For as long as Olga remembers herself, she always loved to travel. She was born in Havana, Cuba. Her father is an officer of the Russian army. Her father’s profession forced the family to move from one duty station to another – and this matched and intensified his curiosity and desire to see other countries. These qualities are fully shared by Olga Michi’s mother. So the passion for travel is in her blood.
Parents used to go on road trips – and even if it was just a regular out-of-town picnic, for Olga the trip always became the start of a new adventure. It turned into a visit to an unknown country where the forest turned into a mysterious jungle full of dangers and secrets.
Once Olga and her older brother nearly lost their way among the huge-leaved burdock plants. This happened in the hills on the Pacific island of Sakhalin. Her father was seconded to a duty station on the island; in their spare time the family, out of their habit, traveled and hiked to stay "closer to nature".
Olga admits that she grew up in an atmosphere of love. Her parents love each other. And of course she is grateful to Mom and Dad for an excellent selection of books in their home library. As Olga says: "I grew up reading the right books." Every new travel story she read called her to go a new road. These books, too, played an important role in determining her future.
Olga visited all continents of the Earth. She traveled to over 70 countries. She completed several difficult and dangerous expeditions to Central America, Africa, Indonesia ... She often lived with the aboriginal tribes.
"But ... it all happened much later," Olga recalls. - At first, like all the girls dreaming about the Prince Charming, I met my beloved one. We got married and I gave birth to our son. My husband never restricted my freedom to travel – and he did not impose his choice of places to visit on me. But he had to stay in our home town all of the time. So I made the first steps to distant countries on my own... "
Olga visited several places where the natives prohibit any "outsiders" to enter or stay. She seems to possess a universal key that opens up the locations that are "off limits" to most travelers. Her secret key is a mixture of charm and friendliness, and she’s quite skilled in using that mix. This could be seen quite clearly in the photographs that she brings back from her adventurous travels. After all, the photographic lens cannot be fooled. It's like a magnifying glass that shows you how the people are treating you – the same people that you are taking photos of.
Charm, friendliness and femininity are combined in Olga with an ability to stand up for herself. She is able to protect those who trusted her. Everyone who has been through difficult situations with her mention her talent of responding quickly and precisely to the present danger and difficulties.
These character traits are also coming from childhood. Olga’s grandfather fought during World War II. He participated in defense of Moscow, later – liberated Belgorod and Belarus. Olga’s grandmother lived through the blockade of Leningrad. Her mother - an influential person in business throughout most of her career, always told Olga: "If you want to achieve anything in life, you must be a leader; you must fight for your rights, for your place!" And she always added: "Never come to me to complain! If you will come to me to complain - you will continue to be offended and humiliated for all of your life!"
And Olga did not complain. She had to change schools every two years - or even more often, depending on when her father was seconded to a new duty station. And every time Olga had to struggle for her place in the new class. Once she even had … to enter a fight with a classmate who wanted to get her under his influence. This conflict ended in Olga becoming a leader of her class - she was elected class monitor.
All this developed her inner fighter and strengthened thequalities that are of great importance for Olga today during her extreme travels. If not for this strength of character, Olga would never have been able to do diving. Since childhood she actually had a terrible fear of open water. But one day she got her willpower together - and she overcame her fear. She understood that surrender and withdrawal are simply not an option. Of course, she had some problems and inhaled some water during the first dive - but since then Olga grew to love diving and underwater adventures. She feels in her diving suit literally like a fish in the water – and underwater photographs are a significant part of her photo collection.
Olga Michi is actually the first and only female traveler who dived with the Nile crocodiles in their natural habitat. In her portfolio there is a unique photo shoot of the great white shark and killer whales. While taking these shots, Olga did not use any special protection from predators.
... Probably she first decided she wanted to take photos when she watched her grandfather developing his black and white photo prints in his home studio. The studio itself was quite tiny – all equipment was located in the bathroom. Olga, then a young girl, watched in awe as the contours of people, animals and buildings started to appear on the prints under the dim red photo light... It seemed a miracle to her. And she dreamed that when she grows up, she will definitely show her beloved grandfather the photos she will take herself.
Today Olga Michi is a professional travel photographer. For a year she has been working as a TV presenter on the Living Planet cable TV channel; she co-authored the "Extreme Photographer" TV show. As an ambitious person she does not like to make up her impression of a country based on stories told by other people. Olga must see everything herself.
The shutter clicks... And now the camera has captured a moment from the life of our planet. This moment is unique: it will never reoccur. But now it is saved forever, captured by the photo camera. The sequence of such captured moments watched from start to finish makes up a photo map Olga Michi's travel routes. These photos often show Olga’s attempts to tell her viewers about planet Earth and the way Olga sees it. After all, every one of us has his or her personal Earth too. But only a few people manage to tell about it in such a way that makes other people admire the beauty of the photographer’s “personal planet”. Olga Michi knows how to do this.
For example, let us take a look at Olga Michi’s "African diary". Every shot shows Olga’s love towards the Black Continent. But Olga often had to take risks in order to make this or that spectacular shot. In order to succeed courage is not enough; the photographer needs a level head and knowledge. You must know the behavior patterns of the animal you are going to shoot. Otherwise, a meeting with a great white shark, Nile crocodile, African gorilla, Komodo lizard, or even a "common" hyena can end in tragedy.
Olga learned from her own experience: you literally "get into the skin" of a dangerous animal in order to intuitively feel what it can do in the next moment. And the foundation for such intuition is your experience and your knowledge about the subject of the photo shoot that you see in the viewfinder.
"Either you play by the rules of the animals," Olga says, "or you have no right to invade the territory that they consider their own."
Resolute nature and readiness for risk are combined in Olga Michi with her ability to plan her actions in advance in case of a dangerous or difficult situation. She knows - any improvisation plays best when prepared in advance. Security is always priority number one on her trips. Sometimes safety depends on things that, at first glance, appear to be quite minor.
For example, communication with the indigenous population of Ethiopia is quite risky. One in every two natives carries the deadly infections (including AIDS). Olga thoughtfully took on that trip a lot of clothing with long sleeves and long trousers, not shorts: this protected from insect bites – and also defended her skin from scratches and abrasions that the natives could leave. The locals often try to take travelers by the hand and can inadvertently bruise them with their sharp nails, which they almost never cut.
Olga Michi knows very well that when visiting any country – or even any region in any country, one must comply with this region’s specific rules. You must be prepared for a number of unique situations. You also need to analyze your habits. Even such innocent (at first glance) habits as gestures can sometimes help and sometimes greatly complicate your travel. It is very important to gather information about the political situation in the country.
For example, Olga Michi’s travels across Africa taught her to carefully collect and thoroughly check the information about each particular country. After all, the whole African continent is known for instability: political situation there can change as quickly as the direction of the wind.
When Olga first decided to go to Africa, many people told her: "Are you out of your mind? It is dangerous." But she decided that she had to go – that she must visit the continent that she dreamed of so much. And now again and again Olga returns to Africa. So her intuition did not fail her.
"I am often asked why do I go to these distant and hard-to-reach places, why do I photograph various tribes," says Olga Michi. – “Why don’t I limit myself to photographing, say, outstanding cultural monuments? To this I reply that these monuments will exist for a long time to come. And the tribes are receding into the past. So if I don’t go now, it is possible that I may never see them again. The tribes could disappear.”
And one more thing. One of the main goals of my travels is to draw attention to these people. After all, we are part of the same world, one Planet ...»
So that’s the way she is. She can plan her life down to the minutest detail – and at the same time she can act counterintuitively, contrary to the "good advice" we are all getting… If Olga is told: "You do not have to do this" – you can be certain she will actually strive to do it. But only if she is genuinely interested. One may say that this character trait is close to stubbornness – or obstinacy. In fact this is a person’s ability to live up to his/her dreams. This dream is really a wish to feel free over and over again. And this feeling returns when Olga is one with nature. She wakes up in the morning not because the alarm clock went off, but she is awoken by the first rays of the sunrise. And this miracle is not to be missed. One must see it - and feel the warmth of the day’s first rays of the sun on your face. This gives hope that the new day will certainly be a happy one.
And at night there is a huge sky with myriad of stars spread out over you ... A campfire is burning nearby ... There are no city noises and city smells that make people to engage in mindless bustle…. It does not matter whether you are surrounded by impassable jungle or an endless savannah spreads around you. Whether the sounds of wild animals are occasionally heard or is the Amazon river murmuring nearby ... And it seems that the most distant ancestors are whispering something to you...
Maybe this is how Olga returns to her childhood when her parents took their little daughter to an unfamiliar forest with them? It is curious to mention here that this forest never seemed alien to her. And it probably doesn’t seem strange or alien to Olga’s son, Victor, who at the age of two years first accompanied Olga on their joint adventure trip. True, this trip took place in Russia. Victor first went to Africa only when he was five years old ... That's Olga the "crazy mother," some would say… But she explains: "There’s very little madness in me, if at all. Everything I do - I'm sure of what I’m doing, I'm confident in my abilities. Otherwise I would simply not be doing it."
But whatever you call it - Olga Michi is ready to go in pursuit of her dream any time, in order to experience again and again that freedom feeling that comes from being alone with nature.
Once Olga confessed: "... I'm an adventurer; there is no doubt about that. If I'm offered to go somewhere, I will not think twice. If I feel that I need to go there, if I'm interested in going, I'm prepared to literally move the mountains in order to go on that trip. I always follow my dream."
A lot in the work of a travel photographer is based on intuition, anticipation, and those difficult-to-grasp feelings. But the main thing, of course, is the ability to contemplate and see the beautiful in even the smallest things. This ability turns any trip into an exciting adventure that remains in our memory as a bright and colorful endeavor – just as seen in the photos taken by Olga Michi.
"I always envy those who come to an interesting place for the first time. Although in my opinion every place is interesting in its own way. Nevertheless, the first impressions are always a tornado of emotions. What you see around you gives you a feeling of joy that’s beyond description. And then I want to tell everyone about my emotions and what I experienced there..."