Tracks - - Five -

Chris Burkard never thought he'd make a ca­reer from tak­ing pho­tos, in fact he main­tains it was just some­thing he “sort of fell into”. He also ad­mits that he never even boarded a plane un­til he was in his twen­ties. Mind blow­ing rev­e­la­tions from a man who has risen to be­come one of surf­ing and the out­door world's most pro­lific travel pho­tog­ra­phers, doc­u­ment­ing some of the world's most re­mote and harsh lo­ca­tions, and do­ing it all with the keen eye of a trained land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher.

“I would use my cam­era as a means to doc­u­ment my quick week­end getaways,” re­mem­bers Chris. “Al­most as a way to prove that I was there. I never trav­elled at all as a kid ... ever. I don't even think I got on a plane till I was in my twen­ties. A cam­era was my golden ticket to get out of my small town. It was my ve­hi­cle to see the world. It was the cre­ative method that re­ally stuck with me – the op­por­tu­nity to be in the mo­ment. I did art in high school and loved it, so that was all I knew, but as soon as a cam­era was in my hand it changed. No longer was I stuck drawing or paint­ing from a dis­tance, I was part of the mo­ment.”

Un­der the tute­lage of Michael Fa­tali (a world renowned land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher), Chris' work quickly pro­gressed from week­end snapshots to some­thing with much more depth.

“Michael still in­flu­ences my work," says Chris. “Ev­ery time I see his images I am drawn back to his process. He shoots large for­mat film with a heavy cam­era and even heav­ier tri­pod, which he lugs into the re­mote canyons and land­scapes of the Amer­i­can south­west. So ev­ery im­age he shoots is thought out. He can only bring three or four sheets of film with him, and that is what makes his work so spe­cial, the pa­tience he brings to it. That is some­thing I am con­stantly re­minded of – be pa­tient with na­ture and she will show you things you never thought pos­si­ble.”

Rather than tak­ing the well-worn path of shoot­ing surf­ing in the equa­to­rial re­gions of the globe, Chris had more in­ter­est in tak­ing his act to the ball-shrink­ing re­gions closer to the poles.

“I was just never in­ter­ested in be­ing sur­rounded by peo­ple,” he ex­plains. “That's not what made me want to pick up a cam­era. I grew up frol­ick­ing on the cen­tral Cal­i­for­nian coast – Big Sur and re­mote beaches where soli­tude is your best friend. You learn to be com­fort­able roam­ing alone on the beach, and it was those ex­pe­ri­ences that brought me close to na­ture. I have wanted to get more and more and more re­mote since I started my ca­reer. What started as just a fun ex­pe­ri­ence has turned into a full-blown ob­ses­sion.“

While it's hard not to get swept up in the ro­man­tic whirl­wind of travel-lust look­ing at his images, Chris' ob­ses­sion with th­ese frigid and re­mote des­ti­na­tions isn't with­out its chal­lenges and he of­ten comes face to face with the bru­tal re­al­i­ties of the frigid re­mote­ness he seeks.

“It's freak­ing cold ... like frost­bite cold,” ex­claims Chris. “I know be­cause I have had it. I got thrown in a Rus­sian jail cell and de­ported to Korea when I was in my early twen­ties. I learned re­ally fast that I wasn't in­vin­ci­ble. It's not just all fun and games, it's the real world and if you want to be a part of it you have to be ready for bumps and bruises along the way. Noth­ing comes easy and the lo­gis­tics are a night­mare. It takes three or four years to plan th­ese trips. Peo­ple see the images and they don't un­der­stand the time and en­ergy that goes into cre­at­ing those mo­ments. You have to re­ally give some­thing of your self to make this stuff hap­pen. I guess that's why I feel so emo­tion­ally in­vested. To me that is the essence of life – the mo­ments that leave us with scars – they are the ones you re­mem­ber.”

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