The Cono de Arita, is the most otherworldly subject I have yet photographed. It is a startlingly graphic object that changes in contrast as the sun goes down.
The Puna de Atacama is a surprising place. With deep red labyrinths of clay, and kilometres of giant pumice sticking out of the desert like the shapes of a beached boat hulls, this place is like no other. Make no mistake, this part of the Atacama desert is different from its Bolivian and Chilean counterparts.
I first came here in 2015 to photograph, but i left feeling I'd only just scratched the surface. It's taken me two years to return, as my schedule is so booked out at least a year in advance.
This trip was twice the duration of my first effort, because everything is so spread out. The travelling distances are longer and rougher than the Bolivian landscape and that's saying something. Most days were spent sitting in the car anticipating what the evening shoot would provide.
Each evening the 'good' light would be short - only twenty minutes or so, in which to find a good vantage point. And some of the locations are so vast, that this task often overwhelmed me. I had to repeat many locations, often driving two hours in one direction, often twice a day for several days, so I could study the landscape and figure out what would work as well as not. The Puna is a puzzle that needs time and patience.
This landscape has a more remote, wilder feeling than the Bolivian Altiplano has. I can't explain why but maybe it's due to the more limited resources available; the high plateau of Argentina feels much poorer than its Bolivian cousin, and my guide Pancho would agree. He cites so much economic instability in Argentina as the cause. But I feel these remote places seem to be timeless, disconnected places that have little to do with outside factors. They are what they are, and I think they have rarely changed in decades, if not centuries.
In that respect, the Puna de Atacama is a timeless place to be and any time spent here seems to lead to a lot of introspection and silence.
I actually shot these in February 2017. But the edits are February 2019. Since I believe that the edit is mostly the soul of the photographer’s aesthetic, I would like you to consider these as 2019 images and not 2017 ones.
I feel more relaxed about my compositions than I did a few years ago. My original portfolio of Senja images created in 2015 was an exploration into tone and separation of it. With this new collection I feel as though I’m relaxing a bit, letting the colour come in and also allowing for some random tones to remain in the shots. Perhaps they are more traditional landscapes, but I don’t think so. I don’t think I could have got to here without having done all the tonal work to my images over the past few years.
This set feels joyous to me. A celebration of soft tones, of letting the landscape be what it is, and me following it, rather than it being forced by me to be something it isn’t.
Fjallabak & Veiðivötn 2017
Dark tones abound
This year’s journey into the interior of Iceland seemed to bring on a further distillation of tone. Whereas last year’s photographs still contained a lot of colour, I found myself embracing the blackness of the landscape. Indeed, I feel I was attracted to it, and most of my subjects this year were focussed primarily on dark areas or areas with high contrast between black desert and water or sky.
There seemed to be less green evident everywhere, and the colour in the lakes had gone. Perhaps it had something to do with the filtration of the light? Regardless, it was just different from last year's visit, and I was different also, so any new photographs were bound to have a different character to them.
Whatever the reason for the change in the work, it’s best to let things go the way they want to go. Let them be what they want to be. This time the black desert spoke out more than it has on previous visits, and this time I listened. I can’t explain it more than that.
Fjallabak Minimalism 2017
Iceland's Fjallabak- a minimalist playground
The interior of Iceland during winter is a minimalist playground of black brush strokes against a white canvas. It is a place where sky and ground meet somewhere indivisible to the human eye.
If you are lucky, you meet the right landscape at the right time in your photographic development. Each landscape teaches us something about form and tone, and I believe that many of the landscapes I've encountered have been responsible for shaping my photographic style to a large degree.
I couldn't have come here before everything else I've photographed, I wouldn't have been ready and I doubt I would have known where to begin with this landscape. But it all feels clear to me now. I have been working towards simplified form and tone and this landscape is perhaps at the extreme end of my journey. It is perhaps the ultimate minimalist playground.
The outline of a mountain hanging in space, with no discernible difference between sky and ground is such a fascinating subject to play with. In this portfolio I have deliberately taken advantage of this ambiguity. The uncertainty that one does not know where the ground ends and where the sky begins can lead to all sorts of illusions, which interests me greatly.
I've never been too interested in conveying what is there, instead preferring to work with what is left unsaid.
Hokkaido (北海道) 2017
Return to Snow Country
I often feel that my first images of a new landscape may possess an elusive quality, one that is difficult to recapture on subsequent visits. There is an honesty present, simply because there are no preconceptions to hold on to. Everything is new.
Through repeated visits, this innocence may be replaced by experiences where the initial impressions can often become lost or burried.
Where last year Hokkaido was more about atmosphere and fog, this year I found myself confronted by a more literal representation.
Hokkaido is a landscape heavily touched by man, and I think by photographing these symmetrically placed trees, I've moved from a point of suggestion to something more unembellished, more truthful.
Fjallabak & Veiðivötn 2016
Fjallabak ('fiatlaback'), means 'behind the mountains'. It is a nature reserve situated in the central highlands of Iceland. It is also a place of remote, rugged and stark beauty.
In terms of colour and tone, I find Fjallabak to be the antithesis of the Bolivian altiplano.
Although both these landscapes can be vast, empty, minimal places, brothers of a sort, I approach Fjallabak very differently to that of its south american counterpart.
Where the altiplano asks for its bright vivid landscape to be embraced for what is there, Fjallabak is the opposite. With it's leanings towards the darker registers of tonality, it is a landscape occupied by suggestion and mystery. This I feel, is a quality that when found, should be embraced.
Shadows and dark tones in the landscape tap into our primeval instincts. These are spaces where our imagination is allowed to run free.
My previous visits to Patagonia yielded monochromatic, often dark toned imagery. I felt at the time this really summed up my view of this landscape.
Seems I may have been too quick to judge as this year I found myself confronted with a softer, lighter view of the place.
But I think this new lighter imagery came about because of what I'd learned during my recent trip to Hokkaido. It was there that I finally felt I came to terms with lighter tones in my work.
Since visiting Hokkaido in December 2015, I feel my images have been moving towards the higher registers of luminosity. Rather than focussing on the dark tones and 'drama', I now feel I've found a few more octaves of light to play with. I feel I'm in new territory.
In this new work, there is a mixture of dark tones and sometimes light, airy tones. The skill, I believe, is to marry them so they feel part of the same set.
I'm so fortunate to return to Patagonia on a yearly basis. I feel as though this landscape often sets me new challenges, new homework, something to help my photography grow in some way.
Upper tones and new awareness
I’ve been playing with the upper registers of tone lately. It’s been a progressional thing for me. I started out years ago with contrasty dark images, but some places just don’t suit that kind of treatment. The Atacama of Chile and the Altiplano of Bolivia are two such places.
I call them collectively the Altiplano as it’s a place that is void of borders for me; in my dreams and in my mind I only see one landscape.
This year was an El Niño year. It wasn’t by far the best year for those vibrant tones I often see at high elevation each sunrise and sunset. But there’s a danger in comparing a visit to a previous one and not running with what you’ve got. This year’s images seem to convey a different quality of light in that respect, and I can’t help think it’s because I’ve chosen to go with what the landscape offered me, than try to get it to submit to any pre-conceived ideas I may have had.
The Altiplano has been a love-affair for me since 2009. I visit the same places each year but I still feel I’m learning and growing. This landscape has taught me so much in terms of simplicity, but also in terms of listening to what it wants to say, and letting it dictate to me rather than me dictate to it. Because of this, it is a surprising place in more ways than I can convey.