I’m excited to share this month’s featured photographer interview with Photographer of the Month Arild Heitmann. Arild is a well-respected photographer and has one of the greatest portfolios of the Arctic Landscapes. I’ve had the privilege to meet Arild on several occasions and I think you’re really going to like this interview:
Could you start by telling us who you are and how you got started with photography?
My name is Arild Heitmann, I’m 39 years old and living in my hometown of Evenskjer far north in Norway. I’ve lived up here my entire life and I can’t imagine a life where I’m not surrounded by fjords and mountains every day.
Ever since I was a little kid I have been exploring the mountains in my home area. I was lucky enough to have a father who always brought me along when he went fishing in the mountains. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, the gift of being introduced to a passion that has shaped the way I live my life.
About 10 years ago I bought a cheap DSLR to try to document some of my experiences on the many fishing expeditions in the mountains. From there it went into a pretty serious obsession quickly and before I knew it I was sucked into an addictive world of photography.
At that point, Flickr was the big thing for sharing images and through Flickr, I got to meet some photographers that now are some of my closest friends.
How has growing up and living in the pristine Northern Norway impacted your photography?
It has probably shaped me more than anything else. I don’t feel any urge to travel elsewhere. My biggest source of motivation and inspiration is the landscapes surrounding me.
Just the other day I had one of those eye-opening experiences. I’ve been traveling around the world to shoot landscapes and grand places. This day I ended up taking my favorite waterfall shot ever. Where was it taken? A 2-minute walk from my childhood home. Pretty ironic.
When I’m hiking and exploring the mountains where I grew up I feel a connection to what I’m photographing, in a way that no other place does. I’m often asked where I would go if I could choose any place for photography. My answer has been the same every time; explore more of Northern Norway!
Most of your photography is based around the Arctic – what is it about this landscape that appeals to you?
There is something about the feeling of untouched rugged beauty that really is appealing to me. To be able to walk for days without seeing another person means you can fully connect to the landscape.
I get stressed when I’m surrounded by other people, and I’m not firing on all cylinders in those situations. Northern Norway is perfect for loners. Vast landscapes are everywhere and I feel lucky to have this on my doorstep.
Another thing about the landscape in Northern Norway is the immense diversity. We have everything; fjords, mountains, grand valleys, huge waterfalls, glaciers and even some forests that reminds me of rain forests. It’s so impressive!
What do you wish to convey through your images?
I try to show people how stunning nature can be. For landscape photographers this is obvious, but for the general public, this is not the case. People go on living their daily lives, unaware of the incredible beauty and peace that can be found just by looking around.
I want to make people feel like going out to enjoy nature, to take their time to appreciate nature. I try to capture drama and emotion, I want people to look at my images and feel something. Technically perfect images without emotion and x-factor appeal little to me.
How would you describe your style?
Dark and dramatic is probably a good description. A description that fits many of today’s photographers, but I try to do my own thing. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I think maybe I have a recognizable style in many cases. Especially my portfolio of aurora images are easy to recognize.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I get inspiration by looking at images by photographers I admire, and also by filmmakers that are able to capture the feeling that I try to capture myself. Since I’m lucky enough to meet and work with so many photographers all year around I am fed inspiration on so many levels constantly.
Following up on the previous question, are there any particular photographers that you admire and find inspiration in?
These days it takes a lot to impress me, but there are several photographers that have inspired me in one way or another. Michael Anderson was a huge inspiration when I started out and I still feel his work is exceptional. His work in the Himalayas is simply incredible.
Alexandre Deschaumes is one that I go to for inspiration and I always namedrop him to my workshop clients. The film that Mathieu Le Lay made that follows Alexandre in the field, that has inspired me over and over again.
Jimmy Chin and Jonathan Griffith inspire me to push the limits. Their alpine work blows my mind and is a foot in my ass and a big push to go climbing mountains and explore.
The last one I want to mention is British photographer Bruce Percy. He has the rare ability to create imagery that is extremely minimalistic and “simple” and still have a huge X-factor. I am deeply impressed by his entire portfolio.
Can you tell us a little about your ”Misty Mountains” project?
The Misty Mountains is where my dad took me fishing as a kid. It’s been my playground for more than 30 years and it means more to me than any other place. I have a long-term project that will hopefully result in a book at some point. I have been working on this for 3 years now, but I’m not even close to seeing an end to it. I want it to be my major piece of photographic work, so it might take a lifetime.
What are your top 3 tips for to someone who’s just getting started with photography?
- Learn the basics of composition. Learn from your mistakes.
- Learn post-processing as soon as possible. Get the basic knowledge and start working. Processing takes time to master and it’s often neglected.
- Look at other photographers work and be inspired. Try to copy the way they work and that way you can slowly find your own style.
- One more tip. Don’t get caught up in gear. I find photography gear to be the most uninteresting aspect of photography.
What can we expect of Arild Heitmann in the future?
I will continue doing what I love. Keep on exploring Northern Norway and at the same time visit other parts of the world. I love my job, where I get to meet and hopefully inspire photographers from all over the world. I feel extremely privileged and find it deeply inspiring to get to know people from around the globe, coming from different cultures.