Interview with Natuurfotografie about Voice of the Eyes
Natuurfotografie is a Dutch magazine by nature photographers for nature photographers.
The questions were asked by the photographer Roeselien Raimond. The answers you’ll find below are my individual responses that I prepared before the interview. The final version that is going to be published in the near future in the magazine is based on a 1.5h online interview we had and is going be a shortened version.
1. Can you tell something about yourself? (education/ profession, where did you grow up…)
My name is René Algesheimer, I am 49 years old and live with my family in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In my professional life, I am a scientist at the University of Zurich; my backgrounds are in mathematics and music, that I studied both at the university. In my artistic life, I am a photographic artist and express myself through visual art and writing about it. And most important, I’m engaged in the study of wonder.
I was born and raised in Germany, close to a nature reserve along the river Rhein. Wandering around in nature as a child awakened my great love, joy, and interest in nature.
2. What is Voice of the Eyes about?
Formally spoken, Voice of the Eyes® is a self-published book that contains a collection of interviews with exceptional landscape photographers who mastered their craft. The book introduces them and sheds light on their creativity and their photographic process. My chosen format for this book was the standardized questionnaire. In this survey, I focused on fifteen questions that I felt were essential both to the creative process and to understanding the photographers. Once I had chosen the questions, I asked all the artists to answer those fifteen queries. Although the artists were not in direct exchange with each other, by answering the same questions, each in his or her own unique way, the reader can switch between these answers to get a sense of the diversity of the artists and thus create this exchange themselves. My hope is that this will turn the reader into the medium that creates this exchange and thereby stimulates his or her own creative process.
Voice of the Eyes perceives photographs as the organ of expression of artists and their visual perception. When it is difficult to verbally express feelings, thoughts, experiences, and ideas, photographs serve as a means of expression and become the voice of the photographers. Thus, this book not only focuses on the photographs of these photographers as their voice, but the book itself becomes a voice of these photographers.
3. Why did you feel the need to make this specific book?
My inspiration for creating this book was creativity. I wanted to give time for creativity and show how meaningful it is in landscape photography. In a time characterized by pervasive digitalization and the influence of social media, landscape photography has come under a lot of criticism. This is more than understandable when we see many repetitive subjects and images of iconic places that often have no soul. At best, these photographs seem to be good documentary images of nature, but they often serve as nothing more than beautiful wall hangings. Snapshots or images, but not photographs. These images lack the depth, the mysticism, the questions that are asked anew, and the invitation to gaze at these images longer. All characteristics of art. However, there are these photographs and photographers who are passionate about the love of nature, the photographic process, and the beauty of the small detail. It is to these artists that this book is dedicated. It is my intention with this book to show that creativity exists in landscape photography and that these photographers create works with a great deal of heart and depth.
4. What do you want to achieve with this book?
First, I want to show that landscape photography is a creative discipline, and photographers definitely put a lot of thought into it before taking a picture. Furthermore, I would like to show the diversity of the artists, introduce them in more detail, give insight into their way of life, philosophies, thoughts, and work processes, as well as show the reader visual examples of their work.
In my view, the book is a currently unique work that provides an overview and insight into contemporary landscape photography. It is a thought-provoking book that will hopefully stay with the reader for a long time. It should be a book that one likes to take out again and again to browse through it, gather inspiration, and reflect on photography.
5. The book contains an impressive collection of gifted photographers. How did you pick these photographers? Did you have some specific demands?
In selecting the artists, I chose those a) who have helped shape the field of contemporary landscape photography in a lasting way, b) who have something profound to say, c) who participate creatively in the discourse on photography, and d) who represent a creative breadth of landscape photography. In doing so, I tried to represent a wide variety of ages, genders, cultural backgrounds, as well as procedures, techniques, or preferred channels when dealing with photography. I did not succeed in all areas as I had hoped, but at least I tried.
Finally, I know a majority of the photographers in the book personally. This gave me a different approach to them and allowed me a better insight into how they work.
6. You mention you chose photographers that helped to shape the entire discipline. How?
In science, we always talk about the contribution our work makes. As I was creating the book and assembling the artists for the book, I gave a lot of thought to what each artist’s contribution to the international landscape photography community might be. These contributions vary greatly depending on the artist. Guy Tal or Rafael Rojas are from my humble point of view, thought leaders who have a lot to say about photography, its history, meaning, and application. Photographers such as Hans Strand, William Neill, or Freeman Patterson belong to the older generation who have mastered the transition from analog to digital photography and continue to inspire with their work over decades. Marc Adamus, for example, certainly had a great influence on a whole generation of young photographers with his way of artistically processing images or his use of Highlight Glow or Clone Painting. Perhaps the same applies to Alex Noriega. Thomas Heaton and Nigel Danson were pioneers of landscape photography vlogs on YouTube, sharing very openly and transparently with their audience about their photographic process. Theo Bosboom or Isabel Diez inspire with their fine eye for details. Bruce Percy has developed a very characteristic minimalist style over the years. Tom Hegen and Reuben Wu use new technologies for their photographs. Marsel van Oosten and Céline Jentzsch know how to embed living creatures in their landscapes. And so on. I could say a lot about each photographer. But from my humble perspective, all photographers had a great influence on the young generation of photographers.
7. Why did you decide to center your book around landscape only?
This answer is quite simple. A good book needs a focus. And I wanted to work on a topic in which I know my way around. Furthermore, I know many of the photographers in the book personally, so operationally, it was obvious to start with this topic and these photographers.
8. The central purpose of this book is to provide insight into the creative work of landscape artists. What was the most striking insight for you?
That everything is already present in us, what we are looking for. That we do not need anything. We don’t need to follow others in today’s world, we don’t need to consider trends, and we don’t need to learn techniques. The most important thing is that we take our time. Time to get to know ourselves. Time to deal with our feelings and thoughts and to express them in pictures. And ultimately, the courage and authenticity to make ourselves vulnerable and share those thoughts and feelings with others.
The successful photographers in the book are those who have always gone their own way. Even if this sometimes seemed complicated. They persevered because they believed in something: In the power and strength of their own photography.
9. Can you share some of the questions you had… And did you find the answers?
At the beginning of the book, I wrote down all the questions I had that I would like to ask other photographers. Then I grouped them and prioritized them. The questions started with simple things about understanding photography when their own photography makes artists particularly happy, whether they tend to work on projects or single images and why, when they know when an image belongs to a project and when a project is over, and a few questions more. I found a lot of answers for myself, but I see it as the reader’s job to find their own answers.
This is also helped by many funny stories that the photographers tell from their time as photographers.
In the book, I also asked each artist which photo books had the most impact on them, and out came an impressive list of books. This is attached at the end of the book.
10. You talk about the use of photography as an ‘expressive medium’. Can you explain this?
These days, the term “expressive photography” has become a buzzword that is often over-used for my own personal taste. However, very rarely photographers share their intent they want to express with their work. I am missing this elementary part of expressive photography.
Next to other possible tools or media, such as words, music, paintings, sculptures, movies, photography is my current medium of choice for personal expression. In my life, I wonder with enthusiasm about many things in this world. This often gives rise to questions and feelings that I try to answer with great curiosity. From this process often arises an intention to visually depict these facets with my camera. Thereby the camera or the picture is not the goal of this process, but only the medium with a specific result. Decisive for me is that I follow an intention that reflects me as a person and artist. The ideal image for me is one that makes people look but then think or feel inside. First, it makes them look, then it makes them think. A picture that should have something to say and share.
11. When does photography become art, according to you?
This question overlaps a bit with the last question. Art certainly has an aesthetic, creative and communicative component. Art is something completely individual. The expression of the artist is personal. Therefore, I can certainly only answer this question for myself personally and from my own perspective. For me, a good picture is more than decoration. I appreciate pictures that follow an intention and have something to say.
In landscape photography, I miss the discussion about why photographers make their images, what their intention is, and what they want to communicate with them. The pure capture of a mood in nature or landscape is too little for me personally. We are flooded with these kinds of images in social media. I would like to see more corners, more edges, more personality, authenticity, vulnerability, and more depth. That’s what makes art for me personally. Perhaps art is also just “a mad search for individuality,” as Gauguin put it.
12. What is ‘meaningful work’?
Probably, you yourself are not able to evaluate your own work as significant, or meaningful. It needs the recognition and appreciation of a knowledgeable crowd, or experts for this.
For me, work is personally meaningful when it follows an intention and connects a concept, with emotion, meaning, and perhaps spirituality – as Rafael Rojas describes it. For me, it is not about photographing an object but to depict a subject that does not exist in this form and, therefore, cannot be photographed directly. It needs the right framing, the essential context, the reference, the intention, perhaps the suggestion, the mood, and atmosphere to make this latent subject perceptible. Therefore, I appreciate very much the statement of László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian craftsman, and photographer, who once said, “Photography means making the visible visible.”
13. You speak about ‘style as a visual instrument’ Can you share your thoughts on this?
From my point of view, there is too much discussion about the search for a personal style in art. Many young people despair of not having their own recognizable personal style.
Yet for me, style is simply a visual tool that follows my intention. If it fits my question, I can take pictures in black and white, or in colors, with straight focus or with ICM. But I don’t have to elevate it to a style. Why should I be put in a box when I have many more styles unified in me as an artist?
From my point of view, what people are looking for is really identity, one’s own signature. This is probably experienced simply by getting to know yourself, opening up to your own feelings and thoughts, following those triggers, staying true to yourself, and creating authentically on a regular basis. Continuous making is central to this identity discovery. There is no shortcut to this.
14. Now that the book is finished…… Did the outcome of the interview surprise you? Did they change your own perspective on photography?
There weren’t really any aspects that surprised me, because I had studied the photographers in the book beforehand, read about them, and know many of them personally.
The book and the interviews just encouraged me to take time for myself, to continue on my own humble path, and not worry about the product, result, or success.
15. Is there something you want to add for our readers?
I sincerely hope that the book will find many readers who will enjoy this content and that it will accompany them on their own journey. The book originated as a heart project with me, and I would be happy if it is also received as such.
I wish the reader an exciting journey of discovery with Voice of the Eyes. The book can be ordered exclusively on the Internet at the following address: https://voiceoftheeyes.com.
Thank you for the wonderful questions, Roeselien!