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.”
IS EVERYONE A PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE DIGITAL AGE…
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.”
WHAT IS STILL ON HIS BUCKET LIST?
“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.