Planet Venus Woman: Talissa Makdessi

Meet Talissa, a half Swedish and half Lebanese digital nomad working on travel lifestyle and wildlife photography and living in a van in New Zealand.  

Tell us about yourself … who are you, where do you come from?

I’m Talissa, a Swedish/Lebanese documentary photographer. Raised across Europe and the Middle East, I currently live in a van in New Zealand. 

Describe yourself with 3 words.

Restless. Stubborn. Sensitive.

What is your background? What have you done in your past?

Following studies in Theatre, Art History, Law, and Cultural & Creative Industries I worked in production and marketing. My thirst for creative expression turned my focus to photography.

In 2017, my partner Alex and I travelled around South America for 6 months, solidifying a shift to freelance photography and digital marketing.

What do you do? Do you have a portfolio to show us your work?

The world sometimes angers me and I try to respond by looking at it with questions and answering some through my lens. I document beauty, innovation, quirks – the best bits.

By shining a light on innovative artists, skilled artisans, endemic species and crucial ecosystems, I promote eco-conscious travel. Overtourism can damage a landscape but ecotourism can benefit local people and the environment. 

I collaborate with sustainable small businesses by providing images that celebrate their ethos/purpose. 

IG: @talissamakdessi 


YouTube Channel

Which has been the project you have enjoyed the most? Why?

Alex and I are producing a documentary on New Zealand’s controversial history, fragile environment, and economic currents. We examine links between sociopolitical issues, the erosion of traditional trajectories and the rise in alternative lifestyles (#vanlife !). As a western microcosm at the end of the earth, New Zealand faces many of the same environmental choices Europe made centuries ago. (Coming Autumn 2021).

What do you aspire to do?

I want to ensure that beauty endures, allow lessons to be carried on, and protect this world if I can.

I have schoolgirl disposable camera shots of Palmyra, Syria— it’s now gone. In 2018 I photographed the Galápagos Islands, which boast some of the highest levels of endemism on earth and will not be the same in 10 years due to overfishing, plastics, introduced species and population pressures. My images of Christchurch, NZ show how, though devastating, the 2011 earthquake generated exceptional murals and spurred innovations in architecture. 

I aspire to bear witness to both advancements and devastation, and by so doing redirect toxic nationalism into a passion for supporting our ecosystems, incite protective impulses, and foster a sense of societal belonging.

How it feels to be a digital nomad? What have you learnt from this adventure?

My priorities have changed. What I once perceived as indicators of fulfilment, I now see as shackles of social expectation. Global competition has pressured businesses into a predilection for performance over attendance. Market volatility and reduced job-security have fuelled a move from the overconsumption of the 20th century to fulfilment in the 21st. 

I’m not saying buying a van or putting your laptop in a cafe will make you happier or more productive. My partner and I live in a 3×1.8m van we can’t stand up in. I’m asking people to reinstate their agency, ask themselves if their current way of life is working. I want to show that realistic alternatives exist.

What has been your biggest struggle(s) as an entrepreneur so far?

Focus! Deciding day-to-day where to effectively place my energies is by far the biggest struggle. Some days all my passions are in tune; other days each idea feels complex enough to fill a lifetime. I have a tendency to go careening down a little path and lose the road for days.

Do you have any tips to share with other entrepreneurs?  

My best tips are ones I struggle to follow: audacity and specialisation. 

Audacity is vital — let people know what you have to offer and why they need it.

Identify a niche and pursue it like a madman; specialists are sought after. A jack of all trades approach makes for great pub chat but is more challenging to market.

How do you feel about the Planet Venus community? 

Communities like Planet Venus support women to articulate their ideas in a world where approval has been reserved for now archaic gender roles. For centuries, society has trained women to be social chameleons — it is time we use this extraordinary skill to our advantage.

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