Nenad Saljic is a photographic artist, based in Zermatt in Switzerland. Prior to becoming an award-winning photographer, Nenad had earned a PhD in Economics and spent 18 years in international business. An avid caver and mountaineer, Nenad found the way to blend together his love of photography and passion for caves and caverns, by exploring the essence of nature and creating powerful images.
How did you get to where you are right now?
I was born in 1961 in Croatia. As a child I was convinced that art wasn’t something I was good at. I thought: “I can’t draw, so, I’m not an artist.” However, my math teacher - also my favorite teacher - introduced me to photography when I was 12, which ultimately persuaded me to go to a film school and make a few Super 8 shorts. You can say photography and the film school redefined my theory of art.
Although I wanted to pursue photography after the film school, my life spiralled in a different direction: I earned a PhD in Economics, used to be a professor at the University of Split, and most of my adult life was spent in the world of international business. But then, in 2006 I got invited to a trekking expedition in the Himalayas. It was a cell-phone-free 20-day purification program, so a compact camera was the only gadget I had with me, although I had no serious intentions of using it.
When I returned home I went through the images made by my friends and myself, and I decided to make an exhibition devoted to our trip. It was the moment when I reassessed my life’s path and decided to return to photography.
Although it took me five years to switch gears completely, I started my first project “Birth of a Ship” in 2007 and completed it in 2008. In 2009 I began the Matterhorn project, which lasted until 2015. Since 2010 I have been working on “Petrified”, and since 2014, on “Naked Mountains”. I have two books published so far: “Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain” (English & German, 2015), and “Birth of a Ship” (English, 2017).
Was there anyone who influenced you?
It’s hard to tell exactly. My inspiration builds up on the experience and cultural background, not on a single artist. However, I could say that the “36 Views of Mount Fuji” - the woodblock print series by Hokusai was in a way an inspiration for the “Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain”. As for photographers, I love the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto and, of course, the work of Ansel Adams made a mark on me.
Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?
Before I switched to photography, I was almost burned out. It wasn’t an easy decision at all, but my wife was 100% on my side. Also, I have friends whom I have known for almost my whole life from caving and climbing adventures; they followed me and helped me a lot on the Matterhorn project. Just like with the Petrified project, which would not have been even possible without the help of my long-time caving friends
Where’s home and how living there influences you?
I’m from the Mediterranean, so naturally I was expected to choose between sailing or swimming as a hobby. However, my math teacher (from the beginning of the story) took our class on a two-day hiking trip. We were only 12, and as one might expect, some weren’t so enthusiastic about it, but I have been hooked on mountaineering ever since. It was a real surprise to my parents and they weren’t particularly happy about it. I came to the sailing later in my life when I was able to afford a sailing catamaran. The sea and the boats were my first photographic subjects, however, I moved to my “natural” environment, the mountains, soon after. I guess, that my mountain genes from my both grandfathers’ side ruled over.
How would you describe your style?
I usually work on long-term projects, that require a lot of thinking, experimenting and editing. It’s always hard work: either photographing in the field or post processing the images later. I don’t sleep with my camera, nor do I bring it with me all the time: I like to observe, to reflect and to feel the object of my work before I start photographing. Most of my work is black and white, but I’ve started to use color in the “Petrified” project. My current project “Naked Mountains” that I’ve been working since 2014 is all in color.
What gives you ideas and inspires you?
I was trained as a mountaineer and a caver, so my first projects were connected with landscape and caving photography. This early work was the seed of ideas that had been hibernating and waiting for a very long time. After hiatus of almost twenty years I’ve just returned where to I stopped a long time ago.
What do you see yourself doing in a few years?
My wife and I have just moved to Zermatt in Switzerland. Right now, I’m working on my project “Naked Mountains”, so I’m planning to hike in the Alps and other mountain ranges for as long as necessary to complete the project.
To see more of Nenad's work, visit his website: