If Misha de Ridder finds a place he wants to shoot, but the light’s not quite right, he’ll wait. “I visit again and again,” the photographer says, “until suddenly it’s right – the light, the atmosphere – and a rush of excitement overtakes me.” Landscapes – “the lay of the land, the weather, the changing of the seasons” – have always fascinated the Dutch photographer, who’s spent his career to date on the hunt for fresh perspectives. Here we talk location tracking, the shifting nature of light, and something called “unreal reality”…
What prompts you into taking a picture?
The actual moment – having set up my large format field camera (which is quite an effort!) – is very much determined by light. But of course the whole process is intuitive.
There is this instance I call unreal reality – that’s what I’m looking for in the landscape. Natural phenomena can become so estranged and mysterious that we’re inclined to describe them as unreal realities. It might be the extraordinary shape of a tree, a mountain, a shadow or reflections mirrored in a lake… Most importantly, it is the unfamiliarity of the natural aesthetics of reality.
In waiting rooms around the world, banal landscape photography adorns white-washed walls. How do you make work that stands out from the imagery that surrounds us?
Landscape, especially the natural landscape, is an infinite subject. One can always say something new about landscape and nature. And one should.
In my work I try to play with different cultural (and sometimes banal) references to create new meaning. With all of this tradition, and with all of this ubiquitous landscape imagery that floods our senses daily, what better challenge is there than to photograph a sunset anew? It might not even be a challenge – it is a task.
You also create video works. What does moving image allow you to do that stills don’t?
Nature is constantly changing. When the light changes, the mood changes. Shadows move. When mist dissolves, the landscape slowly regains its shape. By making very minimal movies these subtle changes intensify and become perceptible. The major difference between working with still images and video is that with video your subject needs to be in the process of transformation. When making photographs, this isn’t necessary.
How do you find the places you document?
It starts with maps. By studying maps I intuitively choose places to go I think might be interesting. Sometimes I use Google Earth; a Swiss Lake in Abendsonne I found this way.
When abroad, work is intense because time and means are limited. Mostly I camp out in the landscape, to be able to experience the different changes in light and weather. I trek through the landscape by foot, with everything in a back-pack and a large tripod on my shoulder.