Tuesday, April 27, 2010
You Wish You Were Here
Brandon Riza’s spectacular mountain photographs transport the viewer into the place and the moment. They’re invitations to adventure.
Fresh off the summit of Argentina’s Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas, Riza contradicts the serenity and beauty of his many tranquil photographs as he discusses the real-life drama and danger that often accompanies them. It’s then that the perilous reality of climbing, especially those occasions when he’s going it alone, juxtaposes with the beautiful images he creates.
“The more foreboding, hostile or potentially life-threatening the environment,” he says, “the more inspirational I find it. I have to admit that I’m driven by the whole ‘man’s perseverance against nature in the face of imminent death’ thing. When I capture an image of a mountain under a perfect sky in perfect conditions, I feel like I got away with something—the intuitive leap being that many times, most times, the mountain is cold and brutal, inhospitable and unwelcoming. Of course, when I capture a mountain under those conditions, it’s even more inspiring.”
Adds Riza, “I think it bears mentioning that sometimes when a shot looks calm, what the viewer isn’t getting is the cold, the wind, the hypoxia, the nausea, the headache, the thirst... I wish a camera could capture all of that.”
Working to make a photograph under those unbearable conditions is difficult enough for a photographer snapping mementos. Riza, though, prefers panoramas. He’s not content to snap away with a wide lens though. Instead, he stitches exposures together to maintain perspective and minimize distortion—again, maximizing the “factual” feel of a scene.
“I make heavy use of stitching software,” he explains. “I’ve been experimenting with image stitching for about 10 years now, before it was considered cool and before it was even more shunned than it is now among ‘pros.’ I’ve never really understood the aversion of the photography establishment to photo stitching. I’ve been disqualified from photo competitions and have been given the cold shoulder from galleries because my photos are stitched. I think some guys still complain about digital and how it looks ‘too good.’ I embrace new technology and try to expand upon it rather than clutching to the old school with the attitude that the new one is a fad and not worth serious consideration. I think that’s utter foolishness. I think I’ve come at photography from a non-traditional angle from day one. I’ve just kind of done things the way I’ve wanted to do them, operating in a vacuum of sorts and developing my own methods for my own needs.”
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