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Ron Pownall talks Turkey, photography, and dreams of New Zealand

We caught up with the famous rock ‘n’ roll photographer to discuss all things travel

Ron Pownall and Darlene DeVita in Turkey.
Ron Pownall and Darlene DeVita in Turkey.Courtesy photo

In the world of rock ‘n’ roll photography, Ron Pownall is royalty. And just as royals are often viewed from a lofty perch, Pownall’s work is being displayed in a big way — on a giant digital marquee outside of the Boch Center Wang Theatre through Dec. 1. The exhibit — featuring Pownall’s iconic images of some of the biggest acts from the 1970s such as Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Pink Floyd, and Aerosmith — celebrates the venue’s 95th anniversary. All of the photos were taken by Pownall at the Wang Theatre site, formerly known as the Boston Music Hall. In addition to being on display outside the venue, the images can be found on BochCenter.org and on the Boch Center’s social media accounts. “Ron Pownall is a spectacular artist who has captured countless moments in Boston music history,” said Joe Spaulding, chief executive officer of the Boch Center. “We are truly honored to be able to showcase his work and put it on display for the entire city to see.” Pownall said that he, too, is pleased to share his work during these difficult times. “Since there are no shows at the Wang during the pandemic, it’s great to be able to share these,” he said. “Hopefully they will bring back good memories for people who saw these shows back in the ’70s.” The Delaware native, who has two adult sons, lives in Chelsea with his wife, Darlene DeVita, a fine arts photographer, and their rescue dog, Lucy, who is from Tennessee. We caught up with Pownall to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination?

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My wife, Dar, and I spent three weeks traveling around Turkey in 2010. We like to meander, so we did virtually no preplanning, just the first couple of days in Istanbul upon arrival, and then a couple of days at an extraordinary inn in Cappadocia. This was an area that was sort of like the otherworldly formations you find in the American Southwest. Our room was a cave, built into a sandstone cliff . . . and it came with our own private Turkish bath. We rented a car from a hotel owner and followed our noses for 10 days. The people were as friendly as we’ve found anywhere . . . tying with Thailand as the friendliest. I learned to say a few phrases in Turkish, which would invariably break the ice. The food was amazing . . . so fresh [and] there are greenhouses everywhere; no processed food anywhere. We ate like kings ands queens, and still lost 5 pounds. It was a photographer’s delight . . . mountains to the Mediterranean. Second choice? Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Third choice? Morocco.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing?

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In Turkey, they don’t import much wine or beer, as they have strict alcohol laws. We did find that the national domestic beer, Efes, was particularly tasty though … and we tasted it at every meal. It reminded us of Becks. We loved the Mediterranean breakfasts. They always included fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, eggs, yogurt, jams, perfect strawberries and other fruits … every breakfast was a feast — and all super healthy.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?

New Zealand [seems so] alluring and different and photographically … when we travel, we photograph people more than landscapes. Joy is photographing people. Also, we’d go back to Southeast Asia in a flash … on our way to New Zealand.

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One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?

A small camera or an iPhone 11 or 12, because they have fantastic cameras. Before that they were good, but the cameras on the iPhone 11s and 12s are great.

Aisle or window?

Aisle . . . easier to move about the cabin — pre-pandemic.

Favorite childhood travel memory?

Getting dressed up to fly, and having meals served on real plates with real silverware. I remember traveling with my family — my parents and my sister — to Jamaica, Guadalupe, and Eleuthera.

Guilty pleasure when traveling?

Having merchants ship purchases — rugs, fabrics, etc. — back home directly, so you don’t have to lug stuff around.

Best travel tip?

Bring lots of extra batteries and storage cards for your camera. If using an iPhone, make sure it’s set up to back up image files to the iCloud. I ran out of SD cards in Morocco and ended up scrambling in the marketplace to find one.

JULIET PENNINGTON