I am fascinated by gloomy views, by dark and heavy clouds, and by huge snow walls and snow corridors. Most of my images are created on the edge of daylight. I prefer to work during soft light because there are no locked shadows or harsh highlights. That time at the border of daylight or under a cloudy sky has less contrast. I like to incorporate diffused light, rain, and falling snow into my work. Such conditions create the opportunity to reduce an image to gray tones and strong contrasts, reminiscent of the way that people must have felt about the mountains many centuries ago.
In previous generations, the mountains were viewed as threatening and dangerous places. Then the first peaks were climbed, which created a thriving tourist industry, with all of its consequences. Today, many regions are nothing more than an alpine Disneyland. Because of this, it has become increasingly difficult to discover places untouched by mankind. I have therefore concentrated on searching for quiet locations that are accessible only by foot. There are still places that are far away from the hustle and bustle, even in overcrowded regions such as the Alps in the heart of Europe.
The majority of my most powerful experiences have emerged when I have been outside of my comfort zone and when my wife and I are traveling on foot somewhere in the mountains. A mountain tour during a cloudless day is usually a beautiful event; however, the same tour during a snowstorm can be a truly unforgettable experience. How such an excursion ends depends on you having prepared for it, and the ability to say “that’s enough for today” and turn back when it is necessary. Sitting in a small tent during long days of rain when everything is wet and cold can be a boring and unpleasant experience. During such moments, I sometimes wonder why I bother doing such a thing, but when I return home, the first thing I usually do is start to plan the next short or long stay outside my comfort zone.
In 1969, the first man stood on the moon. Twenty-five years later, the car manufacturer, BMW, ran an advertisement showing Apollo 11 on its way to the moon; on board were Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. The advert said something like this: “Today, there is more computer power in a brand new BMW car than in Apollo 11 during its successful flight to the moon.” In 1994, the year of this advert, almost no one outside of universities was using e-mail. The first Internet browser available to the public, Mosaic, was released a few months before the BMW campaign started. Today, that first browser looks like a relic that belongs in a museum.
We now have more opportunities than ever before. We are connected worldwide around the clock. We have instant access to any information we want. It seems like everything is in a constant flow. However, I believe that the world today is not “brain friendly.” I have been asked what brain friendly means to me, and I usually reply that it has to do with silence, a quiet moment somewhere outdoors, the emptiness of a valley or the inside of a forest, a place caught by fog or covered by snow.
In the early 1980’s, the German news magazine Der Spiegel published a story about the then-successful management book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. The main point that it made was that “human beings are the key to the success of companies, not money or equipment.” The stories in the book and the descriptions of marketing creativity in the USA fascinated me at the beginning of my career.
Since then, my focus has changed. It is now the search for remote and tranquil places that drives me, the search for silence. But how does one explain silence? With words like the absence of any kind of noise? Is the grass that moves in the wind silence and what about the waves that hit the shore? For me, the sounds that nature makes are a part of silence. This includes the noise of a thundering waterfall or the cry of an animal. I count noise as anything caused by humans.
The idea “In search of silence” was born in 2015, during the first stay in Greenland, trekking with a tent in complete solitude. There I realized my deep need for silence. After that, I began to search for moments of silence and to capture them with the camera.
I feel best when my life is reduced to the few things that fit in my backpack during hours and days somewhere out there in search of silence – together with my wife.
We live in a small town in the Emmen Valley region of Switzerland.
Point 1102, Mellem Landet, South Greenland, 2018