Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Elias Carlson

Elias Carlson
Seattle, US

Landscape photography takes up a significant part within your work; what fascinates you herein?

I've always been fascinated with nature. When I'm outdoors I find myself enraptured with beauty on such a wide scale. I find as much joy in a sweeping landscape as I do in discovering a wildflower I've never seen before. I grew up in the suburbs and I live and work in the city, but I was blessed to have a family that spent a lot of time camping and hiking. In fact, many of my most treasured memories and stories occurred outdoors. I also think there is a freedom and clarity of thought that you can find on a mountain path or in the woods that isn't available in the city. I love the city, but I think I need to escape it from time to time to get my bearings and take a look at things from a different perspective.

How do you cope with differing lighting conditions outdoors?

I'm still learning the ins and outs of managing natural light and I still have a lot to learn. I have yet to experiment with graduated filters, and in landscapes that means you're often dealing with bright sky and darker land. I've found what works best for me is to decide on a mood or a particular subject as the focus of an image and expose with that goal in mind. Probably the most important thing I've learned is simply to wait for the good light, and to be prepared when it comes. Additionally, over time I've gotten better at judging what kinds of conditions are photographable. Sometimes the light is just too intense and it's better to take a pass and come back later.

And how can one prevent nature photography to slip into displaying stereotyped motives?

It's interesting that you've asked this question because it's something I'm constantly thinking about and struggling with. I've taken my fair share of stereotypical landscapes, and I do think it's part of the learning process.
When I first got into photography I was shooting digital, and I picked up a couple of magazines on landscape photography. It seems like every single article on how to achieve a great image was the same. Basically you need a super wide-angle lens and to find something interesting in the foreground to focus on. If you can add leading lines to the image so much the better. I quickly realized that what you end up with is a cookie cutter approach that results in just about every "good" landscape image you see out there these days. After trying this approach a couple of times I became intensely bored with the results. Anybody with a 14mm lens and beach access can go make an image of a starfish on the sand at sunset. What it comes down to in my opinion is vision, honesty and subtlety.
Some of my favorite images from other photographers have some element of discovery in them. It's the "second look" type of beauty that I strive to find. I find that instead of trying to force my view of how things should look onto an image, I have to open my mind and just soak it in for a moment. Usually when I take the time to do that I'll start noticing things that weren't immediately apparent and suddenly an image will pop into place. On the flip side of that, I also have a bit of a shoot-from-the-hip approach to landscape photography. A lot of my shots come on road trips or hikes where I don't have much time to set things up so I just have to frame a shot quickly and keep moving. There's some honesty and an uncontrived feeling that happens with some of my images as a result I think.

Is there something you have been trying to capture a lot of times and feel still haven’t succeeded in properly?

Fog and mist. It's so breathtaking and ethereal. I have a lot of images with fog and mist and I'm not satisfied with any of them. Sometimes they turn out alright, but I have yet to capture the mystery and majesty of vaporized water to a degree that I feel does it justice.

Currently, what kind of photographical motives do you feel drawn to the most in other artists’ works?

Without a doubt honesty and vision. I am drawn to images that show a photographer's ability to see the world and capture it in a way that feels natural and real. I love it when you can feel a photographer thinking through their pictures. One of the things I love about photography is the different levels of engagement that happen with a really amazing shot. There's the initial recognition of beauty, then you dig deeper into the image and discover things you didn't see at first, and during this process you start to get a feel for the vision of the person behind the lens. I don't know that you can call this a "motive" but it is a result of the photographic motives I value.

Do you think that art is something that can be ‘consumed’ in the capitalistic sense of the term?

Well, yes, definitely. Obviously there's a lot of people out there selling prints of their work and trying to make a living creating art. From a purely monetary point of view art can be bought and sold, which would classify it as "consumption", I suppose. On the other hand, a true artistic achievement is timeless and really can't be quantified with numbers.

Is there an art piece you have not grown tired of observing?

Of course. I've always been interested in art. When I was younger I was always drawing things. I used to draw pictures of my favorite professional athletes using baseball cards for reference. I'd also do my best to sketch copies of Alaskan wilderness drawings from a book by wildlife artist Doug Lindstrand. I wanted to be an architect when I was younger and ended up going to school for graphic design. I would say art is a necessity for me. I can't not create it in one way or another. As a result of this lifelong fascination I've been exposed to all of the usual artists. To this day I never tire of revisiting the work of the masters and I always enjoy discovering new art. From a photographic standpoint there are several people on Flickr who I continually revisit: Anna Shelton, Missy Prince, Kevin Lelland, Rachael Schumacher, and Joe Nigel Coleman to name a few. These talented folks have all created images that are a constant delight to see, even after dozens of viewings.

How important do you value interior design and decoration for yourself and the place(s) you live in?

I value it highly, although that falls more into my wife's realm than mine. She has amazing taste and has turned our little apartment into quite a home. While I wouldn't say that I'm responsible for the end product, our sensibilities are very much in line. At the end of the day though, I'm less concerned with the particulars and it becomes more about how I feel in the space. When I'm home I feel at home and that's more important than any article of furniture or decoration.

What would be your first choice to relax and divert yourself from everyday life: short city trips, longer vacations to countrysides or beach holidays?

I love to get outdoors. My favorite place in the world is a cabin in the Methow Valley that my grandparents own. I try to get out there whenever I can. It's about 4 hours from Seattle, so it's close enough that you can make a weekend of it. Not to mention the drive on Highway 20 is unbelievable. My wife's family also goes down to Lincoln City, Oregon once or twice a year to the ocean. In general, if I'm near mountains or any kind of water I'm pretty happy. My wife and I also love to visit the many parks in Seattle when the weather is nice which is always a good one-day diversion. On a random, but somewhat related note, I have played basketball since I was a little kid and one of my favorite things to relax is to go do my dribbling and shooting drills in the morning or after work. Something about the familiarity and repetition of these exercises that I've been doing my whole life is very calming. If I need a 45 minute break from real life that's typically my go-to activity.

Are you a curious person?
I think the people that know me well would agree that curiosity is one of my defining characteristics. I'm endlessly fascinated by all kinds of things, and I find great pleasure in observing the world, or learning about new things. I guess that's how I got into photography. It sounded like fun so I learned everything I could about it and got a camera. One of my favorite things to do in the morning before work is grab one or two cameras and just start walking with no real destination. Sometimes I find wonderful things to take pictures of, other times I just end up walking around for an hour, but I always love it because I'm discovering new parts of the city I've never been before.

Like the touch of fresh air. Take a look at his work!

1 comment:

Elias Carlson said...

Thanks again for the interview! I had a lot of fun :)