect» as possible, so when I shoot I get really choosey and detailed over every little thing - the light, the focus, the angle, the lines, and the placement of the different objects in the photo. Otherwise, I focus on capturing meaningful and memorable in-the-moment photos, and especially «haunt» for the best photos that really highlights the special mood or vibe in the current situation.

Would you say that photography is your way of communicating?

Yes, absolutely. I can be very closed up, and not really good with words. Therefore I find it natural to communicate through photography, where I can create and emphasize what I want through photos. 

How would you describe your style of photography?

I would describe my style of photography as a mixture of everything I find interesting; wedding photos, portraits, travel photography and simple everyday photos.

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Which city or country has been the most inspiring thus far on your travels?

It has to be Tanzania. It’s so colorful and breathtaking, and the people are so happy, forthcoming and welcoming. Every single person we met greeted us with a big smile or a kindly hello, and are mostly up for a nice talk. The nature is incredible, and of course the stunning diversity of animals in the Ngorongoro crater. 

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would definitely drive a tuktuk through India! All of the colors, the different cultures and religions, the beauty of the old architecture, the art, the people - it all seems so cool!

What are your travel essentials (aside from your camera)?

I always bring my computer for editing photos along the way, and my travel journal for writing down what I do, my thoughts and impressions I get while traveling. And of course, Earpods and good music is a must!

With all the traveling, do you experience a lot of culture shock?

I haven’t been experiencing a lot of culture shock when I’m actually traveling. However, when I come back to Norway after being away for a longer period, I’ve been experiencing some kind of culture shock. Especially after I spent a month in Kenya and Tanzania, seeing so many people living in poverty and not having enough food, and then coming home again, I felt truly uncomfortable and weird being so extremely lucky and spoiled, just by having access to a roof over my head, a bed, school opportunities, clean water, all the food I want at any time, and even by just having a family. 

We would love to hear more about all the places you’ve been!

I’ve been to many places that truly stands out, and especially those that aren’t the typical vacation paradise for tourists, such as Christmas Island, St. Helena Island, Brunei and Dominica in the Caribbean. Elseways I’ve been to a variety of other beautiful places like Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Azores.

What’s your favorite place and weirdest place that you’ve visited?

St. Helena is definitely one of my favorite places so far. The architecture is stunning and the nature is incredible. One can take a selfie with the oldest creature alive (the turtle Jonathan), and even take a swim with big whale sharks! 

The weirdest place I’ve been to is Taveta in Kenya. We visited the Masai people; where young men kill lions with a spear continued with choosing the wife they want, where the women has to build their home made out of cow feces and sleep in the same bed as all of their children, where both boys and girls get circumcised, and where girls are getting married at age thirteen. This was so distanced from how we live, and how we think, act and behave towards gender equality. I couldn’t even imagine that people were living like this in 2019. But at least we learned a lot about culture differences and different perspectives, and thats important in itself.

Can you share your best traveling advices with us?

I recommend traveling to destinations one haven’t been before, and that aren’t always at the top of the tourism attraction lists. By experiencing how other people live, how other cultures are and how different everything is from city to city and from county to country, gives a realistic and good insight in how the world works, and why we are different. Talk to the people you meet, learn and be open, and your travels will be amazing and give you new perspectives along the way. It’s always smart to ask the locals about tips on what to do, but of course, see and do what ever you want to do when you’re traveling!

Finally, where do you see yourself in five years?

In 5 years I will be a photographer taking photos that will make a difference, create engagement, feelings and discussions. Also, inform and enlighten people about the ongoing, but sadly hidden and often forgotten problems such as poverty, starvation, child labour, war, refugee crisis etc.. I want to work for helping organizations such as doctors without borders, unicef, red cross organisation etc, helping people in need through the power of photography. And of course, travel the world, get a dog and a turtle, and settle down in Africa!

All photos are taken by Elida, and published with her permission. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Written by Jonas Stefan

Jonas Stefan Ntibigarura