OUR ULTIMATE COVID BOOKING GUARANTEE. FIND OUT MORE
Winning the Society of American Travel Writers’ 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Bill Muster Award is just the latest accolade for Lola Akinmade Åkerström, a former programmer who has become one of the most sought-after travel photographers in the world.
Lola grew up in Nigeria before moving to Maryland in the US when she was 15. While she holds a Master’s Degree in Information Systems and worked as a GIS system architect early in her career, it was her love of geography, travel, photography, and writing that put her on a new path back in 2002.
“I’ve always loved to travel and have always been creative,” says Lola. “In 2002, I volunteered to work as a field journalist for the Eco Challenge Expedition Race in Fiji, and even though I didn’t have much experience, I went anyway. It made me realise that travelling, while taking images and writing, was something you could do as a career.”
From then on, Lola travelled every chance she got, creating more and more images along the way. At first she used the images as a basis for her oil paintings, but eventually she became more interested in the photographs than the paintings.
“I was still working as a programmer,” explains Lola. “But the creative pull was growing – and I began to see that the images I was taking could stand on their own beyond the paintings I was creating from them. So I started exploring photography as an alternate medium. You will notice my photography is vivid with a lot of contrast – like oil paintings.”
Eight years ago Lola moved to Sweden and from there her work has taken off.
“Travel photography is a wonderful form of expression,” says Lola. “It’s about a sense of place and capturing the feelings and essence of that place. With shooting landscapes, it’s what I see and feel, revealing how I see the world. When photographing people, I show who they are, so I take adequate time to fully acknowledge them before taking an image. It’s their image, not mine, really.”
Lola writes and photographs for a number of well-known travel outlets, such as National Geographic and BBC, and has recently published a book about the Swedish word lagom: Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well. It has been released in fifteen languages so far.
Her heart, though, remains in travel. Using her writing and photography skills, she tells the stories of the places and people she visits. Winning such a major award is an important milestone along a path she began long ago, when her drive to be creative took over her life.
“I’m really proud of the award,” says Lola. “It’s from an association I respect a great deal, and to win this in a competition with so many other great photographers feels wonderful.”