How did you start your career in photography?
During my studies as a poet I became aware of two things; I would have to teach my entire life and my audience would be very small. I decided to find another way to share ideas through images. At the time photography seemed like the logical choice.
What motivates you, fear or inspiration?
Neither actually. When I start something I am determined to finish it. The process is always exciting and unsettling because I’m always hoping the end will be worth all the effort. It isn’t until the end that everything comes together. This is when I get the most satisfaction. It is the desire to get to this point that motivates me.
What preparation goes into photographing on location?
With the glaciers, I had a specific texture and color that I was searching for. The most difficult thing was discovering if a particular glacier had these qualities. I used a combination of satellite imagery, topographic maps and word of mouth from other climbers. All of these pieces of information helped me figure out where to go. Finding a guide was the next challenge. The guides played a key role in providing knowledge of the area and access to the glacier. They also served as an insurance policy in case of injuries. Even with all of the planning, I never knew what the glaciers would be like when I got there. They always surprised me during the two years I spent photographing them.
My previous project The Silent Aftermath of Space, was shot using a medium format range finder camera. I didn’t use a tripod because I felt they made photographs structured, which is something I didn’t want. I shot only in the winter, because the air is denser and heavier than in the summer, which I feel changes the interaction of the light. For three winters I forced my self to go out into the night to photograph the empty streets at 2am.
What were your living arrangements while traveling to places such as Iceland, Patagonia and Norway?
Mostly tents. Iceland is a little more accessible so I could stay closer to a road near the glaciers. I was in Norway during fifty-year floods. The farmlands and roads became lakes. My tent couldn’t withstand the days of rain. I had puddles on the tent floor, which I would scoop out every morning. My shoes were constantly wet and it was impossible to dry them between shoots.
What are some of the main differences between photographing at night, such as your work featured in The Silent Aftermath of Space and photographing during the day, such as A Portrait of Ice?
They’re similar. They’re both about trying to capture the essence of the subject and the space itself. There are a number of technical differences between the two projects. Black and white versus color. Verticals versus horizontals. City versus nature. Both projects share a sense of stillness and silence.
I shoot mostly with a 50 mm lens. If you have a fixed lens, then it forces you think about the framing more and how you are taking the picture instead of trying to fix it later by cropping it. And I like the simplicity of just having one lens.
Do you pay for your projects or get sponsorships?
To some extent I think it is necessary to blindly believe in a project. In the middle of it, no one, not yourself or anyone else knows what the end result will be. It is important to finish the project. If this means funding it yourself and hoping to subsidize it through print sales then so be it. Another roll of the dice.
What or whom did you want to become when you were a child?
Inventors always captured my imagination. For a while a writer, director, actor, seemed like a good way to have control over everything. I am still writing fiction.
Sounds like you like to have a certain type of control over the different aspects in your life.
Actually, I do. I design my books, do the color separations and go on press. It’s necessary to be involved throughout the whole process. This way I can make sure the flame is still burning.
What is most important to you?
One of the things is trying not to create suffering. Which of course is very difficult if not impossible. But to create as little suffering in other people as possible is what I try to do.
How do you feel about fashion?
I like fashion; I have not done much of it. I’m actually thinking that my next project might involve people. I have a few ideas that I am sort of postulating and trying to figure out, but it would involve working with other people. I would have to hire a stylist, a model, etc., and the team would get rather large pretty quickly. It’s been hard for me to commit to working with other people.
What do you wear on a shoot?
Silk long underwear. Gore-Tex jacket and pants. Hat and gloves… for the glaciers at least.
What is your favorite type of music? Song? Artist?
Aside from classical stuff, some Dido and Astor Piazzolla.
What advice do you have for emerging photographers?
Projects are very beneficial for growth. I think through the process of closely examining any subject, for example the pineapple on this table, you learn how to photograph that subject. The way you approach the subject evolves. Then whether you’re shooting pineapples or fashion there’s a piece of knowledge, which can be applied to any subject. It is this constant learning process that continually makes you evolve. And that is what is important, to be evolving.
Photographed and interviewed by Musée's Creative Director, Marsin