Monday, August 10, 2009
Frans Lanting: The Life Pursuit
Frans Lanting’s Albatross project provides not only an amazing record of a flying legend, but also a guide for photographers interested in pursuing their own life’s work
Working with any subject on a scale of decades is a daunting task in the best of circumstances. To make the venture a success, though, the photographer must be willing to go the extra mile for the photographs. In Lanting’s case, it’s many thousands of extra miles, to the remote island locations that albatrosses call home.
“I’ve covered albatrosses on assignment for National Geographic, for GEO and for other publications repeatedly, in different places,” Lanting says, “but I’ve also gone out to spend time with them on my own. It’s fortunate that publications have commissioned me to do fieldwork specifically for them. Those are extended assignments, where the harder images, the conceptual images, the things that you really can’t achieve in the course of a casual visit of a couple of days or even a week. The places are harder to get to or they’re off-limits.
“If I had to add up the accumulated time I’ve spent with albatrosses,” he adds, “it may outweigh any other creature I’ve spent time with. It usually comes in collaboration with researchers; their world is my world. There are many tribes of albatrosses, and there’s one tribe of albatross researchers. They operate around the world and they’re totally passionate about these birds. Their work and their understanding really infuses my work.”
Though Lanting’s albatross project has received a lot of recent coverage, it’s by no means complete. Lanting saw no reason to ever declare the work a lifelong project in the first place, so why should he ever need to call it quits?
“I think it’s a great part of my professional life to have certain things that you make a lifelong commitment to,” he says. “I find it very gratifying to be able to return to certain themes over the years. As I do many other things, this is almost like a benchmark—after a couple of years, come back to other albatrosses in other places and challenge myself artistically to see what else I can learn from the birds. It will carry on; I’m not going to run out of inspiration. And as we understand them better, and I can interpret them better, the story is going to go on. I’m not thinking of an end result other than creating new opportunities to shoot.”
Frans Lanting is a world-renowned National Geographic photographer. See more of his work at www.lanting.com.
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