By Jenn Watt
Each image that Luke MacBride captures is like a fragment of his memory of a place – dark clouds descending over a beach in Kasoa, Ghana; a bright vista beaming through a window in Wadi Rum, Jordan; a child’s wonder at a glowing sunrise over a lake in Minden – which over the years has developed into an extensive collection.
A school administrator with a passion for photography and travel, MacBride has lived abroad for much of his adult life, in New York City, Shanghai, Valencia, and now in Accra, Ghana, and visited at least 70 countries. All while documenting the places and people he encounters.
And each summer he returns to Canada and to the cottage on Kennisis Lake he’s been visiting his whole life.
“My wife’s family has a cottage on Horseshoe Lake Road and my grandparents got a cottage in 1940 on Lake Kennisis and I’ve been going since I was born. When I was a child I spent my whole summers up there and I’ve missed one summer I think since I’ve been overseas,” MacBride said during a Zoom call from Accra.
The travel bug first bit when he was a university student, looking to explore. He took a year off school and spent half of that time backpacking across Europe from Paris through to Croatia, Greece and back.
“I lasted as long as my money lasted and I did odd jobs to try to stay longer,” he said. “… That was the first time I really realized it’s a big world out there and it inspired me to want to go more places. And after that I came home, finished up university and went straight to Manhattan.”
In the last 17 years, MacBride has lived on four continents, spending anywhere from seven to four years in a given location and allocating free time to further travel.
“Sometimes I go for a two-week vacation. Sometimes I spend the summer taking two and a half months going across southeast Asia or across Europe or to Australia … it just kind of happens however I’m feeling,” he said.
For the most part, his wife Alyson and daughter Pearl have been with him, but right now he’s living solo in Ghana where he works as an assistant principal, while his family is back in Toronto. As with most everything during the coronavirus pandemic, MacBride’s life has been impacted by travel restrictions and pandemic precautions.
After leaving on the last flight to Toronto from Ghana in March, he spent the bulk of 2020 in Minden and Haliburton, before recently returning to Africa.
“To get back to Ghana I had to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. And I couldn’t leave my hotel room. It was me and four walls for 14 days. …It was awful,” he said.
During the time when he has been able to freely travel, he’s been documenting much of what he sees, though he said he’s selective: taking about 100 pictures a day in a new place.
“When you do it for so long, sometimes when I don’t even have my camera, I see things and I think that would be perfect right there. It’s literally like that in my head now after all these years,” he said, adding that smartphones are now good enough that he no longer has to forfeit photo opportunities when he doesn’t have his gear with him.
And then there are times when he’s been in the right place at the right time and the perfect photo has presented itself.
One such photo came about when he was photographing a mother, daughter and some children playing in the water on a beach in Goa, India. The sun was setting and a dog came along, sitting itself perfectly in the foreground.
“I was about to take a picture of that and then I heard this noise and I just moved my eye and a guy was on a motorcycle flying down the beach and I didn’t have time to change it [the camera] to [burst mode], I just got two and he went right by … I just thought that is so, so lucky I got that,” he said.
His excursions will revolve around potential photos, but they’re also about taking his experiences and finding a way to communicate them to the viewer. MacBride said he doesn’t think he has a particular style and isn’t trying to create a specific aesthetic, but there are commonalities in what he creates.
“I like to think that it shows that people are pretty similar. … I really believe that too. In all the different places I’ve been, everybody does want essentially the same kind of things. The vast majority of people want the same stuff, they just look different when they do it, or they speak differently when they do it,” he said.
MacBride has exhibited his work in Toronto, Shanghai and soon in Accra. Currently, the best way to view his photography is online at www.lukemacbride.com or on Instagram @luke_macbride.