The book Unforgettable Places To See Before You Die was published in 2004 by BBC Books. My good friend and co-conspirator Steve Davey had been looking at shooting this commission on his own but when he showed me the project specs, we both agreed it could not be done alone in a year so he asked me to come on board as associate photographer.
We had nine months to shoot 40 locations from a list that was drawn up by us and our commissioning editor. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity: make a list that starts with the question, ‘Where do you want to go?’ The project as a whole remains one of the most challenging and satisfying things I will ever do. The meeting with our BBC Books team where we hammered out a bucket list of 40 travel locations, the huge anticipation and excitement as Steve and I then carved up the world for our shooting schedule – that experience is tough to beat on a professional level.
Like all lists of this nature, it’s part contentious and and part inspirational. I think the inevitable discussions that follow were a big part of the success of the book. It was translated into nearly 30 foreign language co-editions (a BBC Books record at the time) and by the time it’s done selling in all its forms, nearly one million copies will have been sold, over 500,000 in the UK alone.
We shot the book on film, just a year or two before digital imaging and DSLR’s were regarded as good enough for a book project. Fortunately, there were no re-shoots due to poor weather, which is pretty amazing – although the challenge in certain places was how to make the most of conditions that were not perfect.
I shot 14 of the 40 locations (in no order): St. Petersburg, Russia; Sossusvlei, Namibia; The Drakensberg, South Africa; Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland; College Fjord, Alaska; Galapagos Islands; New York City; Lake Titicaca; Makalu, Nepal; Ephesus, Turkey; Machu Picchu; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Killary Harbour, Ireland; and Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France.