Venetia Dearden – a lifestyle more than a career

Over the years I have learnt to trust the journey and use the quiet periods wisely”

Venetia Dearden has a passion for people and photography and travels around the world to document people and their ways of life. She is an absolute master in capturing the soul of things, and her pictures give a magical touch to anything ordinary. She describes her success as a mixture of luck, persistence, and listening to ‘the little voice’. ‘Listening to your intuition is key to finding a path in life that makes you happy, or at least to finding the doors that are waiting to open for you.’

‘After studying anthropology in Edinburgh for two years (‘97-‘98) I had the feeling that something was missing. I decided to take a break from studying and I took a year out, following a contact I had been given to teach English in a local school in Peru. I was keen to travel and learn Spanish and I was fascinated by the culture and history of Peru. The idea of leaving my studies and following my gut excited me, and I felt tuning in.’

How it all started
‘Initially I went to Peru to stay at the local school of Agua Calientes and find time to paint. But the trip took a twist and I ended up living with Kucho, an Andean Shaman. I looked after his dying mother and his five-year-old son, ultimately not doing any teaching at all. I was painting a little and learning a lot, and often accompanying Kucho on long walks – sometimes up to three days long. He taught me the Shamanic ways and in the meantime I was photographing all the plants for the Botanical gardens.
When the gardens exhibited my pictures, a great photographer saw them. He had been assigned to collect images for a stock library in Lima and invited me to join him on his trip around Peru. He turned out to be a great friend and mentor and during this trip my interest in photography was sparked.’

Crazy time of hard work
‘On return I completed my degree and I went on to study on a one-year postgraduate degree in photojournalism at the London college of Printing. This gave me all the training I needed to get started and I soon found myself working regularly for magazines such as The Sunday Times Magazine, Stern Magazine and Harpers Bazaar. I spent seven years researching and producing stories and working on personal projects at home. Through this I was assigned by magazines and NGO’s and I was always on the move. My first book was published in 2008: Somerset Stories, Fivepenny Dreams – a document about the area where I grew up. It was a crazy time of hard work and rapid learning, but I loved it. When I was in the UK I was based out of a studio in Soho, London, where I ran a space shared by creative freelancers and enjoyed the buzz of London.’

I get a great surge of energy and excitement when I leave fear behind and step into the new”

‘There is never any financial security if you choose to live life as an artist but this risk taking is integral to your work ethic and choices. It’s a lifestyle more than a career. There are always worrying times but over the years I have learnt to trust the journey, use the quiet periods wisely and listen to my gut instincts, for this is stronger and clearer than the fears that can cloud you. I get a great surge of energy and excitement when I leave fear behind and step into the new. Most importantly, I’m doing what I love doing. And paradoxically, my motivation and determination have been more focused in the most challenging times.’

Venetia’s projects
‘It’s all about balancing assignments with personal projects. At the moment I have a few projects on the go. I just returned from Mali where I’ve been shooting a film for Docters without Borders through my agency VIIPHOTO, which was an amazing experience.

A recent example of a personal project is Eight Days (2011). The book chronicles the adventures of friends as they journey from Las Vegas to Burning Man and California, exploring the familiar theme of the road-trip in in the epic sweep of the American West.’ You’ll find a stunning video impression of Eight Days here

Lots and lots of Venetia’s pictures:


By Dorien van Witteveen