Inside this issue
The quests of landscape photography
What is your motivation?
Theodor Paues is a Swedish amateur photographer, based in Stockholm. He is the host of a Swedish bi-weekly podcast about landscape photography. When not shooting, he runs a public affairs consultancy. He’s married with two children.
What motivates a landscape photographer to do what he or she does? What is the drive that makes the photographer pick up a camera and walk into nature, sometimes at ungodly hours of the day and in testing weather? What makes us keep spending time and (for most of us) money, to produce yet more pictures?
Of course, the answer is personal, and there may be at least as many answers to the question as there are photographers out there. But do you know the answer when it comes to you? And is the answer the same today as when you started out? Will it be different tomorrow?
For some of us, the answer will be so self-evident that it does not need any thought, the focus is in the doing it rather than reflecting on the motivation. But for quite a few of us, I believe the reason why we do shoot nature is something that is at least slightly obscured, even to ourselves. We might feel the desire to do it, feel the emotional reward; and want to take a particular kind of picture or shoot in a particular type of location or in a particular style. But we might not have put into words why what it is that really is the drive.
I think that whatever artistic craft you pursue, there is quite a lot to learn by reflecting on your motivations. Thinking about why you do what you do is a way of deepening your craft, putting more of yourself into the work. If you know why, you can zero in on that ‘why’ in your future work, making that even more focused towards your aim. But also, by thinking about the ‘why’, you might find something about your past work and about yourself that you may not even have given any thought previously.
When I look at my own work, and also that of others, I am often first taken by the visual look. What emotions does it spark and how does it trigger my imagination? It’s often non-verbal, it goes right for the gut. I call this, the emotional hit. After the hit wears off, I start to analyse and my mind often goes first to technical stuff. What equipment was used, how is it composed, settings, location? The emotional hit and the technical analysis are both ways of learning from a picture. But in addition to that, I try to spend some time on every picture thinking about the ‘why’. What made the photographer take this picture. If it is my own, why did I take it?
Over the past six months, I have been running a podcast about landscape photography; talking to Swedish photographers about their work and zeroing in on why they shoot what they shoot. (Podcast “Fotografen och landskapet”, in Swedish only I am afraid).
My experience from the podcast and from also talking to many others in the community is that a photographer’s motivation for taking a specific, individual landscape photograph is often the same as the motivation for that photographer to be in landscape photography altogether. In some sense, each picture we take is a part of a bigger quest for our photography. A quest we pursue frame, by frame.