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More Than Photographers: Susan Czyzo on personal growth and the ethics of travel photography

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More Than Photographers: Susan Czyzo on personal growth and the ethics of travel photography

FIND OUT WHY SUSAN CZYZO IS MORE THAN A PHOTOGRAPHER

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Susan Czyzo was born in Warsaw, Poland and lived there until she was 4 years old. Her family then spent 18 months living just outside of Rome, Italy as refugees; before they were sent to Windsor, Ontario. Susan spent the majority of her childhood and adolescence in Toronto.

Her interest in photography peaked after she completed her Master’s degree in physical therapy in 2009, and had the ability to travel more and for longer periods of time. Her desire to keep improving her photography skills led her to sign up for a digital photography course. In 2019, Susan travelled to Rwanda on assignment with PWB to work with the NGO, Talking Through Art. When Susan is not taking pictures you can find her either hiking, paddle-boarding, surfing, planning her next trip or writing for her blog.  

PWB recently sat down with Czyzo to talk about her journey as a photographer and the evolution of her storytelling.

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

 PWB: What makes you more than a photographer?

Susan Czyzo: I seek genuine connections; with people and places. I’m an observer first, patiently waiting in the background while gauging the mood and taking in the scene. I’m a lifelong learner with an endless craving for adventure and a passion for story-telling. I couldn’t ask for a better medium to take me on this journey.

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Photos by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

Photos by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

PWB: How has your work as a photographer connected you to your community? to the world?

 SC: I’m lucky to live in Toronto, where there are so many opportunities to connect with other creatives, through meet-ups, workshops, galleries, and so on. When I travel, I also look for opportunities to connect with local communities through my work as a photographer, be it volunteering my skills, or participating in a local workshop. I’m also fortunate to have found PWB because through becoming a member, I was able to travel to Rwanda to connect with the staff and members of a beautiful NGO.

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

PWB:  How does your work challenge existing norms of travel photography?  

 SC: When I travel, I photograph with an ethical framework guiding me. I am aware of problematic narratives such as the white saviour complex, for example, and stay away from making images that perpetuate this narrative. I do my background work to best understand the history of a location, as well as the sociocultural framework, in order to avoid images that are outdated, inaccurate and insensitive. It’s a work in progress that requires me to be open-minded, sensitive and curious.   

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

Photo by Susan Czyzo @feelslikethirty

PWB:  What does storytelling mean to you?

 SC: Because storytelling can have such an immense impact on audiences, it comes with great responsibility. As storytellers, we have to represent who or what we’re photographing, accurately, while also capturing the moments that say the most. This is not easy, making storytelling a very mindful and ever-changing process. Storytelling also means making the effort to see the bigger picture as well as the finer details. It’s bringing the audience with you on the journey, through the different emotions, settings and experiences.

 Click here for more of Susan Czyzo`s work

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