As I prepare the issue #2 of The Visual Landscape, here is a flashback to the main feature of the last edition!
Interview with Peter Lik - On appreciation of landscape photography and its artistic value
World renowned Australian-born photographer Peter Lik made history in December when he sold one of his works for an impressive $6.5 million. This highest achievement in the photography art world should be welcomed and celebrated. But what makes this form of art unique?
The amount of time and effort it can take for a photographer to bring a hidden landscape to the eyes of the public often remains invisible to the audience. Based on personal experience, this can include months of planning and preparations; days and weeks of travel by foot or sundry means; extreme weather and environment conditions; cultural, political and geographical borders. In addition, for photographers whose art has yet to make its way to fine art auction houses, there is the endless game of juggling time between photography projects, day jobs and family commitments. Despite all these efforts and challenges, there are never any guarantees of catching that perfect shot.
A very obvious requirement of landscape photography is that one actually has to be on location - there is just no way around that. In fact location and timing are two distinct elements that make landscape photography artistic and what largely distinguishes it from most other forms of artwork. One can have their own studio, their own gallery, high-end photography equipment, a very innovative technique, or even have their own well-established publishing house (in the case of Peter Lik). But without being on location, there would be no landscape. Without Arizona's Antelope Canyon there would have been no "Phantom", an image that has pushed the the limits of artistry and propelled landscape photography to new heights.
So I decided to ask Peter Lik himself about his most prized image and he has kindly responded:
Ivan Petrov: Peter, first of all, congratulations on this unbelievable achievement! Your work and the level of prominence you have achieved is very inspiring to photographers like myself.
Peter Lik: Thanks mate. I have received an overwhelming amount of compliments since the recent press and I truly value every single one. I'm glad my work inspires you - us photographers need to always encourage and challenge each other.
IP: The location of your photograph is well known around the world. Antelope Canyon is a well-known tourist attraction and a great photography location. Would you agree that location and timing are two key elements of artistic landscape photography?
PL: Yes, I would absolutely agree that location and timing are key elements. In fact, I wrote the following as part of a note after taking the shot: "The biggest lesson I have learned in photography is that timing is everything. No matter how perfect your technique and equipment, if you aren't in the right place at the right time you simply won't get the shot."
IP: What were your biggest challenges in making "Phantom?"
PL: The photograph wouldn't be what it is without making sure I was ready when light beamed down in front of me at just the right moment. So, I guess timing was my biggest challenge.
IP: Was there anything else different or distinct about the process of making this definitive work of art?
PL: Certainly how the ghostlike figure was created. It was one in a million. Not knowing what was about to happen - right before I pressed the shutter, my Navajo guide threw a handful of dust into the overhead shaft. The end result was so unique I don't think it could ever be replicated. I didn't even realize what I had captured until weeks later. That's what I love about photography - you never know what you're going to get. That's what keeps me going.
IP: Having the means and ability to travel wherever you want - something that is a challenge for young aspiring photographers - how do you make a choice of where to pursue your next "Phantom?"
PL: I can only tell you what it was like for me. When I was young, I had always dreamed of capturing the American landscape. From everything I had seen in pictures and film, there was no doubt I had to capture the diverse, raw beauty of it all. I worked hard everyday for ten years just to save enough money to get to the States. But I didn't stop there. I continued to work everyday at my craft - and through that never-ending dedication, I was able to catch a few beauties along the way. I believe the harder you work, the luckier you'll get.
IP: What would be one piece of advice you would offer to early-career landscape photographers?
PL: It wasn't always like it is now. It was tough when I started out. Some nights it was a choice between a hot dog and film processing or a proper meal. There was no GPS, no YouTube, no Internet - nothing was digital and there was no instant gratification. I had to use old-fashioned paper road maps, read books and use my instinct. I guess you really had to know what you were doing. Take advantage of all the tools that are out there now, they will help you tremendously. However, without passion it all means nothing. That is number one. Find your passion and your own style - and try to have a little fun along the way.
IP: Thank you for your time and good luck with your projects!
On one hand, Peter Lik has once again reconfirmed his definitive status as art master. On the other hand, this achievement will no doubt contribute to elevating photography in general, and landscape photography in particular, as an art form that is at times underrepresented and underrated.