Mid phone call with Charlie Waite, the award winning landscape photographer pauses to feed a swan and her three signets ambling across his dorset surrounds. It’s an act typical of the landscape photographer, a man with absolute reverence for our natural enviorment and its inhabitants
‘You have a very private, personal relationship with landscape photography and it’s very enriching being out there in the natural environment’, the award winning photographer explains. ‘You’re listening to wonderful birdsong, you’re observing the play of light, you’re completely involved with the sky and the nature of the sky, you’re looking at the way the wind affects the grasses in front of you, you’re watching the way the water ripples, the way light is reflected off certain surfaces and absorbed by others. You’re in the landscape zone and it’s enriching because it’s all we have. That’s it really; us and it. There’s the sea and there’s the land. In a way it’s kind of paying homage to it and revering it, wondering at it.’
‘There’s a spiritual element too and I think that’s important to think about so that it helps you place yourself, where you are. The waiting is also very much part of it, waiting for something to evolve that you have pre-visualised.’ With twenty-eight books to his name, Waite’s imminent exhibition at London’s National theatre is his first major European showing in a decade. Silent Exchange focuses upon the idea of beauty as an intrinsic value of art. But why should we revere the aesthetic? ‘I think beauty is a common currency. I really do. I think it transcends all cultural boundaries, it transcends the constraints of language. In very simple terms would one person say ‘gosh, look at that rainbow’ and another say ‘I can’t bear rainbows’? I think there’s a very strong chance that people, to a greater or lesser extent, will find a rose or a hibiscus beautiful. And they’ll respond.’
‘We are separated from the natural world, we have disengaged. Yet we are using the word ‘beautiful’ a lot and I’m saying let’s really _revel_ in it and, I suppose, engage in a very deep, profound way.’ What is it about landscape photography that has held Waite’s interest across the years? ‘It speaks back to me. I like to read the landscape, to fully immerse myself so you could almost turn your back on what you’re looking at and describe it. And say, well the clouds at the moment are a bit insipid, I want something a little more dramatic so I’ll either come back or I’ll have a look up at the sky and see whether I need to wait or to abandon it. It’s tantalising and unbelievably frustrating, but even if you fail to get the image you want it’s still very enriching, just trying.’
Waite’s pursuit for the ultimate photograph has seen him encounter some tricky situations; commissioned to capture the Libyan landscape just days before the outbreak of civil war – ‘I’d like to say I ran across rooftops under a veil of gunfire and sound very heroic but actually it was a perfectly ordinary BA flight home’ – a recent experience closer to English borders comes to mind. ‘In France I was photographing a really lovely remote valley. A police car stopped and the policeman marched over to where I was and said ‘Not allowed to photograph. It’s military.’
I said, ‘It’s just a mountain, a lovely valley, there’s nothing military about it!’ He said ‘Give me your film.’ I thought the light had been really nice so I faked it and gave him a roll of unexposed film out of another camera. Though I lost five pounds worth of film…’ A master in his field – and an expert at photographing them – Waite’s company Light and Land now runs photographic workshops across the globe. He’s keen to distribute his expertise to amateur photographers hoping to follow his footsteps.
By CMYK Interview Hub
For more info and to see Charlie Waite’s photography, visit: www.charliewaite.com