Inside this issue
Featured Photographer Revisited
Alex Nail is a professional mountain photographer who regularly backpacks in remote landscapes. He leads adventurous workshops in the UK and abroad and works for UK tourism and conservation organisations. He is a strong advocate for maintaining the realism of landscape photography.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Alex Nail’s photography was first featured in Issue 21. At the time most of his images were made close to home and fitted in around his day job. Even then, with the exception of a few favourite places, he was keen to avoid repeating established compositions and find new ones instead. He talked about pushing himself harder, and wanting to camp out in the winter in the North West Highlands, inspired by Joe Cornish's book 'Scotland’s Mountains'. It’s hard to think about him now without backpacking and mountains coming to mind.
Much has happened since Tim spoke to you way back in September 2011. What has given you the most enjoyment, or satisfaction, in the intervening period?
Gosh, that’s hard to answer given that, as you say, a lot has happened! I would say that my 18-day backpacking trip with my friend Harsharn through Tasermiut Fjord in Greenland in 2015 was the single greatest challenge I have taken on and it still brings me some pride to this day. Whilst I had some wonderful moments on that trip it was also immensely difficult both physically and mentally, it certainly taught me where my limits were. So that trip and my book, discussed below, are probably the two things that bring me the most satisfaction. As for enjoyment, the Drakensberg is where I have had some of my happiest times; it is a joy and privilege to go there.
When did you decide to make the transition from engineer to full-time photographer, and what was your experience like? Do you now feel that you did it at the right time, and would you do anything differently?
I made the transition almost 5 years to the day of writing this in April 2015. I’d spent quite a while building my business to that point and I was fortunate to have some contract offers on the table from the British Tourist Authority to shoot time-lapse. So given that it had been a long term goal for some time to turn professional, it was actually an easy decision, particularly with a supportive girlfriend, now fiancée, to give me the final encouragement! In the intervening time, I would say that my lows have been lower but my highs have been far higher. It’s a little strange getting out of the day to day monotony of the ‘rat race’ and jumping onto a rollercoaster, but I feel like I have benefitted in almost every way (except financially, still working on that one!). I do miss the teamwork aspect of my previous job, the friendships with my colleagues and the structured workday, but aside from that, it has been very positive.