This was a difficult article to pen, not because I wasn’t gifted with a compelling subject, but because spending another day languishing behind a laptop felt deathly after diving into the work of Photo Journalist and travel Photographer Mandy Sham, who goes by the name Peach Punk.
Thankfully, Mandy’s images drip with the sounds and smells of the places she graces, igniting the senses in ways that somewhat counteract the desire to burn all your money and wander into the wilderness ala Alexander Supertramp.
From heaving Mumbai side streets, to the starkly beautiful Unyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia, back to intimate moments shared with strangers over meals, Mandy’s work brings a wise wanderlust into our lives. It’s as though she has been perpetually wandering the earth documenting its most beautiful and secret places just for you.
This intimacy likely stems from Mandy’s joyful and curious approach to her craft, which strikes as more a way of life than a job or career. From an early age, Mandy learned the importance adventure would hold in her identity.
With life beginning in Scarborough, a suburb outside Toronto, Mandy’s family soon returned to their ancestral home of Hong Kong where they lived for four years. She muses that this shift from “a sleepy residential area to an always-on, humid metropolis where thousands of aspirations are clamouring for space” began her journey of self-exploration. Taking a camera on her later adventures opened a new way to document and interpret her life and exposed the multitude of identities she contained.
Now based in Toronto, Mandy travels the globe exploring, documenting and experiencing beautiful places and the people who occupy them. In a world where many experience life through a lens or a screen, it’s easy to see these tools as barriers to meaningful moments. What strikes me is Mandy’s ability to use her lens to capture a flash of time and find a deeper connection to it all while gifting the viewer with that very moment to be experienced for perpetuity.
Building her ‘itinerary’ based on the light, weather, and finding walkable areas creates a body of work deeply connected to place. You can feel the air pressure through these images, the crisp morning freshness of the mountains of Peru, and the dense rainforest atmosphere of Muskoka Ontario. This feeling of an intimately personal travelogue is expanded through Mandy’s accompanying writing which brings “elements of the moment that aren’t visible in the photo” and allows us to “experience it through sound, colour, and emotion by telling them what those things are.”
When I spoke to Mandy she brought me further beyond the frame with musings on her travels that don’t necessarily make it into her shots, like her surreal meeting with Elephants at a watering hole in Nambia. While photographing places enhances her connection, Mandy finds that some moments call for the camera to be set aside.
“I love this idea of forgetting to take photos because you were so into the moment. Often I’ll look through my old photos and their contents will remind me of everything beyond the frame, and I think that’s what gives photography its meaning.”
Mandy’s exploration will continue as she hikes her way through Patagonia this November, her Fujifilm digital camera at her side as she takes “happiness one day at a time”. In capturing life’s precious moments for those of us behind our screens, Mandy expands our consciousness to places bigger than we are.
To use Mandy’s words: “Often I’ll look through my old photos and their contents will remind me of everything beyond the frame, and I think that’s what gives photography its meaning.”
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