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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Masters Of The European Landscape

On photography, wilderness and the differences between continents

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And Suddenly, Winter. Valtournenche, Valle d’Aosta, Italy. Lago Bleu is a small lake lying at the base of The Cervino (better known as the Matterhorn outside Italy). De Faveri noticed the clouds were moving fast, so he opted for a very long exposure (80 sec.) to produce the beautiful motion blur in the sky.
Paolo De Faveri

Europe lacks the vastness of the wild areas of the American West. In North America, the Rocky Mountains are thousands of miles long and hundreds of miles wide, while in Europe, the Alps and the Pyrenees are only a small portion of that.

Perhaps the biggest difference lies in what an American and a European mean with the word “landscape.” For Americans, I guess the expression “landscape photography” evokes, almost exclusively, the vastness of the untouched wild areas of the west and north of their continent. I suppose also that the exciting concepts of frontier, of adventure, of moving forward within unexplored territories is strongly connected to—and still very well represented in—the landscape photography produced in the U.S. and Canada.

In Europe, we don’t have such concepts. While Americans can still think of their wilderness as something to explore—an environment capable to still offer the thrill of adventure and new discoveries in the future—for Europeans, photographing the landscape is much more about mapping the already well-known world.

La Manneporte. Étretat, Upper Normandy, France. This moody representation with an approaching storm in the background shows part of the rocky coast surrounding the small town of Étretat.
I’m speaking on behalf of many when I say that we Europeans are envious, in a certain sense, of the vastness and sheer beauty of the North American landscapes. Here, there’s really nothing comparable to the forests of British Columbia, the deserts in Arizona or the canyons in Colorado. Nevertheless, I strongly believe, for direct, personal experience, Europe is actually very rich with opportunities for a landscaper looking for pristine sceneries and untouched wild areas.

If you ask Americans—as well as Germans or Spanish—what they know of Italy, well, they will answer Rome, Venice, Naples.… Those with a twist for the landscape will think of the amazing, but strongly humanized, rural sceneries of Tuscany. Many less of them will tell you something about the Alps, the Mont Blanc or Matterhorn, or the Dolomites. Nonetheless, Europe is incredibly rich with fantastic natural beauty. The coasts of Normandy, Brittany and Cornwall represent a patrimony of incomparable beauty. And Finland with its uncountable lakes surrounded by wild forests of conifers, or Sweden with the thousand and more fjords, or the forests of central and eastern Europe.…

Where Eagles Dare. Grand Canyon portion of the Gorges du Verdon, Alpes des Haute Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. The Verdon River canyon is a must-visit place. It’s 60 kilometers long and 700 to 800 meters deep, with huge vertical sandstone and limestone walls and fantastic spots at every corner. This image is stitched together from seven vertical takes.
There’s a part of my photographic work that I could refer to as “missionary,” where the mission consists of contributing to improving the awareness of the great variety of natural beauties Italy and other European countries have to offer. It’s really funny and rewarding when someone looking at my pictures comments, a bit surprised: “Italy? I thought it was Canada!”

My favourite places to photograph are in the western Alps, primarily because I know them very well. I was born at their feet and spent every single moment I could up there since I was a child. The Alps are really a world apart, with their woods, lakes, glaciers and majestic peaks. I never get tired of hiking up there. At every corner, there’s something new to be discovered. It’s a kind of physical need for me, being up there and just living in communion with nature.

See more of Paolo De Faveri’s photography at www.paolodefaveri.com


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