The pandemic didn't just put a pin in our travel plans, it paused our production too. Mid-way through creating Vol. 31: The Freedom Issue, lockdown forced us to rethink the creative process that goes into making the magazine.
Amid this great pause, we became more connected with our global community than ever. In reflecting on the coincidental and now ironic theme of "freedom", it occurred to us: what could be more fitting than handing over creative freedom to our readers?
We called on all photographers, be they established in their field or just starting out, to submit a single image encapsulating what it means to be free. Our favourite submission was to land a spot on the cover of Vol. 31: The Freedom Issue. We were overwhelmed by entries showing freedom in myriad forms - physical, spiritual, political - from photographers around the world. But the image that really spoke to us in uncertain times was the one taken by Carl van der Linde in Zoagli, Italy.
A crowded beach. Skin on skin. Loved ones. This photograph would have resonated very differently a few months ago. And that is exactly why we chose it. Today, it makes us nostalgic for carefree summer adventures, and above all, hopeful for the future of travel.
Alongside Van der Linde's winning photo, here are eight of our favourite submissions. Thank you to everyone who entered. We hope this issue brings escapism to all our readers, wherever you may be.
We asked you to shoot the cover image for Vol. 31: The Freedom Issue. Here are our favourite submissions.
Winner: Carl van der Linde
This image forms part of a series shot across the Mediterranean during summer 2019. The title, Bagliore Solare, translates from Italian as "solar flare". To me, freedom is the scorch of the sun, the taste of salty water on her skin. Freedom is the evaporation of the sea on boiling pebbled beaches. Freedom is pointing your camera and capturing the perfect moment of beauty. Freedom is travel, freedom is sunburn and freedom is her. Falling in love is freedom. This photograph is my freedom. It was shot on 120mm film on Zoagli beach in Genoa, Italy.
This image is from a trip I took with my girlfriend to Lombok in Indonesia last year, though I didn't choose it because of the destination. To me, the picture conveys a sense of freedom that looks inside as well as out; it strikes a balance between place and self without focusing on a dreamy location as a representation of getting away from the fray. In contrast to the sense of escape we so often seek through travel, lockdown has presented many of us with a period of pause and self-reflection, and this has paved the way to finding inner freedom.
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
This photo was taken on 2 June 2019, Shantel's ninth birthday. She's outside her house in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Life here poses many challenges for young girls, but today she wears her favourite dress, bought by her mother to celebrate her birthday. Inside, 20 children from the neighbourhood are dancing to loud music. Framed in the doorway, Shantel is in her own world, free. She dreams of becoming a model and a superstar. On this day, I don't see a child from the slum but a young, confident and ambitious girl.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
At the onset of lockdown, I escaped to the countryside to weather the storm of the pandemic. The photograph's subject, a Black man - my brother - reminds us of the global fight for social justice, while exploring the shifting perception of water: some holiday on sweeping coastlines, others flee from corrupt governments and wars across those same oceans. The dark reflection represents a past defined by systemic discrimination and climate change; the top half, bright with the dawn sun, presents a vision of hope in creating a free world for all.
East Sussex, UK
For many of us, the freedom of expression, identity and choice is, perhaps, valued above all else. It's uncommon to choose a life of restraint and restriction. On a walk to the Seven Sisters cliffs some years ago, I noticed a people carrier full of holidaying monks. Influenced by common preconceptions, I expected to see a band of brothers deep in contemplation. Yet when this holy man lit a cigarette and laughed as we looked on, I realised that freedom is a funny thing; it's intimately personal to each of us, however we choose to exercise it.
Freedom to me is the freedom to choose where to be, how long to stay and who to be there with. This photo captures a moment of stillness; two people have chosen to stop, be quiet and enjoy some respite from the otherwise busy promenade near Lisbon's Belém Tower. They are free. Retrospectively, the yellow line reminds me of the many lines we have courteously obeyed while queuing for shops over the last three months. In this image, the women lie across the line. We are in a period of transition, from what was to what will be.
Being from Scotland, I don't take the vast landscapes of my country for granted; the freedom to explore the outdoors is a privilege. Taken on a crisp, autumnal evening on Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms National Park, this image seeks to encapsulate that feeling. What I enjoy about this photograph is not only the striking scenery and glass-like water, but the anonymity of the kayakers as they take in the views and disappear into the distance. This is a moment I will never capture again and a memory that will forever be etched in my mind.
It's 7pm and the sun is about to hide behind the ocean when three guys arrive at the pitch. The wind is strong and the dry grasses are dancing. We are on Fournoi, one of the smallest Greek islands; about 1,000 people live here. The island has a football team that plays in the local league, but active players are few and far between here, so only eight take part in some matches. They run under the sun and play until nightfall. When it's all over, they start to laugh. It can be hard to concentrate on a football game while overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Baa Atoll, Maldives
If you'd told me a year ago that I would live through a pandemic on a tropical island, I wouldn't have believed you. I'm a photographer and filmmaker based in the Maldives but my intention was never to stay here long. I was due to leave in March to start a new job in Bangkok - the world thought otherwise. This time has given me a chance to slow down and reconnect with my surroundings and myself. I want my work to express the freedom that comes from both from nature and from within oneself, without any judgement or expectation.