In your own words, tell us, who is Brianna Lopez?
I’d first like to say that currently, I am learning to become nothing so that I can be free to be anything. In my life currently, I am a photographer, filmmaker, educator, and solo traveler. I spend a lot of my time working on my inner self as well as innerstanding who I am in this vast dimension us humans share together.
Can you tell us about your journey?
My journey began of course when I was born as I am aware that this moment cannot exist without the moment prior. As a kid, I was always adventurous and loved life. I wanted to try things and go places and would dream of the desert literally. I was born in Camden, New Jersey and my family moved to Philadelphia when I was 16 years old. I attended Lincoln University but graduated with a BA in English/Writers Track from West Chester University.
The same year I graduated from college, I picked up a camera that would catapult me to where I am today. I'm currently in Vermont at orientation in preparation to teach two seminars on filmmaking and photography for Putney Student Travel. My love for travel started young however it would predominantly play out in my subconscious as it didn't truly kick in until my later years when I was 16 and went on a class trip to Paris. From then until now, travel, seeing, exploring and cultural learning has become an intense passion to the point where my life's work includes educating young adults on the importance of travel, documentation and being free. Before moving to LA, I would travel with my best friend Tiffany to places like Virginia, Washington DC, California, and the Bahamas. I had no idea then- that I was preparing for my future.
In 2015, I moved to Los Angeles and dove headfirst into perfecting my craft while at the same time igniting a deeper passion for travel. My solo traveling began in October 2016 with a trip to Japan. That right there was the true beginning of my solo travel journey as well as truly showing me the type of art I wanted to create. In all of this, the most important journey has been a spiritual journey. This has all allowed me to see deeper and connect in totality with my higher self and the realms that work with and around me. Since being in LA I have worked as a self-employed photographer/filmmaker, workshop instructor, and leader for National Geographic Student Expeditions and Putney Student Travel. I host my own travel photography workshops in Los Angeles, in partnership with Las Fotos Project. I work remotely for a real estate investment advisor as well as assist in various productions. Alongside being a fine art photographer, I am a travel and documentary photographer who still has much to learn. These are just a few of the things that have aided in my journey.
What or who inspired you to work in the travel industry?
This question is tricky because, to be honest, all of it is inspiring. I truly am inspired by myself and all that I've been able to see and do in such a short amount of time. I was never one to dig too deep into the aspirations or accomplishments of others although at times it’s helpful. I am inspired by nature and myself above all. I love people and I love the world. I am inspired by the soul and the things I know that are supposed to be in my life. Experiential education has been the true culprit in why I just go with the camera in hand. I assume I am a part of the travel industry, but it wasn't until this year that I was recognized for it by the Berlin Travel Conference. Although it was canceled, it showed me that my voice and the type of work I do is necessary and this is the time to show that.
In 2020, there continues to be a lack of diversity and inclusion in travel, how has that impacted you personally or professionally?
Ironically I wouldn't know because I feel like I would first have to be involved that deep to discover the lack although it is highly apparent. What I'm saying is that my focus has never been to be a part of an industry so much as it was to actually be able to do what I do. Industries are iffy to me because it already indicates some type of separation. I was set to speak on this exact topic in Berlin, however, due to COVID I didn't get that opportunity. As a travel photographer and educator, I am almost always one of the only people of color in the room, but also I have to be fair and say that I also don’t go looking for these rooms. I choose to share my voice by educating high school students instead of worrying if I will be included. However, I know how important it is because I am finally on the verge of being invited to events and engagements that are looking for me to voice my opinion. I know deep in my heart the true lack of diversity which is why I've always felt the need to keep going and perfecting my craft.
As I continue to grow and become the person I need to be that will eventually reign supreme. The travel industry has so many flaws and one of them is the lack of support in the realm of actual education as opposed to sales and tourism. This is a big reason why I didn't feel it was necessary to pursue, but that is changing. The lack of diversity in travel is just another example of the overall lack of diversity in white male-dominated industries. For me, it's the same in film and photography. My goal is just to educate and teach people to find themselves. I have not yet dived fully into the travel industry and not entirely sure that I ever will.
What have been the challenges that you have experienced in the travel industry?
None as of yet because as a solo traveler I do not base my explorations on an industry. I do not follow trends and haven't yet tried my hand at publishing much for outlets outside of myself. I think because of my being, I have not made the travel industry a priority maybe as much as others. I always found it necessary to create my own path which at this point has been very beneficial. The potential challenges that I think are most apparent are again the lack of resources for actual education. It seems to be a real untapped market in the travel industry. I know that most outlets, photographers, content creators, etc. are not people of color.
You can simply go to any outlets website or social media platforms and see that. If I had to choose it would be a lack of representation given to people of color that are actual travelers and explorers and not influencers. That right there to be is where a big separation comes to play because as a professional photographer and filmmaker, my work in the industry is based on the number of followers I have in comparison to the actual work that is produced. Not only is there a lack of people of color there is also a huge lack of integrity. The travel industry is just like any other industry, so for me, it will always be to continue traveling and continue educating. That's the way that I think will hold impact and not so much how an already biased industry views who I am or what I do.
How can we as a team, community, and the public be more supportive and amplify your voice as a Black travel expert, writer, and creator?
I think support needs to come from the idea that education is prominent and I cannot stress that enough. I am a loner, always have been, but I am also aware of how important community is. As a traveler that happens to be black, I don't travel holding that over my head. There are of course some instances where I may get a look or two, but I am beyond that part of my being so I am not in my reality incredibly affected by how others view me as that is their problem and not mine. For me support has to be natural, it has to come from the soul and not a place of pity or maybe I should because right now it seems like the right thing to do. Sorry if I don’t respond typically, but as a soul having a human experience I have left many of my hang-ups about humans behind as I am the creator of my destiny. If I had to choose, it would be to show support for those who are actual travelers and educators and not just influencers.
To actually go and dig deeper into what people are doing and not just what they post on social media. This is my life way beyond a career path as I will travel for the rest of my life whether someone or an industry notices or not. I think that’s where the difference lies. Support of any kind should be natural and right now, we need to support people who are doing it as life’s work and not for likes. Share stories that aren’t only attached to Nat Geo, Conde Nast, Wanderlust, Afar, etc. We all love the big brands and the big outlets, but what have they represented of you? Go where you are needed. We are trained to want to be accepted by the elite and I oppose this as those outlets were started and still operated by a certain group of people. Why chase their dream when you could be creating your own?
What advice would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to remember who I was. To not get caught up in feeling like what I was, wasn't enough. I would tell her to create her own goals without the programmed attachments that society has created. Also, to keep going, which in reality has been my reality. No moment can exist without the moment prior, I am not a typical writer, photographer, or existence and with that, I am already where I need to be even as my younger self. As a soul connected human it's hard for me to think of things in the past that could of or should have been when at this moment I am exactly where I need to be.
What is your hope for the future?
Peace. I hope humans continue to wake up and find out who they really are without the stifling illusions. I hope that education, real education becomes a priority and that the younger generations don't have to relearn all the lies and deceptions they've been told, which I think 2020 is blessing us with. I am optimistic about the future because I have been blessed with the ability to see myself. I want that for humanity.
Anything else you want to share?
It's important to determine who you are before you chase something that may only be attached to a thought and not your true purpose. As long as we are breathing, this will always be a challenge for us which is totally fine. That's what we came here to experience. Experience reigns supreme over what an industry determines is important especially when that industry is already funded in separation. I don't think chases industries to be included in the key, it's having the guts to see it for what it is so that you can create an entirely new path where the foundation is pure, true, and of the soul. It doesn't need to have millions of viewers, but the viewers and listeners that are present deserve the truth and deserve to be shown something that will help them discover more about themselves. That is my mission beyond an industry.
Where can the audience find out more about you?