At the Heart of Photography: Interview with Moment Travel Lead, Dani Chase

Words by Aaron Gerry
Photos by Various

Twelve hours after landing in Tokyo, Dani Chase walked into the lobby of the hotel. She saw something she didn’t expect.

It was the first day of a Moment Travel trip and the international attendees, strangers really, were acting like anything but.

“Everyone was chatting and laughing, they were so comfortable,” Dani recalls.

The universal mirth paraded around the room. Laughter spread like shockwaves. The sun batted long rays across the stark white furniture.

Dani stood at the edge, considering the people at the heart of the composition. She was watching a scene of old friends sharing a moment, a story they would tell later.

She strode over and joined in.

The trip was organized by Dani, a curator at heart, whose life spins around the centripetal forces of photography and writing. She’s the Travel Lead at Moment, which means she creates experiences like this to help invite other people into the world of photography, community and exploration.

We chatted with Dani to learn about the business, their new photo competition, the There There Festival (of which WAYWARD is a partner), and the impact technology has had on photography.

What is Moment about?

Moment’s mission is to enable the creative; To encourage people to get out, go further, and take more photos.

We started by making a better iPhone lens and photo editing app, but it’s grown into much more.

Photo by Devin Allen

Why is it important to enable creatives?

Now that we have these powerful computers and cameras in our pockets, the door has been opened for so many people.

Historically speaking, something like photography was not accessible. It was an extremely expensive hobby and a career to very few people.

These pocket-sized cameras, that we carry around with us everywhere, have completely democratized the art form. It has made it possible for every person to be a photographer or a writer. And with social media, for every person to be a publisher.

Instead of only hearing from a select, privileged few, we now have access to more perspectives and more voices than ever before.

The example I always come back to is Devin Allen, who is a photographer who lives in Baltimore. In the early days of Black Lives Matter, he scored a cover of Time Magazine with a photo that he took on his phone. It was one of the first times ever we’ve seen a phone image on the cover of a magazine of that caliber. That’s just so powerful.

The camera in our pocket encourages us to go out and find the photos and the stories that we want to tell.

Photo courtesy of Moment

You recently launched a new photo competition. Can you talk about the There There Festival?

The festival is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

I thought about putting together something communal where the experiences go deeper. I wanted it to be a space where people could learn from one another, create friendships, and inspire each other.

Specifically, it’s a three-day photo festival where participants can share stories, knowledge, and experiences. For year one, we are keeping it really intimate. It will be just the 16 finalists, our partners, and the Moment team, about 50 people total.

It’s going to be in Pioneer Town, which is adjacent to Joshua Tree, California. It’s an incredible venue. The place that they are staying is the Pioneer Town Motel. And that is part of the original town, which was actually built in the ‘50s as a Hollywood set. It has this sort of Old West meets Hollywood vibe. It’s so much fun to take photos there.

I can’t wait to get a bunch of creative people in the space just firing off their cameras.

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Impossible - Finalist Photos for the There There Travel Photo Competition @rannvajoensen

Your educational international trips are an interesting part of the business. What is Moment Travel about?

The aim was to create community within the photography industry. I saw all these incredible creative people around me, who mostly didn’t know each other, or if they did, never made time to hang out and learn from one another, shoot together, get excited.

I felt like there was some opportunity, to make deeper connections and go more exciting places.

One of the special things about the trips is that even though the main photo guide is a well known photographer (who is there to teach you tips and tricks, show you where and how to shoot, etc.), you see the travelers teaching each other every day too.

I love seeing them connect. [A lot of times] they are still in the WhatsApp group a year after, still talking to each other, still sending photos, laughing about something that happened on the trip.

Photos submitted to the There There Travel Photo Competition
by @travelwith_e.g (left) and @ducminhtran.ig (right)

Why is connecting people important to Moment?

People are at the heart of everything. [They are] at the heart of stories and what makes life so special, interesting, exciting, beautiful. And sometimes sad.

What is an experience without the people you’re experiencing it with? They help you create it.

There’s something fun about the life a memory takes on when it becomes collaborative. You become conspirators in this tall tale. And that way you reinforce each other’s stories. And that’s probably the most beautiful thing about traveling with other people.

We capture so many memories through our lenses. These chronicles showcase the stories we live and offer a momento for the future.

The lovely corollary is that we need to go out and participate in an experience in order to photograph it. In the end, it’s really about exploring more and connecting deeply.

Thanks to Moment, it’s easier than ever to engage with the world around us.

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