Jim Brandenburg by Kristel Schneider
‘Nature Photography is my language; I speak it better than English. It is a very personal intimate thing to me’.
The series of interviews with Nature Photographers is coming to an end and I thought with Jim Brandenburg I have a real Grand Finale.
When I first got in contact with Jim’s work I was still very young: I can remember that I was amazed by the images and it was via my parents that I had the opportunity to look in the National Geographic Magazines. It was much later that I connected, the images that had inspired me with the name Jim Brandenburg. And now when you read a lot about Nature Photography you know that Jim is a living legend and that he had inspired many other photographers all over the world.
I am very happy and honored to have this exclusive interview on Visions and Nature.
As for me it was a real personal joy to talk with Jim; he is the kind of person that speaks with so much enthusiasm and spirit that after hanging up the phone I immediately wanted to go out in Nature and take photos.
I Hope you feel the same after reading his interview that will be published in two Blog posts (part 1 and part 2).
Minnesota native Jim Brandenburg traveled the planet as a photographer with National Geographic magazine for over 3 decades resulting in 23 magazine stories, several television features and many National Geographic books.
Over the course of his career, Brandenburg received a multitude of prestigious national and international honors for his work. Four of Jim Brandenburg’s images have recently been chosen to be part of a unique collection that represents the “40 most important nature photographs of all times.
Brandenburg was the recipient of the World Achievement Award from the United Nations Environmental Programme in Stockholm, Sweden, in recognition of his using nature photography to raise public awareness for the environment.
Brandenburg has published many bestsellers including: Chased by the Light, Looking for the Summer,Brother Wolf, White Wolf and Minnesota Images of Home.
More information about Brandenburg can be found on his web page www.jimbrandenburg.com
Who is your inspiration?
That’s always a difficult question as so many things influence us, but I have always been interested in art ever since I was very young.
I think all kinds of art influence us. When I was a teenager I was quite successful as a musician – I played with the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry. Then I studied art at the university and started painting. The French impressionists had a very powerful effect on me. In photography there is maybe one photographer who inspired or influenced me: Ernst Haas. It keeps surprising me how few people know him. The work of Ernst Haas is amazingly powerful and contemporary as if it had been shot today. He was the fist person to use 35 mm cameras for magazine photography. Color and B&W.He must be almost a hundred years old now. Remarkable talent!
Then there is a whole bunch of people that inspire me, amongst whom a lot of painters. There is no one in particular that really comes out powerfully but definitely hundreds who influenced me and will continue to do so.
What do you like or do not like about Nature Photography?
I came to photography because of nature, I was always extremely interested in nature. I painted it, and as a child I was a hunter. I grew up in a culture with a very deep hunting tradition. I hunted until I started caring and feeling about animals so much that in the end I did not understand why we had to kill them. So I traded my guns for cameras when I was 14 years old. It felt so natural to me. Since then I have been out every day to look at the tracks in the snow or to listen to the birds and look at the animals. Nature for me goes very deep. Nature Photography is my language; I speak it better than English. It is a very personal intimate thing to me on the other hand I do not understand people very well especially when the world gets crazier and crazier. Even if I like a lot of people, nature is a more consistent force. It is something we came out of millions and millions of year ago, and we have to cherish it. I am always surprised that so few people have a deeper passion for nature, and how much of the world never thinks about nature.
Business like Nature Photography has changed. It has become a bit bizarre. In the old days, when we were still using Kodachrome cameras, you really had to understand photography and be really good at it to survive. Nowadays, take someone with a moderate amount of talent but who has never made a picture in their lives before. They go to the camera store and buy even a cheap camera. In the same day that someone can make a magazine-worthy picture, if they have some sense of composition.
There are ten – even hundred – thousand photographers out there doing this and they have destroyed the Nature Photography business in terms of income. In terms of magazine photography, books and photo publishing, there are so many photographers that are willing to give their images away just to be published, just for the fun of it.
And I don’t say this with anger, just if you ask me what is the worst part in Nature Photography then this has totally changed my income and I had to think about changing my perspectives, doing other things next to it such as making movies. And of course I have nothing to complain about, I am the luckiest person in the world but for those young new talented photographers it will be almost impossible to make the same career or even make a good profit in Photography as I said.
Still the good thing about Nature Photography is that it brings happiness and joy. All these thousands of people are in contact with nature, they enjoy it and they love taking photos. That makes me happy.
Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become professional nature photographers? Jim’s answer to this question and more will be published in: Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 2).
Coming soon on Visions and Nature.