7×7 by Lia Miternique.

A lot of people are collecting countries and counting like crazy these days. Many dream of visiting all 198 of them, some are in the process of trying or at least increasing their tally. Fewer people seem to be obsessed by the seven continents and the seven oceans. Portland based photographer and graphic designer Lia Miternique is a notable exception, and she is publishing a photography book about her quest. The title? “7×7”, obviously.

She first left the US as a 17 year-old, and acquired a love for Europe. Which meant that Lia kept coming back every year, until she decided to explore more of the world in 2010.

Lia in Northern Norway and dressed for the occasion.

– I enjoy getting out of my regular surroundings and being inspired by new things. But it wasn’t until my first solo trip to India and Dubai that I really changed the way I looked at travel. The idea of traveling to explore and photograph and see things in a new way, was the reason to go, rather than just going someplace because of work or family, she told me.

Over the next four years Lia visited five continents and touched the water in five of the world’s oceans. Two continents and two oceans were still missing.

From 7×7. Click it for higher resolution.

– I decided that by the time I was 40 I wanted to visit all 7. And not as quickly as I could, but to see the world. While exploring places across the various continents I started to become fascinated by how colors and patterns and people all reflect the natural landscapes of those areas. The connection between the essence of the city and the surrounding natural environment started to become a theme in my photographs. I try to capture the real character of a place through the people and their way of life by venturing into the less touristy spots, such as unknown neighborhoods and rural villages, Lia Miternique says.

From 7×7. Click it for higher resolution.

It sounds familiar. Copycat tourism isn’t really all that interesting. You can do better than exactly the same as your friends did last summer or what a random guidebook author wrote about three years ago. Chances are that rainforests, mountains, islands, deserts and places in the middle of nowhere will fascinate you much more than the must-visit theme park, the cathedral you have to queue for hours to enter or that tower people are fighting to photograph from the best spot, for additional Instagram likes. Lia doesn’t even post photos on Instagram. For now, she saves them for 7×7.

From 7×7. Click it for higher resolution.

– The book of course came from spending five years and seeing the seven continents and oceans, but equally much from the fascination of making connections across a continent. For example between an object in one city in the north with a landscape on a southern coastline in the south. To me this was an interesting visual experiment that became the structure of the book. 7×7 is set up with 7 double-page spreads per continent with one image coordinating with the next through colors, patterns, lines or other visual elements that connect them.

From 7×7. Click it for higher resolution.

I met Lia on a trip to Antarctica, we were both aiming for our 7th continent. Her photography seems to focus on unique details and that most people may not notice at first. You might not know where her photographs are from by looking at them, but Lia explains that what she has shot comes across as essence of the place to her, something that makes for strong connections. The question is whether the readers will feel the same.

Photographer at work.

– The wonderful thing about photography and travel, is that any time I see one of my images I am transported back to that time and place where I took it and I can remember so many little things about that moment, she smiles.

Miss Miternique is also working on a start-up company with her two sisters. Not surprisingly, it relates to travel. The company is called Miniocards and it provides a way to collect travel memories. Their product is a customizable mini box and card set designed for collecting and sharing the little moments in life.

– With these little cards you can quickly jot down memories that you don’t want to forget. Or, keep track of the places you’ve been, places you’ll go, things you’ve tried, experiences you’ve had, the moments you’ve loved, Lia says.

Miniocards.com is already up and running, whereas “7×7″will hit the book shops this summer.