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Stories from the Road #5: Avner Ofer - The First Tourist

It's difficult to find your passion in life, many of us will search a lifetime to find and fulfill our purpose. Avner Ofer considers himself extremely lucky, he found his love of artistic photography at 25 and started traveling the world. For the past 25 years he has been fulfilling his search to "capture intimate moments, and glimpses into other cultures and has visited over 70 countries." He showcases his work at art festivals around the country, feeling that "when my images receive both an emotional and intellectual response, I feel I have done my job."

I asked him what he would have changed if he had the opportunity. The answer, was a familiar struggle amongst many artist, how do you balance investing time, money, and energy between the business and the art. Avner never worried about money, and when he started he only needed enough to travel and survive. To quote Avner, “I’m not greedy and it isn’t about making a lot of money, just having developed the business into more of a business, instead of the artist attitude of whatever I sell I sell.”

Avner is a traveling photographer and I was curious about how the influence of smartphones and increasingly advancing technology has impacted photography, the artist lifestyle, and community. The improvements in smartphone cameras has created an attitude that everyone is a photographer. In-fact later during this interview a woman comes into the booth and says, “just wanted to see if I had taken the same picture”. The public perception has changed and many do not realize the “creativity, time, and work” it takes to create a story within a photo.

Avner notes the adaptation of the artist community to social media and the enhanced connectivity opportunity it provides to an artist to easily network among other professional artists. He believes that art-shows are still the dominant place for artists to reach the public, as people need to really see and feel the art to connect with it. Technology has cast a wider net for artists and show directors to bring art to the masses and furthered opened the independent artist market in the form of a shows and festivals. The major downside of this hyperconnected artistphere is the increased number of applicants has made getting into shows more difficult and expensive.

The internet has also made traveling easier for Avner, which is a major part of his passion and process. An outstanding example is his trip to the Galapagos Islands about 10 years ago, where it has become accessible as a result of decreased travel and accommodation costs. Companies such as airbnb have made traveling easier and more affordable.

As someone who spent the past couple months traveling myself, I was curious how a seasoned traveler decides his next location. I asked what spot he most desired to visit, he response after a minute of thought was India. “A place where you can travel for 10 years and never see most of the country.”

Picking where he wants to go is the easy part but finding these newly unexplored regions is a unique part of his process. Several examples of this are Cuba, Northeast India, and certain parts of Columbia. Getting off the beaten path is important and exploring cultural geography is what he desires. Mass tourism is not what Avner looks for in his travels as an allocentric tourist. This is someone who will travel in a sustainable manner, solo or in a small group, in search of authentic adventure. Respecting the local culture without creating a cliché of their customs.

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