Interview, Ross Buswell -
The Language of Nature, Silence.
Ross! How was your recent trip to northwest Iceland?
One word: Incredible. The main focus of this trip was the Westfjords. I had missed that area on my first trip to Iceland. The Westfjords in winter is still an area you can really get away from other travelers into remote areas. Weather-wise it’s a bit more volatile and unpredictable so you have to be careful and be prepared. You have to check weather and road conditions regularly. The vast beauty, massiveness, and tranquillity of the snow-covered volcanic hills that surround you are very awe inspiring.
Weather is the biggest character of your work, as it is for Iceland, such a setting - do you feel that it increases the magnitude of your vision or any location is such an opportunity?
I would say yes it does for the most part. I love how extreme weather or changing weather adds an unpredictable element to photography. It’s an added challenge. You usually have to be very quick at setting up shots. Harsh weather also adds dramatic light, mist and fog elements. Sometimes these aren’t obvious until you work with tones and contrast editing.
Can you recall the moment when you first felt a calling towards a more natural way of life, towards nature?
Probably when I was very young. Growing up in Vancouver you’re always connected to the mountains and the outdoors. It’s called Sea to Sky country and when we’re not working in this city we’re usually at the sea or in the mountains. It’s a connection you’re born into if you’re from here. That all said I’m also an urban person who feels comfortable in a large city. I just have to disconnect from urban life regularly. Photography allows me that.
Living among nature, as your work on different projects, how has that affected or transformed the states of fear for you?
Working within nature for me is a constant reminder of where we came from and where we’re going. How this universe creates us and then will absorb us again. I really feel a connection to this power when I’m alone in nature. It’s frightening to think about sometimes - but working within nature gives you a greater understanding of its power.
There’s one thing that one achieves out of their fearlessness, that is silence. Of all the other feelings, How do you transmit silence into the viewer?
I like to shoot vast landscapes and zero in on the overall space by keeping the subject simple and focus in on the light source and subtle color tones. My goal in most images is to express isolation and solitude in a powerful way without the image feeling bleak or hopeless. It might be vast, lonely and powerful but there’s usually positivity expressed as well if my image communicates successfully.
Has there been an experience for you in which everything was dissolving into silence, an enlightening experience - what was that moment, or moments, like?
I get that feeling a lot when I’m focused on working on anything creative or listening to music. Some call it “flow”. There’s too many to list or to remember one particular moment. I think they’re all a sum of their parts and have resulted in my creative process. I hope I always continue to have those experiences.
What I am curious about is that your time among nature, did that lead you towards what Gurdjieff called self-remembrance or did it increase your wonder towards the universe?
It absolutely increases my wonder towards the universe. There’s something magic about when you’re alone outside on a cold night in a remote place talking shots of stars or auroras - it’s a bit scary when you stop and look around where you are. I probably wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t shooting.
With that, tell us about your process. How do you craft your projects, work with light, and choose locations? Is digital editing a big part of it?
I try to find interesting combinations of space, light and natural tones. In some locations you have to work hard to find them in other locations they’re happening all around you at all times. That’s the draw currently for me to vast Northern locations. The way the sun sits near the horizon most of the time that it’s out. Editing is part of my process, for sure, but it’s more so used to seek out subtleties in tones already in the image. I don’t completely change the nature of any of my shots in regards to the color and tones in the original raw image.
I enjoy reading some poetry when I am close to nature. Do you have any favorite poems or songs perhaps that you keep with you?
I’d like to expand on this question a bit as music is so important to me. Music is my poetry. I used to DJ a lot in the past and I still run an eclectic downtempo/chillout record label with a friend of mine. Sometimes what I listen to has lyrics and sometimes it’s just instrumental but it’s equally as powerful. Music and visual art is my life and the connection they make together is a powerful influence. I always have my music with me wherever I go. Ambient music and jazz help me detach from the pressures of day to day life. However, punk is my ethos - that’s my generation. I don’t so much mean punk as in loud music and fashion but punk as a DIY mindset showed me how to be creative on my own terms. It transcends just music for me - it helped knock down barriers that were put up all around me in my formative years.
What according to you is being forgotten by people who are living the urban life?
Detaching from the utter madness of our online society. You have to from time to time or it will pull you under before you realize what’s happening. Get out in nature and turn your phone off for a while. It is possible to do without losing touch with the world.
Lastly, What would you suggest or share with other photographers?
Carve out your own voice. Be original. Know how Speed/Aperture/ISO work together.
Interview with Ross Buswell