Last year, I conducted my first photographic tour of the Bolivian altiplano. We made our way from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile across the southern side of Bolivia to the capital La Paz over nine days. It was quite a tour.
I’d originally shot the altiplano in 2009, and the images from that particular shoot were at that time, an epiphany for me: I saw the start of my journey towards more simplified compositions.
Returning back in 2012, I wasn’t so sure I could add anything new to what I’d shot back then, so it was a surprise to me to note that my compositional style has become more reduced and more simplified in the intervening years.
One could argue that shooting a square aspect ratio camera helped me achieve that look of simplification. I would indeed agree, that square offers the opportunity to be more abstract with compositional elements than any rectangular aspect ratio can. I also feel that rectangles are more traditional, whereas square has no deep roots in art history: rafael did not paint his images on square canvases.
One could also argue that I’ve had a chance to become more familiar with the altiplano. This is also true. I do believe that we often need two visits to a location: the first to understand it – to know what works and what doesn’t work, the second visit to do the work with a more refined viewpoint.
I’ll be heading back to Bolivia in two months from now, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what new material may transpire from the tour we will be doing there.
By looking back at my previous work, I’m often able to see that there has been a shift, a subtle change in direction. I feel all photographers should do this as a matter of course. Consider, reflect, open up an inner dialog, ask yourself some questions about your development. Other times, I feel the changes are less apparent, but usually something comes along to show us just how far we’ve come.
Note: I’m returning to the Bolivian altiplano in June to conduct a photographic tour with six participants. If you’d like to come along, I’m pleased to say there are two spaces left. The tour was originally full, but there’s been a couple of cancellations due to health issues and other commitments. If you would like to find out more about this trip, you can read all about it here.