Benjamin Majdlik is a Melbourne based photographer who, despite his quite young age, has already managed to explore several artistic directions in order to form his own vision and style in photography. Benjamin shared with us his ideas on traveling to the right places, sacrificing your comfort and challenging your creative nature for the sake of art and told us why it’s important to let your pictures speak.
How did you become a photographer? Was it an obvious choice or did it take long to find your art?
I am 26, I picked up a camera at the age of 19, pretty late. It was a film camera, so I remember spending all my money on film back then. I fell in love with the concept that I could freeze time and capture the most beautiful things that were happening to me as a teenager. I don’t think I really understood the power of the tool I had in my hands back then. Photography ended up being something that consumed me very quickly; it still consumes me.
Do you consider yourself a travel photographer?
When I’m with my family, I'm the “Dad with the camera”. When I’m in nature, I’m a landscape photographer. Abroad, I am a travel photographer. If I see a moment of injustice and pain, I am a documentary photographer. Even though I do feel very comfortable in the field of landscape photography I still believe that creatively it’s important not to feel comfort in the process of making something. As an artist you should be uncomfortable and challenged, you should put yourself in a place where taking pictures costs you something.
What are the countries you’ve already made photographs in?
I am still quite young to photography, so I don’t have a very big list yet. I traveled and made photos in Japan, a very busy and charming country. Then there was a big trip in China, where I started my way from Guangzhou, going through the center of the country making my way into Tibet and then to Mongolia. That was a very challenging expedition and I think that until that point photography had never played as big part in my everyday life. I was taking almost 1200 photos a day and I didn’t grow tired of it. Other places more recent trekking through Nepal, which took my breath away making my way into India. I have more travel plans towards the end of the year as well.
What was the most difficult and challenging place in terms of comfort?
So far the most physically challenging place has been Nepal. I was working on so far my highest elevation, 7,555 meters and lowest temperatures of around -53 degrees with windchill. That's physically speaking, but culturally – India, from cultural tendencies to food and hygiene, it gets real there. However, artistically it’s probably most difficult to find beauty in something you grow accustomed to, in something monotonous and repetitive, which I usually face whilst being at home. I often get stuck, I start thinking “I need to be somewhere else to create”
In reality, anywhere I am as an artist, I should be striving to create. I can always learn and I can always grow, there’s always a route to see new things, it’s just not always obvious.
Would you tell us a bit more about your landscape photography projects?
My landscapes are an eclectic from around the world, China, Mongolia, India, Japan.
But majority of my works are from around Victoria. It’s interesting, people look at my works and say: ‘Where did you take it?’ thinking views like that would have to be found abroad. I respond a little smugly: ‘It’s only a two hour drive from where you live’. The reality is that the world is beautiful (even your backyard) and you don’t need to travel too far to see and delve into that beauty. You just need to be willing to sacrifice a day, an afternoon, being cold or being too hot, being a little tired – and you’ll see something beautiful.
Works from the landscape series are being sold across the country and overseas now. I have been so privileged to have been scouted by some great interior stylist and stores that have put my works on the map.
Are there any stylistic boundaries for you that form some sort of artistic challenge?
I don’t think that style in photography is something overly conscious for me. I do believe that when I let the people see my works I don’t just show images, I am showing some part of myself and that has consistency of sorts. My way of being transparent, clear and honest in my artform is to be completely me and not try to be someone else in my style. So I think the challenge is to stay me. Growing and bettering my artform in only the way that I can.
What is this creative challenge you’re facing?
It's all pretty fresh and you’ll probably be one of the first I’m sharing these internal ideas with so be gentle. I find my previous works very consistent in terms of excellence and quality but lacking in some sort of . But one day I realized that I want to attach more meaning to my pictures, rather than keep on doing something attractive on an esthetic level. I want my pictures to speak. I want my images to have a story behind them, I want them convey ideas that would let people interact with the art on the level deeper than just a double tap on Instagram. How would I do that? I don’t know exactly, I’m in process.
What are the examples of these photographs among your works?
The photos from my most recent trip to India are all about it. Most of the travel photography from India would tell you that the country is something beautiful, colourful, culturally rich, that it’s full of love and joy. But once I got there I realized that this is a place filled with pain, oppression and injustice. For the first time in my life I caught myself and thought that I didn’t want to make photos, because it was so painful seeing everything around. But then I realized that if I want my photographs to speak – I have to shoot when I’m not comfortable with it, in order to get across the message. Right now I am also working on the project that I call ‘The Discomfort Series’. This will be something that isn’t always pretty, but something honest and true.
Do you think there must be discipline in creativity – or it should be more kind of a free flow?
For me personally it’s a balance of discipline and free flow. I run a fine arts company which most of my most prized works consist of. It has to fit into a normal week. I get only one day off a week, it is usually Wednesday, I am tired and I could very well stay asleep, get a foot on life admin or things of that kind. But I make the time and bring myself to a place where I can create something. For example, after this interview I’ll jump in my car and go into the mountains, where I’ll spend the night in -5 degrees for the first snows of the season so I can take photos of the snow in the morning. I’ll get those photos, edit them and I’ll go to sleep to get back to my full time job the day after. There has to be a balance of pursue and rest, chaos and order. Not letting your eyes get off your focus.
Is there a recipe for great travel photography? What are your tips for young travel photographers?
Travel light. Gear becomes heavy. Be strategic, you won’t be able to change lenses every frame. Don’t shy away from challenge and discomfort, involve yourself in people’s world and before you pull out a camera make sure you understand what youre taking a photograph of. Let your photographs cost you something, pull out some kindness first, you’ll be welcomed into their world, there, a true experience can be shared– you will get something genuine, a real representation of what people and things are like. Do your research, find places that are worth your time. For every country I've visited I spent countless nights and at least 50 hours on research in order to find the right place or right scene to be a part of. Study cultural differences to be able to articulate what the country is like as a whole. And find the place where you want to go for yourself, not for Instagram, go somewhere where you can impact and be impacted.
To see more of Benjamin's work, visit his website: