This week’s interview is with Younes Bounhar, a nature, travel and landscape photographer living in Canada. His amazing photos have won has won the PhotographyCorner.com award for the 2007 Photograph of the year contest. You should head out to his website to see some examples of of his exquisite photographs – and experience the places he photographs.
Here is the interview:
SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?
YB: I was going to come up with some awesome story on how I knew in my heart of hearts that photography was my calling for as long as I can remember, but that would be quite far from the truth. In all honesty, I never thought I had a creative bone in my body until a couple of years ago. I am mostly a nerd, the scientist of the house (I have trained as a molecular biologist, but really I wanted to be a farmer). I did well in school, I read lots of books, no glasses but braces, for 3 long years. The Artist in the house is my younger sister, not me. In any case, I left Morocco at age 18 to come and study in Canada and decided that it would be my home (it has to be because of the weather). In 2006, after an endless number of years in University, I finally started getting paid enough to fulfill a longstanding dream of mine: visit Australia. Little did I know how that would change my life, literally. No, I didn’t fall on my head, nor did I receive the visit of some angel. I accidentally landed in one of Peter Lik’s galleries and I can still, to this day, remember the feeling of awe I had looking at these huge velvia prints of Yosemite and Antelope Canyon. Since I loved traveling, a voice in my head went something like this: “now, wouldn’t it be cool to travel to all these neat places and take photos?” It was as naïve as that. When went back home, I picked up my first dSLR, a couple of lenses and the rest is history…
SU: You are predominantly a landscape photographer. How did you choose this discipline in photography?
YB: While I would rather refer to myself as a landscape and travel photographer, it is true that landscape largely dominates my galleries at this point. I think it’s mainly for two reasons:
- I’ve always been close to Nature, living things, I used to love the BBC and National Geo shows aired on TV, and that, sort of stuck in the back of my head. So it was a natural inclination primarily;
- secondly, despite my friends’ assertions to the contrary, I am a fairly shy person and, conveniently, landscapes don’t move and don’t talk back. So as far as learning goes, I had the time and opportunity to hone my skills without having someone expecting to see their phenomenal portrait.
That said, I am really drawn to the creative aspect of photography rather than to a particular discipline. I draw as much pleasure from catching a sunrise over the Rockies as I do capturing the curves of a building or the smile of a child.
SU: Looking at your galleries, water in various forms jumps out. Can you talk about why you photograph water in so many forms, the challenges and rewards?
YB: The answer here is likely to disappoint you…Canada just happens to have tons of that H2O thing, so you sort of find it everywhere you go. It’s really funny how I grew up in a place where we would go 10 years without a drop of rain to the greatest water reservoir on Earth. That might have something to do with it in retrospect.
Seriously though, water is such a dynamic elements, comes in so many forms (ice, mist, snow, rushing water, still lakes), that it’s an endless supply of opportunities. I mean, you can stand at the same spot in front of a river and take a hundred completely different shots that are equally appealing. I often feel like a child in a candy store when I sit across a stream. You can play with reflections, light bouncing off the water, texture of the water… Again, it’s just a great subject where you can just let your imagination run wild.
Another reason I am drawn to water, is that it is a great place to teach your cameras how to swim…I have a strong inclination for dropping my cameras in the river (2 out of 3 already, that’s a pretty good record), so I guess if there was no water, I wouldn’t have these stories to tell…
SU: Can you give us some idea about the equipment and the photography techniques you like to use to achieve your vision? What are you working on currently?
YB: Let me start with a disclaimer: Equipment is just a set of tools to achieve your vision. Until they come out with the X7billion.5 with the “No crappy image” function, there is no substitute for vision and creativity. As I like to repeat often, it is the photographer, not the camera that presses the shutter…
That said, I am a Nikon shooter. I currently use the Nikon D700 and D200 cameras. As far as lenses go, I have the 14-24 2.8, 28-70 2.8, 50 1.8, 105 2.8 macro and 70-300 4-5.6 VR, they allow me to cover a large range of focal lengths and have excellent optical qualities. I tend to use most of my lenses and do a lot of lens swapping when I am shooting. I started out with a great affinity for dramatic wide-angle landscape shots, but have really grown fonder of the more intimate, abstract nature photographs.
What I enjoy the most in photography, is the creative side involved, which also explains why I have been exploring intimate abstracts a bit more. While I love (and always will) a dramatic sunrise or sunset scenes, I draw even more pleasure from finding hidden compositions in the least expected places. You simply have to open your mind and learn how to look at your world differently to start seeing beauty in your everyday life. Therefore, when I am out with my camera, I am always on the lookout for patterns, lines, shapes and colours and the interplay between them. As my photography matures, my mantra is to open my mind and look beyond the obvious.
SU: How did you start giving photo workshops? What does it take in terms of resources and energy to do so? Do you have any words of wisdom for those who want to get started?
YB: I would rather skip this question, since I’ve just started giving workshops and I frankly have no wisdom to share :D
SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything)
YB: How about I list a few of my favorite things:
Photographers: There are so many whose work I absolutely adore, Art Wolfe is a great inspiration, not only as a photographer and pioneer, but he is also one of the nicest guys I know.
Music: I would be really in trouble if I landed on a deserted island and they asked me which ONE musician I could take with me. I am a huge fan of Bob Marley, Carlos Santana and Leo Ferre (a French singer).
Books: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is probably one my most memorable set of books.
Food: I love food, one of the three pillars of life in my humble opinions. I’ll admit it, I suffer from severe gluttony. I absolutely LOVE Indian food. Authentic Italian cuisine. Thai, Moroccan couscous is hard to beat, the French can be pretentious but they know a thing or two about cuisine…well you get the drift…
Quotes: I have a terrible memory for these kind of things, I can’t remember a line to save my life.
SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?
YB: To contact me is pretty simple:
You can email me directly at Younes [at] younesbounhar.com
Alternatively you can click on the “contact” link on my website (http://younesbounhar.com).
Comments are welcome!