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Photographers' Journey

Updated: May 6, 2020


It’s been a long and winding road. Or borrowing instead a term from a Dutch friend, if nothing else our journey has been travelous. Sølvi and I spent years living in each other’s home countries of Norway and the US. And then places completely foreign to us -- West Africa and South Asia. We had a hunger to experience more of the world. And it was a choice we made for our children, based on a conviction that they would benefit from growing up knowing more than one culture, geography, and way of looking at things.

Mark Twain famously wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, and we fell for it. We have lived on four continents (so far) and traveled extensively within each. It’s been interesting. Not always easy, not always good at a given moment, but for us on the whole it has definitely been worthwhile. We’ll keep exploring.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” - Jack Kerouac

It’s been a journey as well with our photography and writing. Sølvi and I are both earth scientists, and in that role it’s all left-brain objectivity, order and analysis. We’ve enjoyed it and are thankful that has allowed us to see a bit of the world but we’ve hungered to exercise more of our right brains. Good geoscience requires creativity and interpretation (to connect the dots - there’s a lot under the ground one cannot see), which we’re now working to channel in a more artistic direction. Our web site with photos and writing is a beginning. Maybe we’ll fall flat on our faces and that beginning will be a middle and end too, but we’re giving it a try. We don’t yet know quite where it will lead.

“Practice any art . . . no matter how well or badly . . . to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” - Kurt Vonnegut

Through the years our picture-taking has evolved, hopefully for the better. Lately I’ve been doing homework on some of the great masters of street photography, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt. And for years I’ve been an admirer of Steve McCurry, who’s been a muse as we were living in South Asia where he’s done much of his work. Let me show a couple examples of what’s coming out of that . . .

Here’s a photo I took of a young Buddhist monk in Bhutan, up in the eastern Himalayas. He’s standing alone in a thicket of prayer flags watching some of his mates play soccer. My first approach was to crop the photo around the boy, which is the core of what this image is about. When I took the shot I regretted that I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, to get a tighter shot. The result is reasonable, I guess, but nothing to really jump up and down about.

Recently I reconsidered how I’d cropped the image. I opened it up, giving the young man more 'room to breathe' and I think that results in a much stronger, more interesting photograph . . .

I am surprised sometimes how much a photo can change depending on how it’s cropped. Where the eye lingers and what it hurries past. In this example I also enjoy seeing how the boy is leaning in alignment with the few ill-disciplined prayer flags, thanks to the wider field of view.

Below is another photograph to think about. This was taken in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi, on the Ganges River. It was shot from a small unsteady rowboat. The sun had just come up, and its light was muted by an early morning haze. The half-strength light plus movement of the boat resulted in the image being less sharp than I’d like. I was going to discard it but Sølvi encouraged me to reconsider. Sometimes if the content and composition of a photograph are strong enough, they may overcome technical imperfections. Is that the case here?

I’d like to think this photo invites a second look, for the viewer to consider the expressions and interactions of the women. That plus the colorful saris and the motion-blurred seagull overhead may result in a worthwhile image after all.

Our journey continues. Sølvi and I will keep exploring, whether around the corner or to places further afield. We’ll continue to work with imagery, both in words and photographs, to try to tell stories of people and places. And maybe in some small way encourage others to see that in diversity there is strength and beauty.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” - Ellen Parr

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