Yvette Barnett - Travel Photographer & Tour Guide

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being in a position to live my life as I wish without having constraints. I think to achieve a life that you love is an achievement in itself. Also obtaining my pilot’s licence. It was one of the hardest things I have learned to do. Such a steep learning curve. I don’t think I was a natural aviator but I always loved the freedom of being in the air.

What motivates you to do what you do?
I’m lucky to travel the world for my job and even more fortunate to be able to take my camera with me. I love showing people these amazing places in the world and my motivation is to get them to experience the destination and understand the culture - not just visit the country as a voyeur. I’m a big advocate of responsible tourism; I believe it is very important to give something back to local communities that we visit. Although my love is of course to capture the essence of the places I visit with my camera, I think it’s important as travellers that we don’t ‘ruin’ the places we visit. If we can support a local community along the way then this is a real bonus.

I have initiated a few projects via the travel company I work for. They now pay for the electricity for a village in Myanmar and I have also been instrumental in supporting a remote school in the highlands of Peru. There are a couple of other projects I am in the process of getting involved with in Nepal.

What do you owe your mother?
My mother is my best friend. I will be forever thankful that she encouraged me from my early childhood to follow my dreams and live my life in a way that I am true to myself. She encouraged me to ‘do what I love’. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do just that. I love to travel and I love to take photographs, and my job enables me to do both. I am also indebted to her for the unwavering support she has always given me. She is kind, positive and has good sound values and as such has been a great role model throughout my life.

Which women inspire you and why?
Amelia Earhart - for me the greatest female aviator. Shailee Basnet - Everest Summiteer - and climber of the 7 highest peaks in the world. She is a pioneer of empowering women from rural villages in Nepal who would otherwise be married off at the age of 14. She ‘recruits’ young ladies from the villages, trains them to climb. Contrary to popular opinion, not all people who are born in the Himalayas are climbers! They have to train like everybody else. She inspires them and teaches them that there is much more to life than being a wife and mother in the tiny rural communities where some of them would otherwise have become victims of child trafficking. Some of them have been empowered to set up their own trekking companies - in fact many have become trekking guides for female hiking groups in very much a man’s world.

What are you reading?
Because I travel so much, I tend to read books that I can pick up and put down very easily on long flights when I’m usually exhausted. Right now I’m reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. It makes me want to go to Afghanistan and photograph the country and it’s people. At home by my bed, I’m reading the sonnets by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I love the works of Neruda as I travel quite a lot in Chile and Patagonia.

What gender barriers have you had to hurdle?
As a tour guide I travel the world and often in very male dominated cultures. As a female who is in charge of a tour group, I have to encounter male guides / hotel managers / local agents who are unused to and unwilling to take instruction from a woman. This really is the biggest hurdle and at times can be very challenging.

How can the world be made a better place for women?
By empowering them. Giving them a role other than simply becoming a wife. A cook. A Mother. Those are good things but women can do much more than that. Women are great multi-taskers. Great organisers. Educate women. Give them an equal chance to achieve their goals. We don’t have the physical strength of men, there are some jobs I think we just shouldn’t do - for example in a fire there is no way I would be able to carry a large man out of a burning building. And I think we should accept that. However, that is one of the real exceptions. There are not many roles we cannot do equal to that of a man.

Describe your perfect day?
That’s easy!! My perfect day is in Cornwall. I travel the world but home is home!! When I’m back I’m at my happiest when I am rambling across the cliffs with my camera and tripod. I never use a tripod when I travel but it makes me slow down and savour the beautiful rugged landscapes of the Cornish coast. A good walk by the beach. I love the stormy seas of winter and to finish with a simple pub lunch by a cosy log fire with friends. That’s my perfect day!

We've noticed there really aren’t many (if any) statues of women around Cornwall - who would you see remembered?
Rowena Cade has to be top of the list. Her vision to create the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno was just amazing. She did most of the work herself and I think hers is a life to be celebrated. What better way than with a statue to commemorate her vision.

Give us a tip?
Have a dream and follow it. Everything is achievable if you want it badly enough. You just have to find the way and stay true to yourself. If you do a job that you love, you then have self fulfilment. And if you can do a little bit of good along the way, then it’s a win win.

These days I’m a Tour Guide and travel photographer but I started out as a Resort Manager for a large ski company and spent over 10 years working in the ski resorts of Europe and North America. I then studied law at university but in the meantime I did my private pilots licence which made me realise I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I loved my freedom too much. During my time at university, I travelled for a few months in East Africa and wrote about some of my adventures. Wanting to combine my love of travel with a career, I went on to do a Masters in Creative writing. After graduating, I did some freelance travel writing but realising my love was travel, I resumed my life as a Tour Guide and as time has gone on my love of photography has grown and my skill has developed. Nowadays I try to capture these wonderful places with my camera and It gives me huge pleasure to share my images which I hope inspire people to go out there and see the world for themselves and give a little back.

I’ve been very fortunate to visit a few destinations in the early stages of tourism where people have not had much interaction with the rest of the world. The people are so intrigued by us, having never seen people from such an exotic place as England before. I love to return to places and instead of just showing people the image of themselves on the back of my camera, I try to print off my images for them when I return. Recently I won the Picfair / Guardian - Women Behind The Lens 2018 Portrait Award. The award is particularly significant as it was introduced to promote female photographers - who are very under represented in a very male dominated world. My work will be on exhibition at Southwark Cathedral, London in the Refectory from 12th January - 22nd February 2019.