Photographer: Alistair Taylor-Young
Heidi: You’ve been shooting for Conde Nast Traveller for the past twenty years. How has your eye evolved; your experience of landscape and the world changed?
Alistair: The eye evolves in tandem with ones’ personality. As one matures, so does the eye and our interests. Our personality notices certain things, we become intrigued in different things throughout our life, so when traveling I may turn left down a street I might have found uninteresting before. I travel quite differently than I used to. I’m trying to describe a feeling and a sense, more than photographing a place, in fact had a chat with my younger self very early on in my career, I understood that my landscapes should not necessary to be representative of the place, we have post cards, brochures and guide books for this, but should represent my personal feeling of where I’ve ended up. It’s vital for myself as a photographer to have an opinion, no matter what you are taking an image of. It must be personal, and I try very hard to ‘ milk ‘ every opportunity I get, to dig deep and to manage to represent what ever I’m shooting to mirror my feeling. I have taken it with my eyes, the camera just records it for me. Same for a beauty brand, perfume, fashion or landscape. The gesture or a hand, a look, or an attitude of a model, it all stems from the center of a personality. Every personality is unique, so should creativity.
Can you tell us how your fashion points back to your landscape/travel and vice versa?
Shooting landscapes, I’ve understood, that the further I am from the airport, the more interesting place I am in. The harder the struggle to arrive the more the reward, art imitating life I guess… If I produce a set of images that I myself find acceptable, and that can stir an emotion, then I will submit them to my editor. It could be just a dusty track in a certain light, and somehow I notice it and it becomes magic, so when I’m shooting, I don’t stop until I feel I have this.
The same goes for the majority of my fashion work, even if it’s often diffused by commercial restraints and needs of what ever client I am working with. The imagery must first pass my litmus test. I must find the magic.
What would you tell your younger self creative self about having such diversity in your work?
My diversity you mention is perhaps the result of an impatient wandering eye, coupled with an appalling memory, and my need to capture to remember!
What type of terrain do you love?
I love inhospitable places, the harshness is often rewarded by a beautiful smell. Danokil is an extra ordinary place. Completely Biblical, I have the feeling nothing has changed in the past 2000 years. Erta Ale is still bubbling and fussing away, The salt on the dry lake is still being harvested as it was thousands of years ago, The sulphur pools still smell the same, and it’s still considered the hottest, most un-hospitable place on earth, but in this wonderland it fires up the soul and ignites the passion to capture the invisible emotion just in order to remember.