Photographer Alina Rudya explores the beauty of the Dolomites

23.01.2020

The travel photographer Alina Rudya and the Mercedes-Benz C 300 Cabriolet in the Dolomites.
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She’s Mercedes followed travel photographer and founder of Bell Collective, Alina Rudya, to South Tyrol.

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C 200 Cabriolet: Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 6,8–6,4 l/100 km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 155–146 g/km.¹

Autumn is a beautiful time for a road trip, especially when its destination is as picturesque as the Dolomites. While driving the curves of the mountain roads in the new C-Class Cabriolet, Alina Rudya told us about her career path, future plans, and female empowerment.

The travel photographer Alina Rudya in a forest in the Dolomites.

How did you become a photographer?

My interest in photography started pretty early. My father was a passionate amateur photographer and a professional nuclear physicist, and we always developed black and white film in our bathroom. Starting at the age of nine, after reading my first National Geographic magazine, I thought that photography could be something for me, but never considered it a career path until the age of 21, when I finished my MA in Political Science and decided to move to Germany from my hometown Kiev, Ukraine, to study photography.

The travel photographer Alina Rudya drives through the Dolomites in the Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet.

Why did you choose travel photography as your focus?

I always say that I do travel photography, because I love to travel and I love photography, so it is the easiest way to combine both. In the past years, I’ve visited over 50 countries and been on the road for two weeks out of the month. I believe that travel photography is very versatile, since it is not bound to a specific style or genre. During your travels, you can focus on people, on landscapes or architecture – or photograph all aspects of the country you are visiting. I really like to focus on people and their stories when I am abroad – I think in this way, you learn more about the place than if you concentrate on facades and landscapes.

The travel photographer Alina Rudya is sitting in a small wooden hut in the Dolomites.

What are the main stereotypes which women photographers face?

Professional female photographers are often facing the same stereotypes as any female professionals: the traditional upbringing, with a certain division of the gender roles, is often a reason for that. Women are seen primarily as less adventurous, more home-bound, family-oriented creatures, which makes it harder in a world where men are perceived as explorers, brave and free-spirited creatives. Also, social media is often portraying women as “muses” in pretty dresses, obsessed with fashion and make-up. Thus, a lot of young women who are trying to become photographers are pushed into lifestyle and fashion blogging and photography by these expectations, rather than their own will.

The travel photographer Alina Rudya is standing at her Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet and looking into the distance of the Dolomites.

Do you think that such a thing as a “female vision” exists? Is there a difference between female and male photography?

I do not believe that there is a specific “female eye” or “female vision” which can distinguish female photography from male photography. Nevertheless, there are certain topics and certain fields where either men or women have more expertise and opportunities – for example, in certain countries and places men can travel freely, while women cannot, or vice versa. In particular situations and closed communities, women get more trust, thus delivering a better understanding for the story they are telling. But generally, women and men have much more in common when it comes to their creative vision than we are used to thinking.

The travel photographer Alina Rudya is standing on a cliff and in the distance a lake and the mountains of the Dolomites can be seen.

Tell us about Bell Collective. Why did you decide to start a collective with only female photographers?

I truly believe that there should be no differentiation between female and male photography. In a perfect situation, I wouldn’t start a community only for women. In reality, though, we are currently facing a transitional phase – on one hand, on paper, women have the same rights, same opportunities and same exposure as artists and creators as men. On the other hand, historical discrimination, a patriarchal worldview and simple stereotypes, as mentioned above, form a very visible imbalance in the professional world. Despite the fact that more women graduate in art and photography, only 20% of the professional photographers are women. Gender is standing in the way of a successful career in the creative field to a higher degree than we are comfortable to admit.

The Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet standing in the mountainous landscape of the Dolomites.

Have you been facing discrimination as a female photographer?

The short answer is yes. The problem is that very often this discrimination takes a very subtle and passive-aggressive form. You are not told directly to your face that you won’t get a job because you are a woman, but you might get sexist comments, people might judge you for your looks rather than for your work, you get unsolicited and unwanted advice (the famous “mansplaining”). A lot of women – including myself – were so used to these little things since they were children, that they took this attitude towards them for granted. And this needs to change. People should stop using their limited worldview and ignorance as an excuse for discrimination, even when they “don’t mean anything bad” with it. 

The steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet.

What are your favourite books about travel?

My favourite three books about travel are “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain – the all-time children’s classic – “West with the Night” – a memoir by the female aviator Beryl Markham and “The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas” by the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. My new favourite is, of course, the new Bell Collective book I have curated – it is a photo book, but it also has amazing and inspiring interviews with 14 female travel photographers.

What is your main source of creative inspiration?

My main sources of inspiration are new places, inspiring people and humour. I try to combine all these in my everyday life.

The landscape of the Dolomites.

Why do you think travelling is important?

I think that travelling is important, because it helps people to understand each other. During my travels, I got rid of many stereotypes and prejudices myself. Our worldview is usually formed by the people we meet and see on TV and in the media. The more we travel, the more people from other places, countries and continents we meet, the more tolerant, understanding and accepting we become. Also, travelling – even for a weekend to the forest or a lake – helps to relax, rewind and get new energy. We are often stuck in the same day-to-day scenarios – and rebooting our system is very important. It is not necessary to fly all the way to the Maldives or Hawaii to get that reboot. A short road trip to your grandma’s village can do a similar trick.

The Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet standing in front of an impressive mountain in the Dolomites.

Please, tell us your top places for a road trip.

My favourite three spots for travelling by car are:

1.     Ring Road in Iceland. Breathtaking landscapes, changing outside your window, perfect roads, cosy hot-springs and comfortable camping sites and hotels – Iceland is probably on the top of my list for an adventurous, yet comfortable road trip.

2.     California, USA. I would say that the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the most romantic roads I’ve been to. If you have more than a week, I would also extend this road trip to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Park. I am fascinated by how many different microclimates, landscapes and beautiful winding roads are concentrated in just one state.

3.     Namibia. I’ve been on a road trip around Namibia once, but I’d love to go again and again. You’ll probably drive a lot (we drove over 4,000 kilometres in just 2 weeks), because the country is vast and deserted, but the landscapes you’ll see on your way will leave you speechless. The roads are mainly gravel, but in great condition. The camping sites are the best I’ve been to in my life and the animals on the road are fascinating. Just don’t drive at night and don’t get out of the car in the National Parks outside the camping and lodge areas – the wildlife is very real and very wild there.

4.     The Dolomites. The beautiful mountain range in the Southern Alps is a great place for a short road trip – it took us three days to visit some of the most picturesque spots like Pragser Wildsee, Karersee, Seceda Mountain and the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. I have to admit that it is not the most relaxing drive, because of all the bends, but it is definitely a very fun one and the driver is always rewarded with wonderful views and South Tyrol hospitality.

The view from the Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet over the impressive landscape of the Dolomites.

Would you rather travel in a cabriolet, a van or an SUV?

There is no perfect car for all kinds of road trips. In places with harsher climates, a 4x4 SUV or a van is probably the best option. But if you are travelling in summer and prefer hotels to camping, then a cabriolet is probably the most fun way to explore with style.

How can we change the stereotypes surrounding female creative choices?

I believe there are two main ways of improving the current situation with gender stereotypes. 

The first and main one is education – the gender stereotypes are starting as early as nursery school. Giving girls dolls and boys trucks, dressing girls in pink and calling them “princesses”, while dressing boys in blue and calling them “cowboys” might sound harmless, but actually forms the fundament for the bigger social differences in the future. Raising kids equally is the key to a better future without stereotypes. Thus, the second way of improving the situation is a better representation of women in all professional spheres and creating role models for young girls to follow. As a kid, I didn’t know I could be a race driver because I never saw a female race driver. I thought that pilots are only men and the IT sphere is made exclusively for and by men. This is why it is crucial to talk about women who work in traditionally “male” professions, because by setting an example, we inspire the new generation of female scientists, pilots, astronauts and explorers.

Travel photographer Alina Rudya holds the key to the Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet in her hand.

What would your main three advices to young girls out there be?

Maybe I am not wise enough yet to give advice, but there are a few things I have learnt on my path:

1.     Be confident. It might sound trivial, but women are very often very self-critical and doubting their talents and qualifications much more than men do. This has its core in their upbringing where girls are raised to be perfect, while boys are raised to be “brave”. I have met many talented women who are afraid to speak out, ask for a raise or apply for a certain job just because they believe they are not good enough.

2.     Respond to constructive criticism, but avoid reacting to subjective opinions. The truth is, the more successful and professional you get, the more negativity you will gather around you. Learn how to distinguish between hate speech, jealous remarks and sexist/racist/ageist comments from random people – and valuable constructive criticism of your work by professionals whose work and opinion you value.

3.     Do not be afraid to create and think in clichés at the beginning of your path. We all want to invent the bicycle, the new Facebook, or take a picture like no one else did before. The truth is, creating new things is a process and learning from your mistakes, clumsy first attempts and failures is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Travel photographer Alina Rudya stretches her feet out of the window of the Mercedes-Benz C 200 Cabriolet. She is wearing brown leather boots.

This interview was conducted as a collaborative effort by Bell Collective and She’s Mercedes.

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Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

Product may vary after press date on 23.01.2020.

1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

4 Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, Stromverbrauch und CO₂-Emissionen sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe des WLTP-Prüfverfahrens ermittelt und in NEFZ-Werte korreliert. Eine EG-Typgenehmigung und Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.

6 Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.

7 Angaben zu Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind vorläufig und wurden vom Technischen Dienst für das Zertifizierungsverfahren nach Maßgabe der UN/ECE-Regelung Nr. 101 ermittelt. Die EG-Typgenehmigung und eine Konformitätsbescheinigung mit amtlichen Werten liegen noch nicht vor. Abweichungen zwischen den Angaben und den amtlichen Werten sind möglich.