In this post, I intend to discuss a photographer whose work I have found to be inspirational of recent, Pål Hermansen.
Norwegian Pål Hermansen has won the 2013 Fritz Pölking award with his photography story ‘Car Cemetery – A Wildlife Reserve’. The award, named in honour of wildlife photographer Fritz Pölking, who died in 2007, is run by the Society of German Nature Photographers. The junior award was won by 19-year-old Hermann Hirsch, for his portfolio entitled ‘The Wilderness of the Ruhr Region’
I find a great sense of admiration for Hermansen’s approach and intention in this narrative. In some ways it relates to concepts I have explored in my recent work and intend to discuss in my independent research project, how the landscape is represented and understood.
The concept of the survival and growth of natural elements in man made, urban environments is a culturally relevant topic due high interest in environmental conservation in recent years.
On a more personal note, I have often admired natures ability to survive and outlive humanity, expressing the fragility of humanity.
The power of nature
Prizewinner Pål Hermansen’s work comes from visits to a 60-year-old car scrapyard in central Sweden, where he found a thriving habitat of animals, plants and insects. This birch tree has grown to substantial dimensions inside the old Volkswagen, demonstrating the real power of nature. The wrecked vehicles often act as greenhouses for the plants, making them grow faster and bigger than in nature. Hermansen explains: ‘To me, experiencing nature is a matter of existence, of wellbeing. Without the possibility to spend time outdoors, life seems not worth living. Photography provides a way to go even deeper into nature and explore the vital aspects, of both the landscape itself and the different life forms it contains. A very important point for nature photography is the fact that our activity can make a difference to nature conservation’
In winter, the birds frequently search in and around the cars for food as both insects and seeds are plentiful. ‘… people, especially children, have to be made aware, otherwise we will be getting more and more alienated from nature, looking at it as a theoretical value. But it is equally important to include people in the images in different ways, therefore one of my favourite topics is the interaction between humans and nature’
The above image is one of my favourite photographs of the series. Firstly, there is a very distinct sense of place and point of view, I feel as though I am part of frame due to the ‘intimacy’ of the composition. We view the evidence of nature and wildness from behind the glass, looking in at the mysterious silhouette of an animal inhabiting an environment long since abandoned by humans.
Home with terrace and a view
The shy song thrush couple chose the perfect nesting ground in an old Opel to raise their young. ‘Nature conservationists in the local municipality would like to see the cars removed, while culture conservationists want to make it a cultural monument. I hope that the nature conservationists will begin to realise that nature is already doing a good job in taking this site over and that they eventually join the culture conservationists to make it a combined nature and culture reserve’
From this, I then decided to visit his homepage, translated from Norwegian.
I found the greatest impact of this homepage was a combination of the beautiful imagery which aims to reinforce the focus of Hermansen’s practice as well as the featured quotation that complements this idea, how vast and eternal both land and life forms are and how they inspire him.
I can admire this sentiment, something that I consider a necessary acknowledge when documenting the subject of the natural world. Human influences can result in the instability of the world’s eco-systems, however, nature is not merely a concept we should associate with fragility. Life upon this earth existed before us, and will continue to live and fight for its place here long after humanities demise. It is the nature of life and something I personally find a great of inspiration within, both in our times of strength and weakness, the cycle continues around us. Therefore, it is important that we respect both land and wildlife as means of acknowledging how significant and integral our co-existence with them is and how much we depend upon this natural order to live and support our lifestyles.
From this, I decided to review his online photo gallery, which was divided into various categories.
As a result, I found a great deal of common ground with Hermansen in his photographic interests, all of which I find compelling as subjects. Often ranging from close up images that highlight a subjects distinctive features or attributes or landscapes that detail their scale and significant impact contextually (geological, biological) or aesthetically.
I have highlighted a few distinctive examples that stood from each of these areas, each reflecting either of these two concepts.
The Arctic –
Man & Monuments
To conclude, his work governs a wide range of genres and visual approaches, whilst remaining defined and cohesive as a collective portfolio of images. This is something I hope to achieve myself throughout my third year and in the future within my intended practice.