Some of my most memorable experiences are shared with, or are the product of nature. Whether standing on the edge of the world at Iguazu Falls watching the river spit and froth into the levitating mist that never clears, sleepily resting in the Cornish silence watching singing birds dart between this and that tree while farm animals addlib the musical absence of sound, driving through and over beautifully threaded Tuscan landscapes; green and undulating and barbed with vineyards, or whether reading lazily in the garden of a lazier summer evening, nature contributes to my happiness and enjoyment of life. It accentuates moments. It grants me deeper access to myself. And it seems to do the same for those who are infinitely more talented and expressive than I. For artists it’s both subject and cause. Painters, writers, musicians, architects, sculptors, and poets are all affected by nature and compelled to reflect on how it impresses itself, or try to calculate and convey the indefinable conversation they’ve had with it. And some do more than try. That’s art.
I remember walking into Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and thinking I was stepping into a fantastical wood alluding to an imagined Guillermo Del Toro fairytale; something completely otherworldly but completely natural; a complex nod to the perfectness of nature’s structure that cleverly imitated how nature gets it right. It was familiar and comforting. It was natural. An echoing space vibrating with the permanent sound of woodland and forest and all the other things that grow without considered measurement or planning. Inspired by nature and the geometry of nature, Gaudi associated worship with nature, beauty with nature, construct with nature, religion with nature, and so on. Even when man made, even when artistic, even when it’s seemingly absent, nature is present and absolutely aligned with the success of mankind’s conversation with mankind… and the world for that matter. Most importantly, this space felt spiritual. A cathedral, yes, but there was something more. Spirituality is a word I associate with my soul, not with religion. Contentious, perhaps, but personal. And it perfectly defines those memorable experiences I share with nature; they simply are spiritual. They affect my soul and give me something only certain experiences can. Nature can do that. It can be static, permanent, forever, and call to something more poignant than knowledge or understanding, that inexpressible moment that detaches you from stresses and worries and magnetises your eyes, compels your mind to search for it’s own soul, and ejects you from everything else but the moment. And that’s why it’s perfect for artists. It gives them a subject both mysterious and objective. It challenges them to depict it, capture it, to explain those feelings, to fix the ethereal in paint or pictures or words or structures so that the soul is contained and communicated for just a moment; for the moment.
If you don’t think we’re barking mad by now, then thank you. You’re kind and patient. Or mad as well! Needless to say, we love nature. We love it’s timelessness. And we’re curious how people, namely artists, use it as their subject to create and express themselves and express those perfectly connected moments. We came across Dutch photographer and writer Roeselien Raimond while browsing 500px. It was immediately obvious that she loved nature, loved photography, but was patient with her work. The most common subject in her pictures is the red fox; an undeniably beautiful creature that, in Roeselien’s shots, contradicts the popular belief that foxes are mischievous, thorny, and controversial; that they’re not nice animals. Roeselien captures them as photogenic, expressionate, and characterful. But beyond her obvious talent for photography, Roeselien also writes extremely engagingly about her experiences, paints with real skill and, in our opinion, should be considered an artist, generally. But nature is fundamental in her work. There’s a clear desire to capture those moments offered by nature. We put forward questions and she thoughtfully answered them to produce this super enjoyable conversation. Enjoy! And go for walk outside afterwards…
Myndness (M): One thing that fascinated us about you was your journey from, and between, technology and the wild! Do you feel as though modern day society discourages a deep connection with nature?
Roeselien Raimond (RR): Of course. A PC, tablet or phone demands, if not to say “sucks attention”. It offers such easy pleasure without any effort, which makes it very tempting to stick with devices. Nature is far more modest than technology. She offers subtle pleasures, that aren’t always easily recognizable, as such. When stumbling through the mud, cold from the pouring rain, it’s easy to wish you were at home, cuddling with your warm, dry and ever so friendly phone.
But the connection with nature is, in my opinion, fundamental. I really love my computer and it brought me a lot of truly nice personal contacts, but nothing beats the smell of real fresh air, the sight of a spring flower bed or the tickling feeling of actual grass under your feet.
M: As a web designer, did you ever experience comparable satisfaction to what you feel when shooting, editing, and finalizing a photograph of the wild?
RR: No, not really. It was a well paid job and I remember that people always reacted enthusiastically when I told them about my profession. They used to say things like: “oh that’s a wonderful task; creating the fuel of our economy!” While I thought: oh well, I’m just creating some hot air. Don’t get me wrong, I think websites are important, but I personally value other jobs, like therapists, teachers or doctors much higher. These people build the base for our society and heal it when necessary.
M: Do you remember the moment when the pull of nature was too strong and you had to forever wheel your chair away from a desk?!
RR: Well, that’s the thing about nature, she’s way too modest. She doesn’t call so loud. She just politely asks, while most other things in life are way more demanding. It’s so easy to deny her. And that’s what I did for years. I guess I must have heard her, but I just didn’t listen. Fortunately, she finally managed to wake me up and to seduce me to leave the office and go outside.
M: You’re a photographer, but what’s your motivation as an artist?
RR: Firstly, I think I just create for the sake of creating. For as long as I can remember, I was tinkering, drawing, building. Something that certainly was not always appreciated by parents and teachers, but I could not and would not do otherwise.
Nowadays, that’s still my main drive, but expressing myself by showing how I see and experience the world has become a pleasant side effect. Not necessarily as a reflection of how I literally see it, but more…showing my feelings, my ideas, my vision. And apparently things as innocence, love, connection and intimacy, that are well represented in my photos, are things that got my interest.
M: You could say that nature’s the most accomplished artist and canvas. It’s constantly changing, unpredictably wondrous, remarkably beautiful, and evokes some of the most inspiring responses from those who spend time in it, or observe it. Do you feel as though you’re collaborating with nature when you take your shots?
RR: Actually: yes. In a way I try to visit nature as open-mindedly as possible, just see what may come and what I might receive. Of course, I’m human, even a hunter in a way, and eager. Sometimes too eager. But for me that doesn’t work. I don’t like to force my ideas upon nature. I’m really curious for what she has to offer and what will come out of our collaboration. And through time I learned that the less I expect, the more I seem to receive.
M: Do you think that for nature to be “art” it needs to be captured by a human? Or can nature be “art” just through the responses it provokes in humans? In other words, can a landscape be considered “art” if it’s not been painted or photographed and presented?
RR: Nice question which kept me thinking for a while. It sounds so arrogant to assume that art can’t exist without us. But still I think that is the case, because we are the ones that invented the concept of art, aren’t we? Something is art because it’s perceived as art and as far as I know the only beings that can interpret is us. Without people, nature is just as beautiful, but there’s just no one to label it. And maybe a second definition might be that art is created by beings that – consciously or not – add some feelings or meaning to it. A landscape is a landscape. There is no message in it and I don’t think there were any emotions involved when it was created.
M: The world is forever developing into an online, social, and shareable world. Do you find it satisfying to share moments you’ve captured in nature on a digital platform? Bringing the outside indoors and creating secondary experiences for the people viewing your work.
RR: Yes, I consider social media as a certain type of enrichment. The possibility to make connections all over the world is amazing. I love to share, to inspire and to be inspired and the internet makes it all possible. Of course there is a downside, the internet is fleeting and superficial, very addictive and time consuming. But it’s great if someone at the other side of the world tells you how happy he is while watching your photos and reading your stories.
M: You enjoy nature by being in it, experiencing it, responding to it, capturing it. How do you hope your audiences respond to nature through your images?
RR: The most ideal case would be that people who don’t care so much about nature would be touched by a photo of mine. I know it’s incredibly idealistic, but there are so many people that see my photos. Many nature lovers, but also many people that never see flowers or touch an animal. It would be great if at least one person would be really touched and start to think about its place in this world, its relation towards nature and its inhabitants and think again.
M: It must be difficult to try and capture a moment of connection with nature? What’s your trick, as your work certainly captures wonderful moments?
RR: I like to think, but thinking and creating don’t always go hand in hand. So I try to really be there. Not worrying about the bills to pay, but smelling the fresh sea breeze and hearing the birds whistle. No matter how cliché this might sound, I think connecting with the environment, being in the moment helps to connect with yourself and vice versa. And so does working from the heart. Not trying to score, but doing what you love.
M: You write, you paint, you photograph… it seems as though personal expression and artistic output is very important to you! What medium do you feel expresses your creative desires the most?
RR: Painting and writing offer way more freedom than photography. With photography you are always restricted by the camera, the lens, the light and the willingness to cooperate of your model. With writing and painting the world is at your feet. Imagination has no borders and there’s unlimited freedom to create your own world. And that’s both motivating and discouraging. I don’t always feel secure enough to fill that empty canvas or paper. And these are the moments that nature and her natural framing, helps me along.
M: Do you often find that you need to respond to your experiences out in the wild through writing, retrospectively, beyond a photograph? The photograph captures what you see, but do you think it captures what you feel?
RR: Not automatically, but I think feelings can be captured in a photo and transferred to the viewer. I think all artists must know the feeling of “flow”, or “being in the zone”. It occurs when you are truly connected with your subject. All discomforts, like hunger, pain or cold are muted and all the focus is on the subject. In this state, there is room for your emotions to find their way through your creation and can be perceived by others.
M: The red fox seems to be your muse. It’s obviously a very striking subject! Is it the looks or the mannerisms and personality that attracted you?
RR: Mainly their character. They intrigued me when I read my first child storybooks that depicted them as mean, ferocious creatures. Of course they are not, but they do have quite layered, complex characters and they differ a lot.
Having this said, I adore their personalities. But with their gorgeous red coats, big eyes and perfect furry tails, I find their looks quite irresistible as well!
M: When it comes to selecting a subject, do you respond to what relationship and connection you feel to them/it, or do you think of the composition, the form, how it will look beyond the lens? Is it emotional or aesthetic?
RR: Emotional. When I started photography I learned to know my gear well, so that I didn’t have to think about that anymore. And of course I still think about settings, composition, background etc, but it’s not dominant, not distracting. Knowing my gear helps me to just be there and do as I feel.
M: Nature’s a permanent connection to everything before and everything that comes after. To know that someone before has experienced a fox, for example, is to feel some type of connection to an invisible past and an unknown future. What does a connection to nature mean to you?
RR: I think for me it’s actually being where I am; seeing the beauty around me, smelling the trees, hearing the birds and the wind and feeling the sand below me feet. Not reflecting on yesterday or worrying about tomorrow, just being there. Nature is not something that should be seen separately. We are nature and we can’t live without her.
M: On your website, you mention that you’re not much of a scenery photographer (we beg to differ on the evidence!). Is this because of the level of potential setup? With the active, moving, wildlife, there’s less of a chance to think, it’s responsive to the wild. That must be exciting! What is it about responding, not staging, that you like?
RR: Yes. I’m a curious person, always looking for some level of thrill. Flowers and landscapes are gorgeous, however, they don’t offer much challenge by being so motionless. A wild animal, instead, that acts in its own mysterious ways, awakens the “hunter” in me. And indeed, I’m not much of a stager, since I truly like the surprise element that comes with living creatures. That is: I like it in 90% of the cases. In 10% I’d rather describe it as “frustration”.
M: Does reflecting on an image you’ve shot transport you back to the time of shooting? Do you often like to recount experiences in the wild or do you prefer creating new experiences with a new outing?
RR: It doesn’t necessarily transport me back to the moment, but more to the corresponding sense of that particular moment. I prefer to create new experiences, but I also prefer quality over quantity, so if I have to go back many times to get to know an animal and make better shots I would surely do that. Rather than “score” ten other animals in the same period of time.
M: Can you send us the one shot that means the most to you and explain why? Is it because of how it looks, or because of the moment and experience you remember shooting it?
RR: I chose a photo of a fox in the snow, because foxes are obviously my main subject of choice. And the snow because the experience itself is so important for my own appreciation of a photo. When it comes to nature photography in the Netherlands, it doesn’t get more intense than this. Although it might look like a nice and peaceful scene, it was far beyond unpleasant and uncomfortable. It was so cold that both me and my camera almost quit functioning. Both fingers and buttons were frozen and all I could do was focus and press the shutter. But at that moment I didn’t consciously feel the freezing cold. All I knew was that I found that fox in this almost unworldly circumstances and I think I could have stayed there with that magnificent animal forever. Afterwards, it’s the bitter cold and harsh circumstance that added to the feeling that you’re actually living. And it made the photo even more valuable for me.
M: What do you think the human fascination with photography is? Why the desire to immortalize a moment?
RR: For me it’s to be able to really keep or “own” that moment. Moments are gone before you know it, they fly by like clouds and just…dissolve… and to me that’s some kind of sadness. Like it happened all in vain. I cherish some of these moments and pour them into something solid, so that they’ll remain forever and can be watched and enjoyed until eternity.
Explore Roeselien’s work further at her website, Instagram, or 500px profiles.
© 2016 Myndness. All Rights Reserved original article: http://www.myndness.com/a-conversation-roeselien-raimond/
24th December 2015