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Art Wolfe Interview

Tough on Myself

Graeme Green

Graeme Green is a photographer and journalist for publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph and Wanderlust. See his website for more on his photography or follow him on Instagram. He also guides photographic holidays and workshops for Light & Land

graeme-green.com



The new spin is always the challenge,” says American photographer Art Wolfe. One of the world’s most famous photographers, renowned for his colourful and creative pictures of landscapes, wildlife and disappearing cultures, Wolfe has been finding new spins for 40 years in countries as diverse as China, Ethiopia and the USA. As well as producing dozens of books, including latest Earth Is My Witness, he’s famous for his TV programmes, including Travels From The Edge and Netflix series Tales By Light. Graeme Green caught up with him to hear about revisiting landscapes to find fresh angles, never being satisfied, and how photography can help protect the environment….

Art Wolfe, Jökulsárlón, Iceland

What makes a great landscape photo stand out to you?

I’m always looking for something unique or something new that I’ve not seen before, or maybe a great shot of an old subject in new light.
I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years. I’ve got a great memory for photographs, so I’m always looking for something unique or something new that I’ve not seen before, or maybe a great shot of an old subject in new light.

If I have a perception that somebody’s just putting their tripods in the holes of previous photographers, that is obviously a mark against my interest. If it’s unusual light, if it’s something new, then I’m very intrigued.

You must be bombarded with photographers’ work. Are you hard to impress?

I critique all the time and I’m a product of a major art school at the University of Washington, so even in my late teens and early 20s, I went through the critiquing process and learned how to critique properly.

Seven Color Mountain, Bolivia

There’s always something positive to be said about any photo or any painting. I build on that and then ease into the critique so that the person being reviewed isn’t devastated. If you start off saying something negative, that’s all they hear. I don’t want to say that I’m a pussycat, because I’ll get to the point eventually, but I don’t want to destroy somebody like I’ve seen other critiquers do.

But, yes, I’m kind of tough. I’m tough on myself, and I don’t want to reward people for copying what someone else has done, just with better equipment.

Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

You often return to the same location repeatedly to find new angles. What do you look for when you go back to a place you’ve photographed before?

What’s interesting is that when I return to a place, the likelihood is that I’ve evolved - not the landscape but my intellect.
What’s interesting is that when I return to a place, the likelihood is that I’ve evolved - not the landscape but my intellect. As you keep staying at it, the more you can look with new eyes at an old subject, finding new styles, new perspectives. You’re always bringing something new to a place you’ve been to. I think that’s a great and worthy challenge.

Right above Seattle, we have a beautiful park called Mount Rainier National Park. I’ve been up there hundreds of times and yet every time I go up there, I’m enthusiastic and I find a new perspective, not just of the mountain but the environments around it.



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