Kristian Bertel is a photographer who has had a number of his photographs featured on National Geographic. I have admired his work for a long time, so today I’d like to show you some of his amazing pieces from India, along with his motivations, inspirations, and travel photography advice.
How did you get into photography?
I think photography came as an interest that processed from my passion in drawing and painting. I used to spend hours looking at photos in magazines, where I loved to see memories of people’s travels and the stories that came from them. When I was 26, I bought my first DSLR camera and from then I started to capture my travels, events and the citylife in my hometown. I have always had a visual mind, so I think the difference between drawing, painting and photography is actually very small. Composition and the understanding of light are very similar between these creative fields.
How do you choose your subject for a photograph?
I have a keen interest in photographing people. Because all people look different, they will probably be my most interesting subjects also in the years to come. I choose my subjects based on many things, for example if they are dressed in traditional clothing or if a subject has a great expression or is standing in a great scenery. Generally, I do not like making the subjects pose. I think there is a sense of spontaneity that is apparent in most of my frames. According to myself, I should let moments happen as they do. I believe that photojournalism and travel photography are similar. You need to narrate a story about what is happening, and not make things happen. I like the idea that beautiful and great photos can be taken in an instant, if you are in the right place at the right time.
What do you hope your photographs say to the viewer?
Photographs have tremendous power to communicate information. For me photography is about showing aspects of the world telling small stories of a society, a community, a group of people which transend humanity and photography. Photography can be a way of speaking, a single poignant image can stand alone and is available to contribute to a larger meaning in the world. I hope that my photographs gives the viewers an insight into the places and in the people I photographed.
It’s obvious you have travelled a lot. Where has been your favourite place to photograph and why?
I think my favourite place to photograph must be in the enchanting country of India. This vast country offers the visitor a view of fascinating religions and ethnography and a variety of languages. India’s culture and heritage are also an interesting rich mix of the past and the present. The country is the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people the scene is amazing when you photograph. The warm smell in the streets with all the chaos and crowds of people are all things which I find very interesting. India inspires me because the country is so different from the culture in Denmark, where I live.
Aside from travel, what inspires your work?
I am very inspired by light and nature. Great landscapes and fall colours in the forests inspires me. This variety of warm colours that ranges from yellow, red and brown are colours that I also look for when I travel.
What have you learned from photographing people and places?
Simplicity is very important. I think the best photos are the photos without distractions. The scenery is important is the background simple enough so it does not distract what I want to keep in focus. It is a natural thing to find and search for your own style in photography. It is something that can develop in different directions over the years. For me, I think it has developed into travel photography with people in focus. Normally I shoot a couple of frames of each subject to be sure that I have captured the situation as I see it.
If you could photograph anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I think that would be Kerala, a state in the south-west region of India, which is one of the smallest states in the Indian union. For me, it looks like a fairyland both for travelling and to photograph, because of its beautiful green colours and natural environments. In this province I would also like to travel by boat on Kerala’s rivers and experience its exotic backwaters.
Finally, do you have any tips for readers who might want to improve their photography?
Use your eyes when you walk down the streets. The great photographic picture can also be above you, looking out from a window. Another thing which is important to get the photo as you want is to be patient, when you find a subject to photograph but the angle is not there or the scenery is not simple enough, then be patient and wait. I often stand for several minutes before a subject’s face is in the right position for my photograph. Generally in a portfolio, I think a few good photos are better than many average photos. So I have learned to be more selective in what photos I publish.
You can find more of Kristian Bertel’s enchanting photographs from India on his site.