Looking back to the future

It is a habit acted out extensively when a year reaches its final moments to look back on what the fading year has brought. In photographic circles this often results in presenting galleries of photographs that are most dear to their creators. This is certainly a pleasant mannerism as I enjoy browsing through these selections a lot. However, I cannot help but feeling that the reason for their existence is rather self-marketing than self-assessment. Does not the true reason for retrospection is that you become aware of your own developments – artistic or personal – and derive goals for the future? The look ahead is often neglected or not communicated. I want to approach my final article of 2018 differently for this reason – and share a look on my plans and dreams that transcend the borders between that past,the present, and the future.

The year 2018 has brought me many personal and photographic experiences. I have met inspiring new people, seen quite a few new horizons, witnessed moving developments of my family, held my first big exhibition with my photographs, made ground-breaking decisions regarding my job, created some of my most precious photographs and published articles that I am proud of. But 2018 was not an isolated chunk of time with events unrelated to what has come before and what is about to succeed. It has rather been a link between the past and the future, a flowing continuum of incidents, decisions, moments and experiences. That's why I decided not to select my personal favorites for a gallery-style look back, I rather chose photographs that tell the story of important developments and are inseparably connect to my goals for 2019 and beyond.

Train my eye to see the small details

Over the years spent with my camera I became more and more aware that I am greatly drawn towards little, intimate details of nature. Not that I am less impressed and moved by impressive displays of light bathing spectacular scenery, it's rather that I find it much more fulfilling to immerse in a place to a degree that makes me see things that not everybody sees. This requires patience and stimulates subjectivity and creativity. I have noticed in 2018 that my desire to create these kind of photographs is still growing, as is my ability and capacity for sure. So here is my first goal for the future that directly arises from the past: I want to further train my eye to see the small details, further practice my skills to transform my perception into vision into photographs.

Work on my portfolio of trees and forests

There are two types of biotopes that I very much enjoy photographing but at the same time become more and more critical concerning my own photographs created of them. First are mountain scenes and second are trees and forests. Especially of the latter I have only a handful of photographs that I am really proud of, as of right now, although I have extensively photographed it. I guess I will have to surrender to the 10.000 images rule and continuously create new photographs until my learning curve slowly flattens – if that ever happens.

Find a local photo project

Speaking of learning curves: Key to positive development in the form of artistic growth is repetition, for sure. If you have talent it needs to be trained and worked with again and again and again. The year 2018 showed me once again that I need to complement my regular shooting habit – only when travelling, which narrows down the occasions for real immersion into nature and photography to a handful every year – with a routine that potentially fits into every week. Travelling full time is not an option, sadly, so I have to find myself a local photo project. Apart from regularity, I hope that this will bring about other advantages. For example, photographing nature when travelling automatically puts the location in the centre of the artistic vision. A local project approach may turn this upside down and put an idea, a concept in the pole position. I have no idea yet what this project will be, or where it might be happening, but I seriously plan to pursue this idea in 2019. A few photographs I made in 2018 showed me that inspiration is ubiquitous even directly at the doorstep.

Try wildlife photography and tell stories of wildlife conservation

My photography is focused on wild landscapes in the broadest sense. This encompassed wide views of alluring places as well as small scenes that portraits the fabric of places. What it does not include, or only occasionally, is wildlife. I have a saying that I just shoot what can't run away. So why do not stick with that? Well, I will not leave one shore for another, but I plan to at least marginally venture into new territory. The reason for that does not originate in my photography, but rather in the switch in my day-job. I work in science communication and recently left a social science institute for a wildlife research institute. This will provide me with numerous new inspirations in the form of new colleagues working in biology, veterinary medicine or wildlife ecology. I am telling stories of research for conservation – and I plan to use this new closeness to animals for my photography and visual storytelling.

Leave some bubbles and meet new peers

The most impressive revelation to me in 2018 has been to find out that I have been living in a well confined bubble photography-wise. For years I exchanged ideas, concepts and inspirations that greatly fostered my photographic development via online platforms like Flickr, Instagram and Facebook. I shared photos, received feedback, made friends and got a fairly good overview of the who is who of nature and landscape photography – at least I thought. In May I joined a short field trip of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotografen, a society for nature and wildlife photographers in Germany. I knew one or two faces from social media, but the vast majority of names, photos, books, festivals, and projects that were spoken of during these three days were completely new to me. It hit me like a hammer – I have been living under a rock, or at least there where many many more bubbles that I did not have the closest idea that they exist. This did not negate the inspirational interactions I had over the past years, but added a few more layers to my perspective. Some of the people I newly met are becoming good friends and highly valuable source of feedback. This is a path that I absolutely want to continue walking in 2019.

Translate thinking of the environment into acting for the environment

I think there are only few nature photographers that do not come across environmental issues in their artistic practice. I guess that the majority of them agrees with policies of conservation and desire to act in favor of them. This applies to me a hundred percent. Yet I struggle to translate thinking, writing and photographing with empathy for nature into action for the environment. Very often it is hard to leave the comfort zone of portraying the wild beauty of pristine places. Additionally finding measures with more impact than promoting field etiquette and raising awareness for environmental issues requires leaving comfort zones – mental and physical. Last but not least the traditional lifestyle of a landscape photographer requires travelling, which certainly put the ecological footprint of the well-meaning nature-loving photographers miles above average. Having said all of this, this goal is rather a set of unanswered questions that really bug me and I strive to answer some of them for me in 2019.

Tell the story of Lisbon's urban change

This goal might be a surprise for those who have seen my photographic output which concentrated on nature and landscape photography. If you followed my social media streams closely you might have noticed that next to my love to wild unspoiled nature I have an incomparable admiration for the city of Lisbon. I started working on a story in the last months that I want to tell in 2019, a story of the citie’s roots and future, the social and physical fabric and the battle between particularity, authenticity and the cultural globalisation. Infact, I started this story in 2006 when I was an Erasmus student in Social and Urban Geography in Lisbon. I wrote my diploma thesis on Gentrification against the backdrop of the social, economic, cultural and political development of Lisbon and Portugal in the 20th century. I have been back to the city three times in the last 13 months to speak to people, closely observe current developments and push the boundaries of my comfort zone to take photographs that help me telling the story of Lisbon's urban change. I hope to see it published somewhere in 2019 so that you can read it.

And finally, publish a book

Goals have to be audacious, shouldn't they? Or to paraphrase another common saying: If your coals do not scare you, they are not big enough! In the spirit of this I have been secretly working on a huge project that I wish to see the light of the day in 2019. It will – if everything turns out as I dream it – take the shape of a coffee table book and and tell an important story that comines historical research, contemporary environmental thinking, writing, photography, science and art. I have done extensive reading and researching and finished an eight-page draft of the book – first feedback from a few close frieds has been very encouraging! Right now I am missing a small number of pieces to this gigantic puzzle, but as soon as I have them I will present it to the public. These two photographs that I made in 2018 are directly linked to THE book … any guesses what the story might be?