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FOCUS: Simon Urwin

14 May 2020

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© Simon Urwin

Simon Urwin caught the last flight out of Juba airport just before lockdown. As a travel photographer Simon has been to some incredible places in the world, we catch up with Simon to find out more about his work and his most recent assignment photographing the Mundari Tribe of South Sudan.


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© Simon Urwin

Tell us how you got into photography, was there a defining moment that you knew it was the career for you?

My background was working as a TV exec and creative director at a digital agency. Then, I went travelling in Ethiopia. The images I shot ended up being licensed by a luxury travel agency - which led to a first commission. So it came about by accident really – but the experience of being amongst 100,000 Coptic Christians dressed in white celebrating Timkat (New Year) in the underground rock churches of Lalibela was the moment I decided I wanted to make the switch to travel photography and writing.


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© Simon Urwin


What for you is the most exciting location you have travelled to?

Hard to pick a single destination but the Algerian Sahara is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I’ve been to in over 30 years of travel. The landscapes are so otherworldly - like being on planet Mars – that you experience a trippy sense of being totally disconnected from reality. And, because it’s a country that’s hard to get into, you have the whole place pretty much to yourself.  


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© Simon Urwin


As a travel photographer and writer the current pandemic must be having a significant effect on your work, how do you see the future panning out and how are you planning for when lockdown eases?

Work has been wiped out for the foreseeable and I doubt we’ll see much international travel in the next 3-6 months. The only thing that’s certain is the uncertainty. I’m spending the downtime updating my website and getting ahead with writing. I’m also pitching ideas – there is still a demand for content and finding innovative ways to deliver it.


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© Simon Urwin


Your last assignment was documenting the Mundari tribe, we'd love to hear more about how this came about along with how it felt to be living amongst the iconic tribe

I’ve worked a lot in the past with Untamed Borders, particularly in Afghanistan. When they told me they were piloting a new journey into the tribal regions of South Sudan, I jumped at the chance to go. It felt like a genuine privilege to spend time with the Mundari, particularly to do it with an ethical company focussed on sustainable, low-impact travel.


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© Simon Urwin


If you had a time machine then what advice would you give to your younger self?

There’s more than one route into photography so follow your own path and ignore the extraneous chatter. Keep on keeping on – success doesn’t follow a specific formula, nor necessarily come at a particular time in your life. Find secondary streams of income so you don’t end up having to shoot stuff that kills your passion for photography.  


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© Simon Urwin


What does being a member of the AOP mean to you?

It’s important to be part of a creative community and a trade body that’s fighting your corner. The AOP Awards are particularly good for exposure, and I find the Business & Legal advice invaluable.


View incredible images from Simon's last project before lockdown, The Mundari Tribe in Spotlight.

Visit Find to view Simon's profile

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