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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Svarre

Interview transcript with Chris Burkard

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

You mentioned that you dislike being called an environmentalist; your honesty regarding developing and acquiring a sense of responsibility over the years was heartening. What is the best way you feel that you now convey this altruism? How do you motivate and inform the young earlier on, such as your children?

I try to teach my kids the same way I have taught myself. To fall In love with nature and spend time in the places that inspire you. At a certain point, you feel a sense of responsibility to protect them rather than an obligation. I want people to be connected with the global issues they speak about rather than just speaking out of pressure or a desire to fix issues we don’t understand blindly.

You described your photography career as a “ personal crusade against the mundane,” hence your search for remote, harsh, unforgiving wild spaces, and you developed a desire to protect these spaces. What would you do if you were Minister of the Environment in Iceland to create effective policies regarding glacier melting?

I wouldn’t be able to speak on what effective policies are because that isn’t my field of expertise. I have purposely decided to stay out of politics because of the agendas that come with them and the many exceptions that must be made. I would instead help educate with photos, stories, films, etc, and personal experiences to let people understand what is at risk and then let people much more educated than me make those decisions. We call all advocate for policy, but I also don’t want to assume that my “crusade against the mundane” has anything to do with creating government policy - that mantra is more of a mindset to understand what I want in my life, career and to figure out what motivates me. 

I read you used to do charcoals. When you are in the creativity phase of organizing a new trip, do you draw before taking a photograph?

I used to a lot. In fact, in high school, I was constantly doodling and, in some ways, maybe just keeping my hands busy since I was always pretty active - art gave me the freedom to explore and express how  I felt. I still doodle, but I don’t really paint or do art as much because my modalities for expression have evolved. 

I can recognize a photograph you took because I can see and feel the “shivering” and extreme nature of your work. Would you say that “suffering” is an integral part of your process?

I would say that suffering isn’t critical at all. I think anything that elicits emotion is critical, and sometimes, when documenting athletes- suffering or joy or exuberance or pain or whatever .. is the feeling I’m going for. I feel like over the years, I’ve tuned up to the fact that if a photo required some “sacrifice” - which could come in the form of suffering or something else - it holds an emotional trigger for me that helps me remember the moment and the experience itself.

Chris Burkard Photographer Svarrehalla World

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