on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

From Greenland to the Sahara

Quintin Lake

Quintin Lake

Award winning architectural photographer, working internationally with strong links to London, based in Cheltenham, UK. Author and former architect.

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I've had Quintin's website bookmarked for sometime and have been inspired by his approach to a wide range of photographic subjects and also his non-landscape work in architecture and documentary. We'll be talking to Quintin again in a couple of issues time about the project that originally motivated me to get in touch but to set the scene we thought it would be good to cover one of Quintin's earliest and latest projects; a trip to Greenland and Egypt respectively.

Before you took on the Greenland project you worked as a commercial photographer. Can you tell us how you ended up in photography and what the commercial work primarily was and how it came about?

When I was a child I wanted to be an artist but decided on what I thought was a slightly more sensible choice and studied architecture for seven years and worked briefly as an architect. All through my studies I used the camera as a sketch book for design ideas. In time the images I took became more important as an end in themselves, this soon became a passion for photography that eclipsed my original interest in architecture. At around the same time I started taking photos for a firm I was working for – which lead, gradually over a period of years to a full time commercial architectural photography business. Part of the plan for this new life was that I self-funded a few months every year to pursue fine art photography projects – most of which are based on Landscape.

Silent Light

Silent Light

I understand that the Greenland project had been simmering in the background for some time – can you explain how the idea came about and what was involved in turning it from idea into reality?

I'd been to Spitsbergen in the arctic when I was 18 on a youth development expedition (BSES) and fell in love with the open expanses and the special qualities of light and ice. To safely undertake such a pronged journey in the arctic without a guide you need skills in skiing, crevasses rescue, mountaineering, navigation and camp craft which took a number of year to acquire. A friend of mine from the BSES expedition and I got a team together of two others and – when there was a cancellation on the twin otter flight from Iceland (the main expense of such a journey), we jumped on the opportunity to get to Greenland cheaply. We than had a rush to get a months worth of dehydrated food and fuel and equipment prepared and shipped out. We pulled pulls (sledges ) which held 80KG of equipment in order to be self sufficient, mostly made up of food and fuel. From coming up with the idea to mount our own arctic expedition to making it happen had taken over 10 years.

Light & Ice

Light & Ice

The trip was a massive undertaking in terms of logistics but as an artistic challenge how did you approach it and how did it change when you actually got there?

I really wanted to capture the vast emptiness and the subtly of the light. I hadn't seen any photos that captured how I felt about the arctic – somehow the the arctic images I'd seem where too heroic or looked like someone had landed on a plane taken some shots for a few hours rather than lived with that stillness for a number of days.

When I got there most of my energy was spent on surviving and staying safe rather than fine artistic ideals! But i soon realised the bright weather and blue skies in the daytime was not an interested photographic subject compared to the strange light effects of the midnight sun and the prolonged dusk and 2am where the sky would be lit in pastel pinks, purples and blues. So I "switched on" as a photographer during these times and during bad weather when the storm clouds swirled above us.

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