Bar­tocha and Boll­mann

A shared love of Europe’s northerly land­scapes in­spired San­dra Bar­tocha and Werner Boll­mann to em­bark on a four-year project, cul­mi­nat­ing in a book and mul­ti­vi­sual show

Professional Photography - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

Two na­ture pho­tog­ra­phers pay trib­ute to Nordic light

San­dra Bar­tocha and Werner Boll­mann were al­ready well es­tab­lished na­ture pho­tog­ra­phers in Ger­many when they first con­ceived the idea of work­ing to­gether on a ma­jor doc­u­men­tary that would “pay trib­ute to the Nordic light”. It was 2011 and Boll­mann had just fin­ished his first book, Nordis­che Mo­mente: Tiergeschichten aus Taiga und Tun­dra ( Nordic Mo­ments: An­i­mal Sto­ries from Taiga and Tun­dra), a col­lab­o­ra­tion with fel­low pho­tog­ra­pher Win­fried Wis­niewski. “I was still very fas­ci­nated about this re­gion,” re­calls Boll­mann. “San­dra and I knew each other at this time and were good friends and what was very im­por­tant was that we had the same opin­ions of aes­thet­ics, we had the same ideas and we wanted to do some­thing to­gether about the North.” Bar­tocha was renowned for her ethe­real com­po­si­tions of plants and land­scapes, while Boll­mann had gained hard- earned re­spect in a highly com­pet­i­tive field for his stud­ies of Euro­pean birds and mam­mals. But it was their feel­ing for nat­u­ral light ( par­tic­u­larly Nordic light), where they shared the same level of in­ten­sity. In both Danish and Nor­we­gian, the word for light is Lys ( pro­nounced ‘Loose’). It be­came the work­ing ti­tle for the project and served as a con­stant re­minder of the main theme link­ing every pic­ture in the pho­tog­ra­phers’ sub­se­quent jour­ney from the Baltic Ar­chi­pel­ago to the Arc­tic tun­dra. Bar­tocha ex­plains: “When we tried to find a con­cept for the book, we thought that light is very im­por­tant be­cause the North al­ways has a spe­cial light. You have the mid­night sun, you have the po­lar light and the po­lar night; in

be­tween times you have these very long twi­light days. So we tried to keep light, or the ab­sence of light, as our main fo­cus in every pic­ture.” Soon a sub­ti­tle was added: An In­ti­mate Jour­ney to the North, which con­veyed the spirit of dis­cov­ery and ex­plo­ration that kept the pho­tog­ra­phers driv­ing on­ward. It was to be a vast un­der­tak­ing, cov­er­ing the en­tire Euro­pean North, from the bright Danish wood­lands and pas­tures in the south to the im­pos­ing glaciers of Spits­ber­gen in the Arc­tic; from Nor­way’s storm-lashed west coast to the dark forests of Fin­land in the east. Be­fore em­bark­ing on any field trips, Bar­tocha and Boll­mann se­lected the lo­ca­tions they be­lieved would best rep­re­sent the vary­ing land­scape and chang­ing light. They de­cided on six sub­ject ar­eas, which be­came the chap­ters of the book. Each ti­tle was worded to re­flect some­thing of the light and mood to be en­coun­tered: Bright South, Calm Waters, Silent Forests, Open Tun­dra, Rag­ing Sea, Far North. They de­lib­er­ately avoided the more pop­u­lar Scan­di­na­vian desti­na­tions such as Nor­way’s fjords, the Rapa Delta and Sarek Na­tional Park. “It was more about the biomes as such, a more uni­ver­sal approach,” says Bar­tocha. To ful­fill their am­bi­tions, the duo re­alised they would need to step be­yond their com­fort zones, “to grow as pho­tog­ra­phers”, as Bar­tocha puts it. This is some­thing they now re­mem­ber as one of the more pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. “We had a dif­fer­ent fo­cus to be­gin with, so I spe­cialised on plants and land­scape and Werner has al­ways been good with an­i­mals. The chal­lenge in the project

was to push be­yond our own limits and try out other as­pects of pho­tog­ra­phy.” Boll­mann adds: “When I started I’d never re­ally done a very good land­scape im­age, so I had to learn how to prac­tise, how to do land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy, and it was very in­ter­est­ing. New hori­zons!” The project was al­ways go­ing to be more than a book. From the be­gin­ning, Bar­tocha and Boll­mann were com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing a multi-vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion for screen­ing at na­ture photo fes­ti­vals all over Europe and ul­ti­mately for a DVD, sched­uled for re­lease this April. “We knew the multi-vis­ual would be part of the whole thing be­cause you just don’t do four years of work just to pro­duce a book!” says Bar­tocha. “We im­me­di­ately started think­ing of things we would need ad­di­tion­ally to form a multi-vis­ual, like tran­si­tional im­ages and video se­quences, so we were try­ing to keep this all in mind and do it all at once.” A friend of the duo, the com­poser Torsten Harder, was com­mis­sioned to pro­duce the mu­sic, and drew in­spi­ra­tion from the im­ages sent back from the field. “Dur­ing the four years of trav­el­ling, we con­stantly sup­plied him with our im­ages, ideas and con­cepts so he could kind of travel with us in a vis­ual way,” says Boll­mann. “He’s a lover of pho­tog­ra­phy too, which was good be­cause he had a chance to fol­low us emo­tion­ally.” The fin­ished multi-vis­ual ran to 45 min­utes and had its pre­miere, with the book launch, last Oc­to­ber at the an­nual GDT In­ter­na­tional Na­ture Pho­tog­ra­phy Fes­ti­val in Lü­nen, Ger­many. More screen­ings are planned across Europe through­out 2017. Look­ing back, Boll­mann reck­ons he and Bar­tocha spent a year in the field. “The longest trip was over two months when we were in the tun­dra in the most north­ern parts of Nor­way.” Re­mark­ably, their cam­eras coped with the ex­treme con­di­tions, from lash­ings of salt spray on the windswept Nor­we­gian coast to - 40°C tem­per­a­tures in the Fin­nish winter, with­out any ma­jor is­sues. “It was as­ton­ish­ing,” he says. “We had no prob­lems.” Bar­tocha chips in: “Ex­cept when Werner dropped his cam­era on the last trip in the Baltic Sea. But that was not the cam­era’s fault!”

[Left, top to bot­tom] Rag­ing Sea 1, Rag­ing Sea 13, Far North 10 [Right, top to bot­tom] Calm Waters 11, Silent Forests 9

[Left, top to bot­tom] Bright South 1, Bright South 9, Silent Forests 33 [Right, top to bot­tom] Silent Forests 23, Open Tun­dra 15 [Next page] Au­thors San­dra Bar­tocha and Werner Boll­mann

LYS: An In­ti­mate Jour­ney to the North was self-funded by Bar­tocha & Boll­mann, who printed 2,000 copies in to­tal, with 400 pre-sold. There are two edi­tions: Stan­dard (1,700 copies), 65, and Spe­cial (300 copies) 110, each num­bered, signed and sold with a spe­cial LYS slip­case. To or­der your copy, go to lys-pub­lish­ing.com.

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