Kurt Amsler passes on his knowledge
We had the pleasure to welcome Kurt Amsler for the 19th NELOS Photo- and Fimfestival.
During our conversations with Kurt, an enthusiastic photographer, specialized in underwater photography, we got to know a number of his ideas.
Kurt’s father was a professional photographer, specialised in landscape photography, who was not scared of a challenge. One time a climbed the Himalaya to make some pictures there.
He never imposed his own profession on his sun. He let him all available choices and Kurt, apart from being a photographer, is also a diver, a windsurfer, a snowboarder and mountain-biker.
Kurt: “My father did insist that I would go a hundred percent in all that I did. He did not accept that I came back with the message that I had not been able to make certain picture. He claimed that either I had not prepared myself fully, or I had not taken the correct photographic equipment, or I did not have the physical condition to make that picture.”
Kurt is a German speaking Swiss, who since quite some time lives in n – Bandol (across from the Île de Bendor). In close by St-Cyr he regularly organises workshops underwater photography for different levels (www.photosub.com)
Looking at what was exposed at the festival, he confirmed the high quality of the pictures. “For some of such pictures in the past we needed to go on an expedition and the publishers of the magazines where extremely enthusiastic when they saw the images. Now that the world has become so small that anybody can travel anywhere and that the equipment has improved so drastically, some of these images are not spectacular enough anymore”, says Kurt.
Kurt is often blamed for freely explaining his techniques to others. “It is important that we pass on our knowledge and give young photographers the chance to produce innovating images. Otherwise we always see the same kind of pictures over and over again. We must stimulate young photographers to come up with new images.”
He is even of the opinion that a winner in a certain category should not participate in that same category in later contests. Presently too often beginning photographers think they do not stand a chance against the “well known masters”.
He feels the ‘story’ of an image is of utmost importance. A nice frame of a fish, with in the corner a diver who looks at the camera, is not a success. The diver draws away the attention of the viewer from the real subject, namely the fish. Better is when the diver looks at the fish or points at the fish, while looking that the camera: “Look, a fish!”.
About technique he has a strong view: “With the introduction of digital photography the wheel was not re-invented. Photography is still about light. During my training as a photographer, we were taught to use each of the sources of light into our frame. For example, when one looks into a living room, one sees a number of light sources: the chandelier, daylight that comes in through a window, a candle, reflections of all kinds. It is an art to bring all that light into the image. That is not possible by using a full flash! One only gets ‘flat’ images by doing that. An underwater photographer needs to bear that in mind too: “How do I use all available light in the image?”
Digital photography also has an influence on the education of photographers. Compared to analogue education, when one could learn everything in say 10 steps, with presently available digital equipment one can already start at step 3 or higher !. The problem is that one does not learn the basic knowledge of steps one and two, which is exactly what is required to get to step 10.
Apart from an enthusiastic photographer Kurt is also a conservationist. He is the founder of SOS-Seaturtles, a foundation which is protecting sea turtles (www.sos-seaturtles.ch). Apart from obstructing the trade of sea turtles, this foundation is also involved in the protection of their nesting sites. During his presentation at the festival, he also held a hearty plea against the trade of shark fins.
During another presentation he saw an image of a blown up porcupine fish. Since the comments where made in Dutch, he immediately came to me to check what had been said about this. Fortunately the photographer had mentioned that we do not make such pictures anymore, since we have learned that this is very harmful for the fish concerned.