Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström has walked through the spice markets of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and explored the medinas of Marrakech, Morocco. She’s braved snowstorms and frigid temperatures to photograph the Aurora Borealis dance over the small town of Abisko, Sweden; biked through the Arabian Desert in Egypt; and joined local fishermen in the glistening waters of the Seychelles. Most of all, she’s met extraordinary people: farmers, vendors, athletes, chefs, artisans, and folk healers.
“My goal is to show the world how my subjects want to be shown to the world—not how I personally want to show them to the world,” the artist says. Her portraits are collaborations, rooted in a give-and-take between two people who are no longer strangers: “You often see that spark of connection in their eyes.”
Now, the renowned travel photographer will lead her own workshops, bringing participants to some of her favorite locations in the world for one-on-one instruction and mentorship, with experiences carefully curated by locals. Presented through Ákínmádé Åkerström’s Geotraveler Media Academy, the first in this series of branded workshops will see the photographer—along with eight participants—travel to Croatia, by land and sea.
“Croatia is such an underrated destination that combines all the art history and gorgeous architecture of Italy with the Mediterranean beauty and access of Greece, all in a single country,” the photographer tells us. In addition to exploring Zagreb’s historic center, Dubrovnik Old Town, and Hvar Town, participants will visit a local wine estate in Split, taste oysters in Ston, enjoy an immersive farm-to-table experience, and take a private yacht to the Vis and Bisevo Islands and the Pakleni Archipelago.
This experience is scheduled for May of this year, with a small group size designed to allow for more one-on-one coaching time with Ákínmádé Åkerström and the local community itself. “My photo experiences are very hands-on and will get you closer into the cultures and traditions we will be experiencing,” she says. She’ll set up pre-registration interviews with interested photographers to help set expectations and goals collaboratively.
In September, she’ll bring another group of just six photographers to Western Mongolia, where they will visit a Kazakh eagle hunter family near Tolbo village, be hosted by another family in Sagsai, and attend the Golden Eagle Festival. “These nomadic families have been gracious to invite us in for private portrait photography workshop sessions and grant us access to revered traditions,” Ákínmádé Åkerström reflects.
“Mongolia is an incredible place with such rich cultural traditions tied to its nomadic roots. From indigenous Kazakh eagle hunting to the revered Naadam festival of horse riding, archery, and wrestling, I can’t wait to take fellow photographers back to this country that has firmly secured its place in my heart.”
Ákínmádé Åkerström is a multi-hyphenate: photographer, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. She’s worked with National Geographic, The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, and more. She’s a 2022 Hasselblad Heroine and the 2018 Bill Muster Travel Photographer of the Year.
For more than a decade now, the photographer has also been running Geotraveler Media, nurturing the next generation of storytellers and helping to shape the future of travel photography in the process. “My hope for the next generation is for them to redefine what travel photography means, what capturing a sense of place holistically means, and how they can weave their own visual voices into their storytelling in a way that honors the people they meet, without relegating destinations to simply backdrops,” she says.
From her students and mentees, Ákínmádé Åkerström has learned to approach the world with a renewed sense of awe, wonder, and vulnerability. Through her in-country workshops, she’ll teach participants to dig deeper and discover hidden stories, while challenging existing stereotypes and revealing the truth beneath. Future workshops will take place in the Balkans, Swedish Lapland, and Central Asia—touching down in destinations the photographer has visited in the past or dreamed of seeing for a long time.
These experiences are first and foremost about discovering your vision and voice through unforgettable places, moments, and conversations. Beyond the typical tourist sights and landmarks, photographing the individual people who shape and define a place and its legacy remains her steadfast goal—and that’s something she’ll pass on to every participant in her workshops.
“We all fundamentally want the same thing in life: to be fully seen for who we already are, to be respected, and to be acknowledged,” she tells us. “This remains in my consciousness. This is what drives me as a photographer. To listen to people. To acknowledge, truly acknowledge people, and to show them in their most positive light with dignity.”