Can you pinpoint the day you became a Photographer, a Writer, an Artist?
I realized the other day that I can. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became a photographer on 17 July, 2000.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been taking photos since I was a kid but that was just to take snaps of my friends. When I travelled, I took photos to document those travels. The only thought that went into that was ‘I should take a photo of this thing to remind myself that I was there.’ There were no artistic choices made. Just one photo to still in a binder with a label “John Milton’s House.” Or “Niagara Falls”.
On the 17th of July, 2000, we were on our second trip to Bavaria in two months. Specifically, we were at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest”. It was one of those places that you could feel the history, the footsteps you were walking in. Perhaps that’s what brought out such a creative moment. I was standing in the exact spot Hitler stood. The story goes that this was his favourite place on earth and I could see it. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. You can’t help but wonder… how could a man who could see such and appreciate such beauty, create the exact opposite? I don’t know. But it’s one of my favourite places, too. I wish I could have stayed there so much longer, exploring the mountain trails and enjoying the scenery.
There was this big rock and I thought ‘if I get up there, I could get a great shot of the building with the Alps in the back. It would be really pretty. So I climbed up there. (I’m the one on the left, in the blue coat and flannel. Those other people are strangers. I’m not sure who was photo bombing who.)
That would be the perfect spot to photograph Königssee below. My parents were certain I was trying to kill myself.
When I got there – right to the edge, of course – I had to get the tree in the shot because, well, I couldn’t stretch out anymore without, you know, actually killing myself. But I didn’t think ‘argh. tree.’ I realized that it would be interesting to have on the side, thought I didn’t know about ‘framing’. I just thought it would be interesting.
Two days later, we were touring around Alpenstrasse and came across what I call ‘Lily Lake’. “I need to take a picture!” I said and we pulled over so I could get out. I think that may have been the first time I ever made anyone stop the car for a photo. When I approached the scene, I knew my camera enough to know that the edges would be dark and, like that tree in the previous photo, it would frame the lake wonderfully.
I still take ‘snaps’ for basic documentation purposes, but now I always take a step back, afterward, and think how I can shoot that in a more artistic way. I’m not always successful, but I think about it and I attempt it. You can thank/blame Bavaria for that.