On moving to Basel, I quickly set out to explore the world-famous Swiss landscape that I’d heard so much about. Being from the south coast of the UK, mountains were otherworldly to me and, to be honest, extremely daunting. They were the things of legends, the cause of hardship in movies, and the location for disasters on the news. They were places where I could fall as a result of a moment of absent mindedness or get hit by extreme weather without warning. I saw them as unpredictable, threatening, yet due to my new found love of landscape photography, extremely compelling.
I started in Baselland and used my U-Abo, a cantons-wide travel pass, to its full after work and at weekends. Even here I was nervous, though the highest mountain in the region is just 1,169 metres, for me it was a giant. I spent several years getting used to the new terrain, photographing the blossom in the spring and camping around the Passwang region in the summer. Overtime, I got a bit more confident and began to push myself outside of my comfort zone. As I didn’t have a car, I’d take the first public transport route out to the bus stop at the base of the Belchenflue and the Hinteri Egg, and then hike for a few hours through the night to get to one of my spots for sunrise.
Belchenflue, Baselland, 2016
It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that I got my first real taste of the Alps as a photographer. I was unemployed and in a bit of a rut when I decided to take my disaster of a 30CHF tent and a bag of the Swiss equivalent to pot-noodles out to Grindelwald. My budget was very limited, so my kit was pretty shocking: I’m not sure that I even had a proper sleeping mat, just an aluminium camping sheet and a 20CHF sleeping bag. Without much of a plan, I hitched a ride from Basel using the Blablacar app with a bunch of Brazilian students, who dropped me off in the area. I had a printed out a map from Google with some circled areas of places I wanted to photograph, a note of the places to avoid, and a few farm houses where I was hoping someone would let me pitch my tent. I got lucky with the first farm I tried – a young Swedish couple was looking after the cows for the summer and even invited me in for dinner on the last evening of my three-day trip. I didn’t sleep much because of the constant fear of a cow falling on me, and the new terrain and early starts took their tole, but the experience lit something almost obsessive in me. The sheer freedom of being alone out in such incredible nature, with the flowers, rocks, smells, pools, and streams, was really enchanting.
Grindelwald, First, near Hagelseewli, 2017
Not long after my trip, I got a new job and upgraded my U-Abo to a GA, a nation wide travel pass, and since then I have spent my time exploring the country’s mountain ranges and nature. My Instagram account took off a bit in 2018, reaching about 6500 followers at its peak. I had done a few photographic jobs before but this was the first time that I felt like I was getting some recognition for my landscape pictures. I would go back to my home town in the UK and people I hadn’t spoken to in years would approach me in the pub to tell me how much they loved my photographs, which was a great motivator, it really pushed me to go the extra mile to get those shots.
After a year or so, I started to question why I was doing photography. As I was travelling around the Alps, I began to notice that I was only thinking about the likes and followers I would get from the shot I was planning. My pictures had some glaring technical flaws which my followers didn’t seem to care about or mention, so I didn’t notice. Whenever I tried something new, which I was naturally inexperienced in, I would get less online praise, which somehow hits you deep. My photographs were all in a similar mould which I began to feel like they didn’t have much artistic merit. As I started getting into the great photographers, such as Elliot Porter, Joe Cornish, and John Blakemore, I saw just how far I still had to go and how off my mindset and technique had become. Though my Instagram still exists, I stopped using it in early 2019, giving me a chance to experiment and leave the mould behind. Photographically, I feel like this was the best decision I’ve made so far.
I look back at the photographs from this time and see some work that I’m still quite proud of. Seeing them gives me flash backs from that period when all these places were new and nerve-wracking. The music I listened to on the long train rides, the conversations I had with Swiss farmers in the mountains, and of course, the moments of absolute awe from the scale of it all. I am much more familiar with the country now but I never lost that feeling.
You can find some photographs from this time period below. From 2015-2019 I shot with a Fuji XT1 and from 2019 onwards a Fuji XT3.
Instagram account at its peak popularity, 2018