Alice Gao
Alice Gao

Meet travel photographer Alice Gao, who we
commissioned to capture the spirit of travel with our
shoot in Grand Central Station. Alice shares some of
her travel tips and how she moved from a successful
career in finance to the world of travel photography.

We understand you switched careers from consulting for financial service companies to photography. That’s quite a change. Why?

I wasn't feeling fulfilled at work and itched to spend more time on photography. It was getting to the point where I would shoot all weekend long and on nights after work, but then go to work and not feel motivated to do more than the bare minimum (which was not reflective of my personality/work ethic at all!). But I also didn't feel like I could properly pursue a photography career unless I actually quit my job and give it my all, so I did.

What is the coolest aspect of your job, and what is the most challenging?

Ooh, in a way I think that question itself answers the first part, in the fact that challenge is the coolest part of my job. No two days are the same and no two jobs are the same. I'm constantly challenged, and that is super fulfilling on a personal and professional level. But to be more specific on the challenging aspect, I'd say having to run a business as a one-woman show is pretty exhausting. Being your own boss and knowing that your success rides on you alone is both amazing and daunting.

You have such amazing style! Does your job influence how you dress?

Thank you for thinking so! I think part of my job is noticing beautiful things and details, so I do love fashion and style because a lot of it is about those details. But my job also requires a level of practicality, unless I want to be on my feet shooting in 4 inch heels all day! So I stick to a uniform of sorts when I'm shooting – usually jeans and some sort of tee or top tucked in, and either sneakers or flats.

We see that you’ve traveled the world for many shoots, what do you wear to stay comfortable and chic at the airport and while flying?

I always try to look somewhat decent when I travel because if I don't, I'll feel even worse from the lack of sleep/delirium. I try to wear slouchier jeans, my Common Projects sneakers (the only sneakers that don't make me feel like a total slob), and layers on top. I find airplanes to be freezing, so I always have a sweater and a jacket in case. I have a thing with emerald green jackets and have a growing collection of them – they always help me feel more put together no matter what I'm wearing underneath.

Why do you think the Metro Tote makes such a great travel bag?

I think the Metro Tote is an amazing travel bag because it can fit so much and is so lightweight on its own. I try never to check a bag, so this tote allows me to fit my normal handbag in it along with my laptop and host of other random things. I always do this 'trick' where I basically bring three bags on a plane but stuff one into the other in case someone approaches me and says I can only have one personal item.

Where is your favorite place to travel to and why?

Super cliche, but it's Paris because it feels like my second home at this point. I never get tired of its beauty and yet I feel very comforted and at ease there. I never pack my days with touristy things and just try to enjoy what life might be as a local.

You have such a big following on your social channels – do you have any tips for taking Instagram photos on vacation?

I suppose it depends what you're going for – if you want to take better non-touristy travel photos, it's a lot about challenging yourself to see and frame scenes differently. You could also task yourself with a specific theme; for instance, trying to do a color story or shooting really close-up textures to tell a more intimate story about a place.

Can you share a funny moment that happened when you were shooting our MZW Travel campaign?

A fan of MZ Wallace bags walked through our set at Grand Central and was SO excited we were shooting there. She was so sweet and was shouting about how she loves the bags!

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