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Joey L: My life in travel

My family didn’t go on many holidays.

I’m from a very small town and we didn’t get  to travel too much. So one of the first trips I  ever went on was when I was 16 years old, to Varanasi, India. I went alone, I saved up my money working as a music photographer  and went to the places that interested me. It was  one of my first holidays, but it was more of a business trip.

Addis Ababa has a really cool vibe. 

It’s great for travellers of all kinds – not just  for photographers. A lot of young people are  making new industries, they’re opening up shops, their own Ethiopian jazz places; you  see a resurgence of young people doing incredible things. The entire city’s booming and it’s  a great feeling. Also the Ethiopian cuisine is  fantastic. It’s one of the lesser known but  most delicious cuisines because it’s nourishing and fulfilling.

I was once given a goat as a present.

It was in the Oma Valley in Southern Ethiopia, where there’s a tribe called Kara. I’ve been working in this community since 2008 and once when we did a film project there the guy I stayed with, Damo, gave me one of his goats as a thank you. In that culture, if you’re given a goat you must be the one who slaughters it, and it’s very rude to say no. Of course I did it.

Dubai is the worst place I’ve ever been.

Sorry Dubai. Everyone thinks Dubai is great, with its amazing buildings and good architecture. I went there and said “Wow, this place sucks, it’s awful”. I like the people there and I have a load of friends there but the city is terrible. I was surprised to find that its reputation was bigger than the place itself. It’s the worst place I’ve ever been.

Brighton is my favourite place in the UK.

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I don’t want to say London because that’s boring and a bit typical. I have fond memories of Brighton as I once had a girlfriend from there, so we visited her family.

Everyone in Amsterdam knows  each other.

Before I went there I had this opinion in my head that was completely different. In reality, it’s a nice humble city in which all the people work together and know one another – at least in the photography industry. It’s an international city, a beautiful historic city. They have laws to preserve the architecture there.

I get paranoid that my Twitter feed might crash a plane. 

They make you turn your iPhone off, so I bring books with me. At the moment I’m reading a book called The Siege of Mecca … I’m a big nerd and read a lot.

A restaurant named a dish after me.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I like to give special attention to a place called La  Goulette. It’s a Tunisian restaurant and I’ve been there every day since it opened. There’s even something called the Joe Plate; it’s a dish  I got again and again so they named it after  me. So you can go to La Goulette and have a  Joe Plate.

New York is the place to people watch.

One of the best things to do there is to walk around and take photos, look at street life. Of course there’s all these amazing Broadway shows and restaurants, blah blah blah, but the real heart of New York is walking the streets staring at people. And that’s okay. It’s my favourite thing to do: travel for six months of the year and then the rest of the time in New York, people watching.

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Every single trip has changed me in  some way.  

But my [photography] trip to Iraq and Syria was life-changing. It’s war, it’s living history and being present in that moment is an honour, to be among those people whom I worked with on that project.


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