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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elemental Energy


Rafael Rojas sorts through the earth’s kinetic frenzy to create structured, graphic images that connect the viewer to the scene and to nature as a whole

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Rojas uses the panorama format frequently. He says, "The format is so strong that it is easy to fall into the pitfall of conferring too much power to the format alone, where it is easy to hide a mediocre composition or simplification. Rotating webcams could create a panorama, but only a photographer can create a good panoramic photograph."
Rojas' quest is to remind us, the first generation of humans totally detached from the natural world, about the necessity of our connection to the earth. "For millions of years we lived as another species," Rojas says, "grounded to our natural environment. Cities have become the new ecosystem for us, an artificially created one where, from one day to the next, we have eliminated ancestral experiences so basic to our natural history. That has created a void, which we have tried to fill with equally artificial tools or goodies—like money, career, success, commercial malls and technology. That urban world and those goodies keep us busy, and alienated in most cases, and it is virtually impossible for us to remember what happened to that natural world our ancestors enjoyed. So when we come with the idea of protecting it, how are people going to react? It is difficult to realize the need to protect something you do not know exists—even more so when that would compromise your 'real' source of happiness: those same goodies that we created. How do you trade the car for a bike to protect a polar bear you only see on TV? Why change oil for sustainable sources of energy when the coast of Alaska is far from most of us?"

Wherever he may find them, Rojas is drawn to particular subjects, the basic elements that form the foundation of everything. It's variety in these elements that drives him to the ends of the earth: mountains and deserts and forests, water and wind and earth.

"There are certain convictions that might model the way I photograph," he explains. "I like color, variety, getting out of my comfort zone and experimenting with new situations, techniques and subjects. I have always enjoyed diversity. Maybe that is why I would never specialize on photographing just the mountains or the woods or the desert alone. I feel the magic of the mountains even stronger when I have been in the ocean a bit before, or that I can connect better with the forest when I have experienced the desert."

Rojas' goal isn't to find the grandest, most unique, most iconic location in the most exotic parts of the world. It's more about stirring a transcendent connection to nature wherever he may be. His mission, after all, is greater than photography.
Rojas' goal isn't to find the grandest, most unique, most iconic location in the most exotic parts of the world. It's more about stirring a transcendent connection to nature wherever he may be. His mission, after all, is greater than photography.
"By protecting wilderness," Rojas says, "we protect ourselves first of all. In the end, all the environmental causes focus on our well-being. Unless we make the planet explode from the core, nature will never perish, and where mountains exist today, deserts will appear or tropical forests will grow. When we talk about protecting the environment, we talk about conserving our home, improving our quality of life, becoming happier and healthier and living in a more balanced way. If we do not do things properly, our chance will pass and our species will decline. Give the earth some billions of years, and it will recover as if we had never been here.

"I tend to be optimistic," he continues, "and, in fact, as nature photographers, we must be optimistic. Our photographs and videos can bring to cities a piece of what is out there, to reconnect people with what was once part of us. But that is the tip of the iceberg. A good photographer, an artist photographer, will bring not only a piece of nature to the people, but an emotive, touching and personal view of it, and that is where the real power of photography is—conveying emotions, speaking a universal language to touch the sensitive fiber of people, making them dream with nature and realize there is no need to look for magic or fantasy in Tolkien or Harry Potter books, but just go for a walk during a misty day to the local forest."

Adds Rojas, "The world we dream of, that paradise, is right here, and by ignoring it, we destroy it. That is where I see the role of photography—it shows others the treasures we have, it moves people and touches the emotions, it speaks an international language."

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