Living in my Suitcase: Meet Adventure Photographer Krystle Wright
The award-winning adventure photographer reflects on 15 years on the road, from camping on a frozen fjord in the Arctic to storm-chasing across the American midwest
17 May, 2023
My favourite time of day is when the horizon begins to fade, just as the sun casts its final light into the sky
These words were taken from an interview with Krystle Wright.
The first camera I fell in love with was a Kodak disposable. I grew up on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where most of my childhood summers were spent on family camping trips. Every time we went away, my siblings and I would each be given a disposable camera to take with us for the holiday.
One summer I was given a Kodak Stretch 35 - a panoramic disposable that only had 12 exposures. I remember wanting the camera to last the whole trip, so I rationed myself to four precious photos a day, each picture more carefully curated than the last. I found such joy in the simplicity of that camera, from the thrilling click of its shutter to the satisfying scroll of its little plastic winder. I've been hooked on the art of photography ever since.
My first assignment as a professional adventure photographer was on Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle, where I spent a month camping on a frozen fjord with a small crew. We were completely disconnected from the outside world, which forced us to be present in each and every moment. Needless to say, we all got to know each other very well.
The experience was a world away from anything I'd known in Australia. There was something so meditative about the vast, stark white landscape. I found myself drawn to its stillness. I slept with my camera next to my sleeping bag, keeping a watchful eye out for polar bears at night before zipping up my tent. That was the moment I fell for the romanticism of expedition-style travel.
Being in the eye of the storm, we were at the mercy of mother nature at her most powerful - it was terrifying and mesmerising in equal measure.
I'm driven by curiosity, so I love never knowing what's going to happen next when I'm on the road on an assignment. One of the most beautiful things about being a travel photographer is that each trip is genuinely unique. Photography has been my ticket to see the world - I've paraglided across the Karakoram mountains in Pakistan, swum with sperm whales in the Azores and tracked penguins in Antarctica, all with a camera in hand.
In 2010 I bought a one-way ticket to the US, where I lived on the road for 10 years before moving back to Australia for the 2020 lockdown. Just before I returned home, I directed a short film on storm-chasing in the American midwest with photographer Nick Moir. On our first day, we got caught in a ferocious dust storm. Sand was being blasted everywhere, so neither of us could see a thing. Being in the eye of the storm, we were at the mercy of mother nature at her most powerful - it was terrifying and mesmerising in equal measure.
On the same trip, we caught sight of a tornado while in the car. We drove back and forth, frantically trying to work out where it would drop, while everything in the sky swirled above us in a dark haze. It was a hypnotic, otherworldly formation to witness. All I wanted was for the moment to last that little bit longer. I guess that's the addiction with storm chasing - you just want to see more and more.
I've been lucky enough to spend most of my working life travelling the world. Most of the time I travel on my own, so I've become very good at being by myself. I like to operate at my own speed, whether that's getting up at 4am to catch the sunrise or waking up slowly with a leisurely cup of tea. Travelling alone as a woman has taught me a huge amount about my own resilience, as well as my ability to adapt to situations beyond my control. My number one piece of advice to solo female travellers? Trust your gut in every situation.
In the past I'd assumed that I'd be bored if I wasn't always on the move, but now that I'm back in Australia I've found beauty in a slower pace of life. I don't take my camera everywhere because I value switching off, although I can't help but keep an eye on the light wherever I am. It's something I'm constantly enamoured with.
When I'm at home in the evening, I like to sit on my balcony and watch the light resonate. My favourite time of day is when the horizon begins to fade, just as the sun casts its final light into the sky before nightfall. I find there's too much pressure to capture every moment in our modern world, so I like to stay present and take in the memory for myself instead.