Inside this issue
Brent Clark makes quiet, creative, and awe-inspiring nature photography from his home in the Upper Midwestern region of the United States, and on his travels to precious natural preserves. Nature photography drives him to grow as a person by exploring places, subjects, ideas, and emotions he normally wouldn’t without a camera.
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.
I’ve been waiting patiently to interview Brent Clark, having just been pipped to the post by Matt Payne’s Portrait in October 2022. Interestingly we were both drawn to Brett’s photography before he was announced as ‘Photographer of the Year’ in last year’s Natural Landscape Photography Awards.
I can certainly recognise and find resonance in Brent’s transition to a more personal style of photography, one which simply celebrates the quiet places and small scenes that often come to speak to us more loudly than the style of images that perhaps drew us to pick up a camera in the first place. So let’s start with the awards and then move from the extrinsic to the intrinsic. As you’re waiting for the who, what, why, when and where of the 2023 NLPA Awards, I think you’ll find it an engaging and affirming discussion.
Firstly, congratulations on your ‘Photographer of the Year’ accolade in the 2022 Natural Landscape Photography Awards. While you had two images in the 2021 NLPA book, I’m guessing that you weren’t expecting this kind of upgrade?
Thank you! I was incredibly happy and proud to have a couple of photographs in the 2021 NLPA book, so to be awarded “Photographer of the Year” in 2022 was particularly amazing and surprising. My general mindset in life and photography is that I am a student - I look up to people in order to learn and improve myself. I'm not really a competitive person who believes that my skills and output are deserving of any specific accolades. When I heard the news, I experienced a whirlwind of feelings (e.g. elation, joy, surprise, and confusion) and thoughts – “wait, some judges picked me over all this other talent?” “what brought me here, and where do I go from here?”, “what do other people think of me and my work?” While joy was the primary feeling at first, it lessened over time, and I am now left with those intriguing and somewhat disorienting questions when I reflect on it. I’d be curious if anyone else feels similarly because I would have never predicted feeling anything but pure joy.
It’s been a good second time around to read your own words about the images, and from these and the writing on your website, I sense that while the award is welcome, it may not change your approach to photography? You’ve already worked out that trying to impress other people isn’t a road that you want to follow, and said that “I admire that the natural world has no ego to feed”.
Yes, but I will start by saying that I am, unfortunately, only human, so I reserve the right to be imperfect, inconsistent, and irrational. Let me explain! When I am at my best, I am happy with my work regardless of what anyone thinks of it, but it seems to be human nature for us to be influenced by others. We are very social animals, after all.