The Pro Interview
Having spent the last three years getting drenched photographing Europe’s Atlantic coast, Theo Bosboom has a new book to show off. He tells Keith Wilson why he thinks Shaped by the Sea is his best work yet…
Enigmatic pro landscape photographer Theo Bosboom talks about his love of the sea
Theo Bosboom has every reason to feel excited
when we speak. He is off to the printers tomorrow where his new book, Shaped
by the Sea, will roll off the presses, and already one of his images from the book has been highly commended in the Creative Visions category of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. To round it all off nicely, he’s flying to Iceland three days after this interview to lead a photo tour. Talk about reasons to be cheerful: one, two, Theo!
Congratulations on your new book. How do you feel about the publication of this work?
I’m pleased! It’s probably the project I worked on with the most passion and the most pleasure up until now. It’s something that’s very close to my heart and I absolutely loved every trip.
When did you become interested in landscape photography?
From the start, it has been a mix of nature photography and landscapes. It all started in 2003 when I took two months off
working as a lawyer travelling through South Africa, Tanzania and Namibia. It was my first trip where I took a decent camera with me. It was also the first time that I really I focused on photography while on vacation and that’s when I realized how much I loved it. Also, by looking through the lens I started noticing things that I hadn’t noticed.
I was much more aware of details, lighting and other important aspects. Of course, I was always looking for animals in the landscape too. It was an enrichment for me.
What were your first landscape photographic subjects?
I started in the Netherlands, obviously not as rich as the nature in Africa, but I was pleasantly surprised that even a very crowded country like Holland has beautiful spots – if you go at the right time and are a bit lucky with the conditions. I did landscapes but also a lot of macro – a lot of details. There’s a national park near where I live with heathland and old oak trees, in autumn and winter it gets quite nice. Later on, I discovered the Wadden Islands, a small strip of islands in the north of the Netherlands that has really broad beaches with patterns and rough weather.
So, those were my first proper subjects.
You were born and raised on the North Sea coast of the Netherlands. What memories of the sea remain strongest for you?
One early memory I have is swimming in the sea on a day with a lot of wind and my mother not noticing; she had three kids to divide her attention. Suddenly I noticed that I couldn’t swim back easily because the wind was coming from the land in the wrong direction, so it took me a lot of time and effort and stress to get back to the shore. It was the first time I realized how powerful and potentially dangerous the sea was. There was this potent mix of fear and attraction.
Later, I visited the sea with a friend and we dived with the waves. These are very strong memories from my youth and I still feel a fascination for the sea.
It’s a dangerous thing that you should always respect; but also very beautiful and interesting. These are things you easily forget when you’re living in another part of the country, but once you return to the sea and smell the salt you’re immediately back to the early days.
Were these memories influential in deciding to work on your book?
I think when I started this book three years ago, I didn’t realize that my connection to the sea was so strong.
I have very strong memories from my youth and I still feel a fascination for the sea
The sea’s fascinating for photography as there’s a lot of movement, it’s very dynamic
It’s fascinating for photography because there’s a lot of movement, it’s very dynamic, the weather plays a big role and these are influences I always like to use in my photography. But when I was about halfway through the project I realized that this goes deeper than just the fascination from a photographic point of view. I felt it was deeper in me and every time I started a new trip and arrived on location I discovered a deep joy and also a feeling of homecoming.
How did you go about choosing the locations for photography when you consider that the European Atlantic coast is so expansive?
That was one of the challenges of making a book that would do justice for the variety of coastlines and beaches you can find along the Atlantic coast of Europe. From southern Portugal to northern Norway, I had to make it possible for one person to photograph in three years.
I took a lot of advice from local photographers; I read a lot and studied the internet; sometimes I was just going out of the blue. Iceland is a very popular, and places like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland are great, but I tried to find locations that hadn’t been shot to death.