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Photography Showcase: Pulitzer-Winning Photojournalist James Hill

Photography Showcase: Pulitzer-Winning Photojournalist James Hill

James Hill has been one of the world’s leading photojournalists for the past three decades. His images have been published by all the major international media and awarded with the most significant international prizes, World Press Photo and the Pulitzer Prize among them. His name is well-known not only for his striking images of militarised conflicts in different countries, but also for brilliantly documenting events and capturing faces of modern Russia, where he has been living and working for more than 20 years now. We’re very honoured that James found the time to tell us stories of his spectacular life in photography and share the philosophy of his artistic approach to photojournalism.

How did you become a photographer?

I became a photographer mostly by accident. After university I was going to work in finance in London. But I had an enormous hunger to see the world, so I traveled for a year in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. With me I had a very simple Pentax camera with two lenses. I really enjoyed looking at the world through it. I got excited about photography, so when I got back to England I started looking for some studies. A friend of mine found a course in photojournalism at London College of Printing (London Institute now). After we completed it, we spent a year working there, doing both writing and photography.

It was June 1991 when I decided to go to Russia. Every decision we take has its conscious and unconscious reasons. I blame the enormous amount of Russian literature that I read in school. I was fascinated with Russia. This was the time when Soviet Union was still in existence. I didn’t have a single friend there, and I liked that idea. I tried to visit Soviet Russia, but didn’t manage to get a visa. With the help of a friend I got a visa to Ukraine. In October 1991 I got on a plane with two bags and a camera, some lenses and 30 rolls of film given to me by London Times. I spent four years working as a freelance from Kiev. During that time I traveled in Ukraine, Russia, Caucasus, Central Asia. It was easy and cheap, I didn’t have much money but it wasn’t a problem. Finally, in 1995 I got a contract with New York Times and went to work to Moscow.

What was your first impression of Moscow?

I’d been to Moscow before. Comparing with Kiev it was like coming from a provincial town to a capital. Despite the common ground, they’re very different cities. When I came to Russia, it was (and still is) a different experience. You have the feeling of vastsness of this country. Working here gives you a perception of something endless: wherever you go, however many places you visit – you still haven’t seen everything. This is the mental idea of Russia: it’s so enormous that you always feel you never really captured it. That’s what has kept me here for 20 years.

Do you think you experienced dramatic professional growth during the first years of your career or did it take much more time to feel like an established photographer?

In any art forms there is a battle taking place: a mismatch between an artist’s ability to capture something and the idea or the concept that he wants to convey. When I look back at contact sheets (it was in 1990s, and there were no digital computers ), I see many opportunities, many moments that I didn’t really have the ability to capture. It took a long time to train the eye. Despite the technical aspect, there’s also artistic development. As a journalist you have to deal with the extremes, which is very difficult. For example, I went to Georgia in 1993 to shoot the civil war, then I went to Nagorny Karabakh and Chechnya. Being in such places drives your personal growth. At that time I wasn’t aware it would be that hard. I grew up in a generation with no war. And emotionally it was very complicated and very distressing. With all these feelings, you still had to work correctly. 1990s was the big time of growing up, sometimes harsh, sometimes coming on its own without your awareness – there was just something happening.

Your photos – despite being works of a photojournalist – most of the time leave the impression of fine art photography. How has your artistic style been formed?

Photography is such a different art form to painting. It is a strange form, it’s like at the same time you are creating and not creating the frame you’re capturing, because things are going on on their own. What is interesting about photography is that if you put 20 photographers in one place, there will be 20 different images. It is very personal. And this point of view will be different not only in physical sense, there’s also a different point of view in terms of artistic response to what we see.

I am very concerned with the artistic quality of the image. I think that some photojournalists are often concerned by dynamic of the action more, and I am also concerned by it, but I also work hard on the framing. You should be using every single part of the frame. I am looking at the corners, balance the background and the foreground, shape the image. Not everyone’s like that. I have been criticized that I make images of war too beautiful. I don’t want to deny that accusation. What I want to do in depicting war is to show that the two things can exist at the same frame, violence and beauty exist at the same moment. I am trying to make a person spend some more time in front of the picture, questioning themselves. Because to me, photography is a question rather than an answer.

One of the painters always influenced me is Giotto. When you look at his paintings you see so much going on all across foreground and background, it’s very busy and lifelike. There’s a church in Padua painted by Giotto, and there’s an extraordinary panel where you see the body of Christ and the people standing around him grieving. But there’s a strange detail, as there are figures in the foreground turned with their back to the viewer. And this is the moment that brings life into image. This is the concept of the wholeness of image, which is very important. It must be comprising many different details that a viewer is able to find. It doesn’t always work, but that’s the aim.

Who else are the artists and photographers that influenced you?

There are 2 photographers that influenced me most. They are Irving Penn and August Sander. I just find what I like in the portraits of both of them is that they’re very honest and very intimate. That’s the most important thing – the sense of intimacy. The person that you’re photographing removes their defences and you can not only see what’s outside but feel what’s inside.

You already told us about your experience in Karabakh, Georgia and Chechnya. Was it much different for you later, when you got back to war in early 2000s and went to the Middle East?

I was much more ready emotionally, having been in other wars. It’s very true what a famous photographer Robert Capa said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. I think you got to be prepared to get very close to war. It doesn’t only take physical courage, but also emotional courage.

In 2003 I was in Iraq for three and a half months. I was surrounded by US Marines. This invasion was a very strange war, there wasn’t really very much resistance. There were ferociously armed American and British troops, and the people they were fighting were not equipped at all. We often traveled at night, sometimes there was an intense fight for a very short period of time and then nothing for a couple of days. I was asking myself many questions about the role in these events – was I involved or not?

When I was in Afghanistan, I was by myself, I wasn’t with any force. What I felt was this extraordinary extreme, a very cold relationship between life and death. Death was a daily occurrence accepted without much reaction. There were people very poor and still ready to share their last piece of bread. Then they start asking you who you’re with, who you support, and in the next moment you can’t say whether they like you or not. I was really captured by the beauty of the nature and the people, at the same time I was astonished by the lack of emotional response to people’s death. I had a hard time moving between these two extremes. And I think that eventually when I came out from there I wasn’t in a very good state.

My wife was pregnant during me being at both wars, this helped me a lot to come back to peaceful life. It’s really thanks to her I recovered. She used to tell me that for a while after I got back she felt much like there was a stranger in her bed. This brutal experience really changes you. You become very hardened there, you have to, otherwise you can’t do it. It’s huge and traumatic stress, but luckily I managed to get over it.

What made you settle down in Russia after that?

I often say that edges are the most interesting places to photograph. One of the most fascinating journeys to the edge was the trip to Chukotka that I did in 2007. We traveled for 3 days through tundra and all we saw was endless whiteness. And as we arrived to the sea – it was frozen. It was like we were contemplating the end of something that was endless. The edges exist in many different forms. And being in Russia for me is an attempt to get to the edge in the physical sense. I also feel that Russian people themselves are people who emotionally exist very much on the edge. They are very emotionally interesting.

Why is your first book called ‘In Russias’?

That book is a collective production. We had a very hard time deciding what to name it. And of course, there was an idea to convey that I am showing Russia in the eye of the foreigner. I think that some Russians find it curious to look at, and others find it absolutely insulting or completely wrong. They see what they see: maybe too many military pictures, or too many tall blondes. It seemed so impossible to capture Russia in one go, there are so many different faces of this country. That is probably one of the main ideas: what the photographs reflect is the pass of the enormous, everchanging, impossible to capture space.

How did winning international awards such as Pulitzer Prize and Word Press Photo influence you?

I don’t think it really changes anything. An artist is always doubtful about the quality of his work. Getting an award is the moment of aware that you can put these doubts away. It’s very satisfying that your work is recognised within the community. In a way it’s also very bounding. It is something that I’m very grateful to receive, I feel that my work is valued.

You seem to have work with many celebrities and politicians. Do you think they are very different from all the other people?

It’s very interesting to work with famous people. Sometimes they let you close, sometimes not. Sometimes they work hard to make an image with you, and sometimes not. I did a portrait of Naomi Campbell for New York Times magazine, she was very late for the shoot. When she got there, we made 200 images, which is approximately 15 minutes of intense work. She made probably 200 poses. She is very beautiful and looks amazing at every shot, but she really works for it.

I find it very frustrating to do portraits. It’s complicated: there are many things that influence the result, including location, light, psychology. But sometimes a person really wants to help you, or he or she is extremely photogenic, or it’s a gift. I once photographed Renata Litvinova. She was 1.5 hour late. When she turned up, she told me she had only two minutes. This isn’t not going very well, I thought. But when I developed the film, the pictures were amazing. And I realized that she did all the hard work: I wasn’t doing much except being angry with here coming late.

What will be your advice to young people who want to become photojournalists?

I think you have to find work you feel passionate about. Both the work you do for yourself and the work you’re assigned to do. Do the projects and photoshoots that you really want to do, and this will be your best work. But I think it’s also important to take yourself out of your comfort zone and do projects that you’re not very comfortable with. It’s also important to push yourself. When I went to wars, I was pushing myself to the edge. But this edge can be around the corner as well. And It’s not about distances, it’s more about yourself. Not only about looking at the world, but also about trying to see what is inside of you and find your character.

To see more of James's work, visit his website:

Photographу Showcase: The Restless Ocean of Luke Shadbolt

Photographу Showcase: The Restless Ocean of Luke Shadbolt

Luke Shadbolt is a photographer from Australia who aims to explore the most dangerous and chaotic side of the ocean. Having vast experience in shooting water sports, he applies his knowledge of the elements in an artistic way to make images that astound, frighten and fascinate. After the presentation of his new series at Photo London, we talked with Luke about his creative background, ideas behind his fine art projects and his approach to the ocean, a model with character.

How did you become a photographer?

When I was a kid, I was really into drawing and painting. I was around 10 years old when surfing took over though, and spent the next 10 years pretty singularly focused on that. However, after school I got back into visual arts and studied a degree in Visual Communications with the aim to work in graphic design. I started including photographic elements in my work, and got more involved in photography from there. I then took on a role as the art-director for a surfing magazine, which got me a lot more opportunities to shoot in the ocean which I was very passionate about. That was how I got into photography really. I starting shooting more and doing less design work and moved into more commercial photography. Then in the last two years I started exploring the fine art side. I still do some art direction which I still very much enjoy. I feel fortunate to be able to work across multiple disciplines, the variety keeps it interesting and they complement each other.

What made you start doing fine art projects?

It was just a progression. One of the projects I did with the surfing magazine was shooting a book. I traveled about 9 months of the year for it and also helped to produce a film for the project. After a year of last minute trips and chasing perfect waves I felt a bit burnt out. At the same time I felt that I was doing all this work not for myself, but for someone else. I wanted to do something out of my own interest, and that’s my first project titled Maelstrom originated. I tried to find the craziest, most chaotic instances of the ocean I could find, with an emphasis on what creates those chaotic movements. When I approach a new project, I like to start with an idea and see where it ends up through the process of creating it. Over the course of taking photos and editing I uncover the meaning behind the idea. It might seem sort of like reverse engineering, but for me it is all about the process, to look at the events and see what actually happened and understand why. Maelstrom was the first try for me, and it was a very steep learning curve. I was very fortunate to start working with the Michael Reid Gallery here in Australia off the back of that series. After showing my first exhibition with them last year as a part of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, they ended up representing me as an artist, which is how I ended up at Photo London with my second series Acquiesce The Front.

What was the process behind shooting Maelstrom?

I have been shooting surfing over the course of the last 6-7 years. Through my travels I picked up certain spots which, depending on conditions and time of year, might create something interesting in terms of the sort of chaotic movements I was looking for. I’d go to these very remote locations and spend all day watching and trying to anticipate the waves. Spending 12 hours a day in nature was really awesome experience.

Can you name the spots you shot for the series?

I actually can’t reveal where it was shot. I made an agreement with the locals that I wouldn’t reveal locations, just to keep the peace. Plus, it creates an element of mystery around the project.

What is your experience in surfing? Are you a professional surfer?

Ha, no not at all. I grew up bodyboarding and only I started surfing around the same time that I began taking photos. Today I’m surfing mostly, occasionally bodyboarding depending on conditions, but definitely the best way for me to start my day is going for a swim in the ocean. There was a time for 5 years that I was shooting surfing, that I would be chasing every swell around Australia, but now I’m ready for new challenges. I’d much prefer to actually surf than shoot most of the time. I do still shoot surfing occasionally, but mostly when I have a new idea that I want to try it out, or if there’s a spot I haven’t shot before, or a group of riders. It’s more specific. But I’ve been involved in the ocean since I was 5 years old, it’ll always be a huge part of my life.

Are you sharing your creativity between commercial and artistic projects? How does it work for you?

I still have to pay the bills, which the commercial side obviously helps with. It is really enjoyable as well though, I like the challenge of working out ideas that will be understood by the audience and the client, it’s a different sort of challenge than what I face when I’m working for myself. With my art practice it’s a slower process, more self-reflective. It’s like one is looking inside, the other is looking outward. I really enjoy both of them though.

Getting back to your creative path, was there anyone who influenced you?

I had a great mentor in Phil Gallagher, a brilliant surf photographer who probably isn’t as well-known as he should be. He pioneered many surf spots around remote areas of Australia. He was actually the editor at the surf magazine I was art director for, I learned a lot from him. This is the sort of relationship that I recommend in any industry. Find someone you respect and learn as much as you can from them. We still sometimes work on some projects together, but we’re also good friends still.

As far as surf photography, I also was really influenced by Dustin Humphrey. He doesn’t shoot that much these days, but he was amazing in early 2000s. He’s a great example of the idea being at the strength of the image, always trying something different.

Have you ever taken risks to shoot something extraordinary?

Well, my initial idea for Maelstrom was that I wanted to shoot from the water in these sorts of conditions, and I nearly drowned myself a few times. That was only on the smaller days. I luckily had a friend who I talked into coming along with me, who acted as my spotter, which definitely helped alleviate any concerns my fiance had with me heading off to shoot these waves. Taking risks is essential. Calculated risks though, preparation is essential.

How do you usually choose destinations? Do you like planning everything carefully when you travel for photography?

It is very often last minute planning. What’s really important is the understanding of the location. Most of the timing depend on the elements, so you can’t plan everything out in detail. I plan as much as I can, but a lot of the time I just spend extended periods in certain locations to make sure I have captured what I aim to achieve. I’ll often go back to certain locations several times before I’m happy with the output.

What is coming next, after Maelstrom?

I just launched a new photo series Acquiesce the Front, which was presented at Photo London. With Maelstrom I was looking for the chaotic movements of nature and what’s behind them, but I was really focusing on the final big impact. I tried to make the new series textural and a little bit more abstract, more puzzling, showing the moments in betweens the waves as well. Like the situation on a global scale with all the worries about Brexit, Trump coming to power in US etc. I realise that’s a very liberal viewpoint, but everyone has worries which is my main point. I think that you can apply the aesthetic of the storm to what is happening socially, and in turn subjectively. The storms come and go but you can learn from them rather than let them envelope you, and you then apply that learning to the future.

I’m planning to exhibit Acquiesce the Front in November at the Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney, Australia this year. There are also a couple of projects that I’m still brainstorming. I want to incorporate a technological element into what I do. One half of me is attached to the world of nature, but the other half is bound to the technological world. I’m trying to explore how to make these two work together. I think that the future in general is going to be about the harmony of these two things. And we have to try to find this harmony, because advancements are not slowing down. That’s the direction, and there are several different ways I can approach that. I’m going to start with that broad idea, and I’ll see where it goes.

What would be your advice to photographers who want to shoot waves?

Experience with the ocean will always help, so just spending time in and around waves is a start. Be careful, that’s what I’d advise. No matter how familiar you get with the ocean – nature will always throw something unexpected at you. Also, remember that photography is a tool, a medium. It’s a means to realise an idea. You shouldn’t try to copy anyone or be the next whoever. Take inspiration of course. But first, understand why you want to shoot waves, and after that go for it.

To see more work by Luke, visit his website:

Photography Showcase: Alicia Moneva

Photography Showcase: Alicia Moneva

Alicia Moneva is a photographer and artist based in Madrid, Spain. With her works she explores what it means to be a human being, an individual and a part of society. Inspired by the deep studies of human nature and history of art, she immerses the viewer into the uncanny world of unconscious and interpersonal, at the same time giving a lot of space for her images’ interpretation. We talked with Alicia to find out what brought her to creation of this impressive artistic universe.

How did you get to where you are right now?

I have never been a good student. In my youth I used to spend time drawing and painting. When I finished studying biology at university, I got in touch with the world of architecture. I learned to perceive space and light in a new way. At that time, a terrible misfortune occurred. My family member became a victim of the terrorist attack. Suddenly, despite all the tragedy of the situation, I felt integrity and moral strength essential for a vital change in the scale of values. Indeed, dealing with illness, even death, is an essential part of life, and it happened to be a turning point for me.

Was there anyone who influenced you?

Personally speaking, of course the situation with the close person of mine that I described before influenced me a lot. Artistically speaking, the architects that I worked with, especially my husband, Javier García García. I could also mention great painters like Velazquez or Van Gogh, or philosophers like Quintín Racionero, poets such as J.L.Borges and all the artists, scientists, and people who taught me to look at the world at a different angle.

Have you ever taken risks to move forward?

I don’t really think there are many risks in creating. Making mistakes, maybe? But it is not a risk, it is just one more step in the creative process.

The sense of risk, in my case, has to do with my daily life, since I live with and support a chronically ill person, so I always try to find a space for happiness. I also strive to be true with my ideas and personal ethics, which also has an element of risk, probably.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

My parents never took arts seriously. On the other hand, my siblings, especially my sister Marisol and her daughter Musqui, have always been supportive, giving me encouragement and energy, when I needed them most. My friends have also transmitted their admiration and support. I can not complain, life has given me the most precious good it could – people who really love me.

Where’s home and how living there influences you?

I live in Madrid and I like it. It is a big cultural hub and a city with many alternatives. The mixture of people is terrific, all the different ones are all well received. This enriches you much, both socially and individually.

Do you have a routine?

In photography, I always work on an idea, usually related to human being. I read a lot on the topic, I keep myself informed. I want the final image to be a visual poem, beautiful but disturbing at the same time. I also have other, not recommended routines, since I mostly work at night, because it is the best time of the day for me.

How would you describe your style?

It is difficult to speak about yourself. In paintings, I tend to use realistic style, but without hyper realism. I collect objects that tell stories, spaces and fragments that summarize a whole. I like dealing with light, studying it, but I especially love shadows, an imaginary of possibilities.

In photography, I am more conceptual, and I always work with images of people. Photography was just the question of time for me. I started studying psychology and later, philosophy. I needed means to tell things by mixing characters, and I started taking pictures, because painting could not convey what I am expressing now with my photography and video art.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

Philosophy, psychology, poetry, and theoretical physics, mainly. I am also very interested in human interactions. They never cease to amaze me, often for worse, but sometimes for good, too. These occasions are the ones that fill me with inspiration and hope for humanity.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

I hope in a few years, even in longer time, I'll be doing the same I'm doing now: learning, painting and taking photographs with the same devotion and pleasure.

To see more of Alicia's work, visit her website:

Photography Showcase: Astrophotography of Tom O’Donoghue

Photography Showcase: Astrophotography of Tom O’Donoghue

We’ve been thrilled to see the works of many passionate professionals in different genres at Photo London 2017. We got particularly fascinated by the images from the astrophotography section and decided to find the photographers who would help make our readers familiar with their craft. Our first hero is Tom O’Donoghue from Ireland, an astrophotographer with multiple international award and a vast experience in his field, who is truly devoted to his art. We’ve talked with Tom about the process and technical side of taking complex images of space objects, his inspirations and personal achievements.

How did you become an astrophotographer?

While I was interested in astronomy as a teenager, I did not become an astrophotographer until I bought my first telescope and camera over 10 years ago. It was a long focal length Schmidt Cassegrain, one which uses mirrors. My first photos were of the moon and planets using a web camera. There was new software available to split the videos into single frames. From here you could select the best to stack into a single image for the best sharpness, contrast and image quality. This was the slow and steady beginning, which has now accelerated to multiple forms of astrophotography, with different equipment set ups, and from different locations.

What kind of equipment does it demand and what stages does the process involve? Could you describe in simple words for non-technical minds?

I quickly learned that no single telescope, and camera could operate at its best for high resolution planetary images, and widefield long exposures on my budget.

Deep sky astrophotography involves taking pictures of galaxies and nebulae that are very faint, and at such a long distance that very long exposures are needed to capture their light.

I decided to buy a refractor telescope, one that uses lens rather than mirrors, and couple that with a CCD camera. This is a cooled camera, and a PC or a laptop is required to run it. In deep sky photography the cooled imaging chip is the king, as shooting dim skies can cause a lot of noise in the images. The cooling of the chip helps to negate this noise.

Do you need to travel far for you pictures?

It depends on what type of image I’m trying to capture. For my deep sky works I travel to the South of France where my telescopes are located. Here I can get many nights of work with the multitude of clear nights. This allows me to get hours and hours of data for each image. The more hours of data, the more photons I capture – the better the data to work with in processing.

We do get the Northern Lights in Ireland when there is a strong outburst, so that is a bonus to living at 53 degrees North. However I have travelled to Norway and Iceland for Aurora photography, where the lights can be seen about 250 nights a year, and they appear more overhead, due to their higher latitude of Northern Europe. In Ireland we have a stunning West coast. Recently I have been travelling more in Ireland, scouting out locations for Milky Way photos, with beautiful and interesting foreground scenes. These generally are weekend trips with maybe 10 hours of driving.

Do your family and friends support you in what you do?

Yes, they do. Despite them sometimes thinking I’m a bit eccentric, out in the depths of night wandering around, but they do see the beauty in the Deep Sky, Aurora and Milky Way shots that I take. I’m always trying to convince them to join me on some trips, at home and abroad.

What kind of obstacles and opportunities does an astrophotographer face?

Opportunities are few and far between. There are International Astrophoto competitions, which help raise your profile, as well as NASA's APOD (Astronomy Photo Of the Day). There are lots of camera clubs and astronomy festivals to give talks to, and to pass on your knowledge and help those who want to try this style of photography. Teaching, inspiring others and displaying your own work is very rewarding.

Obstacles are mainly in the form of trying to take the photographs in the first place. From cloudy weather, to equipment failures, to poor conditions. Once the photos are complete, one difficulty is crossing over to the public domain where trying to emphasise that the photo on display, be it the 400 hour Orion photo, is not just a matter of going out one night, holding the camera in your hand and pressing the shutter. It can be hard to explain the techniques, level of difficulty, and skills needed to produce the image on show.

What do you consider your personal achievement in astrophotography?

I’ve been lucky to win 4 international awards and run two exhibitions of my work, but my personal achievement has to be deciding to go live the dream, and relocate to a dark site in the Spanish mountains for 3 years. While I was there on my own, and living isolated from general life, I was able to concentrate on working on multiple projects throughout the year.

Do you have your personal favorite cosmic objects or structures?

Through the eyepiece of a telescope, Saturn and Jupiter are phenomenal sights. The rings of Saturn and cloud bands of Jupiter are full of colour and details. They never cease to give me goosebumps. Shooting at a location, the Northern Lights are the best fun I’ve ever had. The sky changes so quickly and from different directions, that you are constantly switching views and positions to capture the dancing waves of light.

In deep sky, I just love the blue reflection nebulae and dark nebulae. The blue reflection nebulae have a cyan hue that is striking against a black sky, while the dark nebulae cast shadows as they block out the light from the stars behind them. The Horsehead nebula is the most famous and most photographed of these.

What do you recommend to those who might want to start their way into astrophotography?

For those that want to start, I would say start with a static tripod, and a DSLR taking shots of the Milky Way from scenic locations. If you have a telescope, you can attach your camera to it with a simple adaptor. Then you start taking shots of the Moon, and even the Sun, if you have the proper Solar filters. Join a local Astronomy club to learn more about what is in the sky, and to gain more tips and experience from other astrophotographers.

To see more of Tom's work, check out his website:

Photography Showcase: Paul Bride

Photography Showcase: Paul Bride

Paul Bride is an internationally acclaimed photographer and one of the most noticeable names in extreme photography today. Based in Squamish, British Columbia, he actively travels the world for his numerous projects, shooting images of nature and extreme sports able to astound even most tempted spectators. We talked with Paul about his way into photography, his work with professional climbers, his international awards and creative plans.

How did you become a photographer?

Truth be told, photography chose me. I never set out to be a photographer and never had any formal training past one semester in grade 10. It wasn’t until after I’d finished college and was leaving for a 6-month solo trip through Asia that I picked up a camera and even then it was only a little point and shoot film camera that my girlfriend at the time (now wife) loaned to me. Armed with eight rolls of Kodak print film, I set off.

Upon my return home to Canada I had the film developed and was pleasantly surprised with my photos but more importantly noticed the composition mistakes I’d made and was curious how to fix them. I started reading everything I could about photography. Approximately a year later I bought my first SLR camera and it was as if someone turned on the lights: full manual photography just made sense.

I was always skiing, climbing, hiking, etc. and got a job bartending nights so I could shoot during the day. I always had a subject because I was always in the mountains with friends. Digital didn’t exist at the time so you had to be very careful how much you shot. 35mm slide film was what the pro’s used at the time so I went out and bought a few rolls, nailed a couple images I was proud of and started submitting my work via the mail to outdoor magazines, and editors just started buying my work. I remember getting a phone call very early in my career from a climbing magazine after my first submission to them asking me who I was and what kind of training I’d had. “None,” I said and then they let me know my image was going to be on the front cover.

I thought, “Wow – one of the magazines I read and love was going to print my image on the front cover!” I couldn’t believe it nor did I until I was holding the copy in my hand.

It’s now over 60 front covers later and on assignment globally for some of the top outdoor companies and magazines in North America, and I’m still just as excited as when my career began.

What and who influenced you creatively?

My biggest influence has always been my own imagination. Looking back, I was a pretty weird kid with an overactive imagination. I was always fighting dragons or pretending I lived on some far off planet. I spent a good part of my childhood playing alone in a ravine across from my parents’ house. It was only a little section of forest with a small creek in the heart of the suburbs outside of Toronto, but to me it was the coolest place on earth where Bigfoot lived and adventures happened every day.

When I got older and started traveling and getting into photography, I saw what was possible when I came across the work of Steve McCurry in National Geographic. He was someone that I really admired and still aspire to today. The places he had been to and the people he took images of really influenced my work and what I wanted to accomplish in photography.

How do you usually choose a new destination? Do you plan everything carefully before the trip or prefer being spontaneous?

When it comes to photographing climbing the destination is always pre-determined. Usually, the athletes I work with have an idea of what they would like to climb, how technical and big the routes are influences how much planning or spontaneous the trip is going to be.

What places have you visited lately and what is on your bucket list?

I’m constantly on the road. This year alone I’ve done approximately 40 flights, multiple destinations throughout North America and Asia. I just arrived home from shooting a surf trip aboard a yacht in the Banyak islands off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and am currently in San Francisco during this interview.

Next month I’ll be in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Northern BC, then hopefully back to Europe in the fall, then Australia and Papua New Guinea before the year’s end. My bucket list of locations is pretty long, but to share a few: Antarctica, Siberia, and the Faroe Islands.

Can you think of your photo with a special story behind it?

I have a few special images, but the most recent is of climber Marc Andre Leclerc taken last year in Scotland. It was early morning approximately 4am when Marc myself and Paul McSorely left the parking lot in torrential rain heading up to Ben Nevis by headlamp. I remember Marc saying how much he loved bad weather as we approached the mountain, moving higher the rain turned to snow and the three of us kept ascending. As morning broke it was a full blizzard, a complete white out except for the rock face in front of us.

I was having a really tough time shooting, as the snow and winds were so bad. Most of my time was spent cleaning off my lens. I did manage to capture one special image of Marc before calling it quits for the day, it is entitled “The Storm” and won first place in the CVCE international photography competition in Bilbao Spain, first place in the extreme sports category in the International Photographer Awards from New York City, and made the top 55 finalist for the Red Bull Illume. It will travel the globe for the next 2 years as part of a photography exhibit illuminated at night.

How does travel change you as a person and as an artist?

Travelling has opened my mind to new experiences and cultures, visiting beautiful landscapes has inspired me to see more and create more than I thought was possible. The more I travel the more I want to see…

Do you think a photographer must be able to take risks for good shots?

That’s a bit of a loaded question. Yes, climbing can be dangerous, and so can photographing it, but with the proper knowledge and correct gear the element of risk is minimized. When I first started taking climbing images, the set ups and locations were pretty basic. But as I got more involved in photographing climbing, the locations got more elaborate and the risks increased, but my knowledge of safety also increased. In the end the risk is a personal decision that “You” are comfortable with and what “You” consider a worthwhile image.

Is there a recipe for great extreme photos? What are your tips?

If there is a recipe, I don’t know what it is. However, I can offer a few tips that have helped me.

  • Avoid shooting in popular areas, having the same photograph as everyone else won’t get you noticed;

  • Try shooting in bad weather it creates a more memorable visual for the viewer;

  • When shooting travel be up before dawn and always carry a tripod;

  • Research as much as you can before visiting new areas;

  • Be very careful of your horizon lines, crooked images won’t do;

  • Avoid shooting stills on large MB cards. If something was ever to happen to your camera, it would be terrible if you had an entire trip on just one card and lost everything. Shooting on a selection of smaller cards backed up on an external drive will really set your mind at ease.

What kind of creative growth do you expect from yourself in the upcoming years? Do you plan some big projects or special destinations?

For the past 20 years there have always been projects in the works when it comes to my photography. I’m only limited by my imagination, so as long as I stay healthy, special destinations and big projects will remain my focus. Creative growth is something I never force. My ideas regarding photography have both grown and changed over my career, and my interest to pursue new ideas in dramatic locations is still strong. The creative growth will follow.

To see more of Paul's work, visit his website:

Photography Showcase: Shadi Ghadirian

Photography Showcase: Shadi Ghadirian

Shadi Ghadirian is an Iranian artist who has been noticeable on the world’s art scene for the last two decades. In her works she explores the symbolism of everyday routine, traces the connection of the epochs and reveals thoughts and feelings of contemporary Middle Eastern women. Over the time she has honed visual language that speaks to you clearly, despite all cultural or religious differences.

We first ran into Shadi’s artwork at Photo London, where a shot from her Too Loud a Solitude (2015) was presented. It turned out that the picture we saw was a part of her video installation dedicated to the effect of the crowd. In this  you can see an individual opposed to the rush and bustle of the vague human mass around. We decided to dig deeper and found out that Shadi is an established artist who has been sharpening her creative vision for decades, and one of the few who are shaping the contemporary female art scene of the Middle East today.

Shadi Ghadirian studied art and photography at Azad University in Tehran. Her first photo series Qajar was presented in 1998. It depicted Iranian women put in the settings and dressed up in costumes of the Qajar dynasty era, a period of history of Iran from the late 18th to early 20th century. In the images traditionally dressed women are shown with the contemporary objects that are unusual or even forbidden for women in Iran, which resonates with the duality and contradictions of the everyday life in the Middle East. Shadi continued to develop this global concept in her next project.

Qajar was followed by another series transmitting similar ideas and called Like Everyday in 2000–2001. In that period Shadi got married and herself faced the burden that marriage in a traditional society puts on a young woman’s shoulders. “I realized I had never thought about those things — housewifing things,” said Shadi. “Cups, dishes, irons, sweeping, these kinds of things.” In these pictures she is showing women in chadors with their faces replaced by household objects. The symbolic dissolution of a personality might be seen in the images.

Miss Butterfly is another series of the artist dedicated to the Eastern women’s way of living, depicting it in monochrome. Women are shown as butterflies living in a dark cold place with webs that separate them from the rest of the world. But instead of trying to tear the web apart and fly away, they are tirelessly working to complete it – in the blind obedience to the order of things, or like victims of Stockholm syndrome.

Living in one of the most militarised regions of the world, Shadi Ghadirian could not be silent about war, with grief and fears it is bringing to people’s houses. She turned to the subject of armed conflicts in her early works, and this took further development in her later series Nil Nil (2008). In the vast series of works she juxtaposes military objects with the ordinary household pieces, such as utensils or women’s colourful clothes. Again, she is looking at war with the eyes of a woman, who has to face the fear without the direct ability to change things or help her loved ones get back home safe.

It is hard to exaggerate how valuable is the position of an artist who speaks out about all that she sees around her with the true artistic honesty and respect to her own roots and traditions.

To see more of  Shadi's work, visit her website:

Photography Showcase: Peter Svoboda

Photography Showcase: Peter Svoboda

Peter Svoboda is an accomplished landscape photographer from Slovakia, whose works have gained international recognition. When you look at Peter’s photos, you see the world with the eyes of a fine artist: smooth lines, curves and waves captured in a frame form an impressionistic picture with their elusive movements. What helps him understand nature so profoundly? We talked with Peter and tried to find out.

Please, tell us more about your background and creative path. How did you become a photographer?

My life has been connected with photography for more than 35 years. Since my youth I have been interested in art. As a child I studied at an art school, where we were focused on drawing and painting. Back then, I loved painting oils on canvas. After some time I decided to explore the magic of the dark room and started shooting on BW film. In a while, I started taking digital pictures. I soon realized that photography will be that wonderful and exciting journey for me.

Later on I became a professional photographer and have been awarded in many well-known international competitions. This year I have been honoured to receive an award which is very important for me, European Landscape Photographer 2017 Golden Camera. I also took first places in such competitions as Tokyo International Foto Awards, International Photography Awards, Moscow International Foto Awards, Prix de la Photographie Paris, and more.

How would you describe your style? Has your style changed or evolved over the years? 

I consider myself a landscape photographer, striving to capture special moments of nature with their unique mood. I love to include a man’s figure into the frame to emphasize humans’ respect to the nature and to show how small we are in comparison with it. I appreciate minimalism in photography and often try to compose my shots within minimalistic concept. My intention is to create easy to read, atmospheric and impressive pictures – those are the shots I am usually satisfied with.

What is your attitude to discomfort during work? Have you ever put yourself at risk for good shots?

I am always thrilled and passionate when taking pictures. I can compare this feeling with the emotions hunters know very well. It doesn’t matter if I am taking pictures in rough weather conditions or in remote locations, skiing deep in the snow or climbing up for hours. There is always passion that warms me up and brings me positive energy.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

Yes, of course. I would have never taken most of my shots without the support of my family, especially my wife, who is also a patient companion in my photography trips.

How often do you travel for photography? What trips or expeditions have been most memorable so far?

I travel quite a lot. If I add it all up together, there are few months spent in nature every year. For example, next week I‘m going on my fourth long photography trip this year. It’s not easy to say which expedition has been most memorable, as I had so many special moments and shots in many of them. I remember the fantastic moment during a shooting in Austrian Alps, when due to the rough weather conditions I was almost not able to stand, and because of the strong wind and grainy icy snow I couldn’t open my eyes and I had to take pictures with my both eyes closed. However, the results were really great. I remember the hurricane winds in the Lofoten, when I had to stand with my both feet on my tripod’s legs in order to take a long exposure pictures. These and many other spectacular scenes I witnessed are forever with me in my memory.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

Nature itself is an endless inspiration for me, its beauty and all those breathtaking moments I saw with my own eyes keep me in constant search for the new rare and precious scenes.

Do you have a creative routine?

I try to be flexible and stay open-minded when taking pictures, as well as during the post-production. Nevertheless, I think that after all those years I have a kind of routine both in composing my pictures and during the processing, when I am often going through the same steps. I call it ‘my old good technique’, and it often brings me satisfying results.

What are your creative plans for the upcoming year?

I have several destination that I’m planning to visit with my camera: these are remote areas in Iceland, Norway, Swiss Alps, Dolomiten, and Patagonia. Besides, I am working on a secret project right now, and I need to collect special pictures for it. I am also preparing my works for a big exhibition that is going to take place in several of European cities.

What is your advice to young people who want to become travel and nature photographers? 

There are so many things to advice that I would like to write a book about it... :) I am really willing to share my experience, tips and tricks with other photographers. Right now I am working as a Head Curator on one of the famous photography internet sites. I‘ve seen so many amazing artistic pictures of different genres, and this great experience is helping me improve my own photography, as the more I teach – the more I learn myself.

Number one attribute is to believe in what you are doing. Be patient, don’t rush for progress. It is waiting for you, but it doesn’t really come easy. Try to pre-visualize the scene you wish to capture. Be patient and give it as many attempts as necessary, until you get what you want. Travel and study the place carefully. And in the end – just go for it. It might sound easy, but it is not. It is the path for the patient ones, but the journey is beautiful indeed.

To see more work by Peter, visit his website:

Photography Showcase: Niki Boon

Photography Showcase: Niki Boon

Niki Boon is a photographer and a mother of four from New Zealand. These two faces of hers harmoniously match: a fan of rural life who grew up on a farm, she is now recreating the freedom that she had in her childhood for her kids – and documenting it in her series of photos. The pictures she takes are full of life and energy unexplained for us, this is why we decided to find out more about her days and craft. Niki told us about the inspiration of the plain rural life, self-practise for a self-taught photographer and baldness of exposing your works to the audience.

How did you get to where you are right now?

My interest in photography started when I travelled and worked overseas after graduating from university, but I never really focused on it too much until we decided to educate our children alternatively at home. I knew I wanted to document our days, but I felt that my photography skills were limited, so I put a lot of late nights into researching how to improve my craft.

Was there anyone who influenced you?

I am someone who is always looking to learn something, and I have enjoyed discovering a wide range of artists in my photography journey so far.

Many of the magnum photographers, both past and present, as well as other documentary photographers have inspired me, their art as well as their passion and drive for their subjects and their stories. I have also been inspired by painters, by sculptors and also by street art, however we don’t have so much of it where I live.

Have you  ever taken risks to move forward?

It was a friend of mine that suggested I put some of my pictures on Facebook. Although it doesn’t sound very adventurous, it was something I was very unsure about doing. But I have over the course learnt that the more I put myself out there, the more I risk the more I gain in terms of connections and community – and the more resilient I become in dealing with the negative that also comes with it all.

How would you describe your style?

Not too sure I have never thought about my pictures having a ‘style’. To be honest, I just shoot what I find interesting, what moves me, or what I want to remember about a time or a moment.

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

I guess so, not outwardly, but they know what I do, and they like the photos I make of both my own and their families, so – yeah, I guess.

Where’s home and how living there influences you?

We live in the top of the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

We live in a big old house  on a 10 acre block of land with paddocks, small vineyard, small pond and wetlands. We are lucky to be surrounded by wild and vast coastline, rivers, bush and hills, all within a short distance from our home.

Do you have a routine?

I am terrible at routine, definitely not a strong point of mine. In the morning and evening we all have jobs to do, both inside the house and outside, including the responsibilities that come from keeping animals. Learning comes all through the day, with whatever comes up, or what the children choose to explore. We will periodically encourage a little maths and writing on some days. Our days are often a mix of staying home and catching up on jobs here, or going out and about and discovering an adventure or too in our surrounding environment.

What gives you ideas and inspires you?

The outdoors, always! Also the crazy, weird, beautiful and unexpected things that kids do.

What do you see yourself doing in a few years?

My kids are growing up so freakin quickly (what is with that?!), so I will work to document what I have left of their days at home, for as long a they are OK with it.

I would love to pursue some long term projects when I have more time, and I have a few in mind, but I will have to see where they lead.

To see more work by Niki, visit her website: