The sto­ries of a gen­uine pho­tog­ra­pher


TRAV­EL­LING turns ev­ery­one into a sto­ry­teller.

Obie Ober­holzer, 71, has spent a life­time ex­plor­ing the globe – for work, of course. The mav­er­ick pho­tog­ra­pher has ex­plored ev­ery­thing from war-torn coun­tries and iso­lated towns to scenic and cul­tur­ally-rich coun­tries.

In a tête-à-tête with him, he spoke about his trav­els in vivid and cap­ti­vat­ing de­tail.

Asked about the num­ber of stamps in his pass­ports, Ober­holzer laughed and said: “That’s a tough one, I would say be­tween 40 to 50 coun­tries in to­tal.”

Pushed for an an­swer on his top three, he said: “Ar­me­nia, a small coun­try wedged be­tween Azer­bai­jan, Ge­or­gia and Turkey. The other would be the Is­land of So­co­tra, off the coast of Ye­men. And there is Cuba, which is in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing. Ob­vi­ously, there has been a boost in tourism now.”

As for dove­tail­ing his pic­tures and ad­ven­tures in Obie, A Pho­to­graphic Story Book, Ober­holzer noted: “It’s about com­bin­ing the two.”

A drive that has stolen his heart is the Swart­berg Pass in the Klein Ka­roo. “I’ve been there more than 30 times, in all kinds of weather – mist, rain, snow, hail, sunshine and moon­light.”

One night, he fol­lowed a full moon ris­ing and de­cided to do a time ex­po­sure of car-light trails zigzag­ging up and down the mul­ti­ple cor­ners and bends.

Hav­ing grav­i­tated towards pho­tog­ra­phy since he was a boy, he is all about cap­tur­ing the heart of a place.

“First, I look at how land­scapes, in terms of lines, shapes and colours, align and fit in a graphic way; how they com­bine in un­usual ways. Faced with a three-di­men­sional world out there, it is about try­ing to rep­re­sent it in a two-di­men­sional way. I do that by ab­strac­tion and iso­la­tion.”

“I try to get the essence of a place by re­flect­ing on the peo­ple, sit­u­a­tions or land­scapes.”


This is a bit­ter-sweet point for Ober­holzer.

“The whole thing of what has hap­pened to pho­tog­ra­phy has changed tremen­dously from the first time I used a Ko­dak Re­flex cam­era. It’s now the big­gest hobby and ev­ery­one can say, ‘I am a pho­tog­ra­pher’.

“The whole world cir­cu­lates images. But peo­ple have lost the abil­ity to re­ally look. In the quick­ness of tak­ing a photo, they com­mit to pic­to­rial in­dul­gence. They have stopped pho­tograph­ing what they are there for and are al­ways put them­selves in front of the most beau­ti­ful scenery.

“I will give you an ex­am­ple. Angkor Wat in Cam­bo­dia is one of the big­gest tem­ple com­plexes. If you go there in the morn­ing, you will see bus loads of tourists. Af­ter a quick shot of the place, they pho­to­graph them­selves in front of the an­cient tem­ple. It re­ally hurts in a way.

HEART­BREAK­ING VISIT “One of my great­est loves is to take those small and hid­den roads. Those dusty and con­cealed roads. That said, I’ve been to some aw­ful places. The worst was the Auschwitz con­cen­tra­tion camp, where many peo­ple were mur­dered.

“Stand­ing in the mid­dle of the place, you get these chills run­ning down your spine.”


“I bet­ter hurry up with that, I’m 71. Sadly, I haven’t been to In­dia. So, for its colour, pas­sion and vi­brancy, I would love to visit. And St He­lena is­land, too.

CAP­TUR­ING the vi­brancy of Cuba and its peo­ple.

A TIME-EX­PO­SURE shot of car-light trails zigzag­ging up and down the mul­ti­ple cor­ners andbends along the Swart­berg Pass, Klein Ka­roo.

A SHOT of Lake Malawi with moko­ros ly­ing about the beach.

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