Interview: Russell Ord
Photos: Andrew Semark
Andrew Semark has recently returned from Norway with his beautiful family and is exhibiting his recent work in the “Surface Collective” which is an emerging group of talented photographers, illustrators and artists from the Margaret River / Dunsborough region.
Elements: The emergence festival has just wrapped up and the opening night of the exhibition was held at Xanadu Wines with a number of amazing creative’s from the South West, how was the night?
Andrew: The night was insane, It exceeded my expectations big time, We had a great turn out and I had some really good feedback from the images I showcased. I got to meet a lot of great people over the night and seeing the other artists do really well was great to see.
Elements: You have been concentrating on photographing the Ocean over the last few years, how did the change come about for your latest body of work?
Andrew: I went back to what first got me amped in photography which was landscapes. A trip to New Zealand when I was 15 is what started it all. Shooting on my folks film camera and being in such a beautiful place is where it began. Then being blessed to go on a trip to Norway with the family gave me a clear direction on my next series of images. I was pretty nervous moving away from the ocean images which has been my main focus for some time now but I’m stoked I did it.
Elements: It must be amazing to travel with the family and share all those moments, any crazy experiences on the trip?
Andrew: The whole trip blew my mind. A lot of people thought we were crazy taking 2 young children half way across the world to shoot photos but the experiences are something that will live with me forever and hopefully the kids also. From standing under the Northern lights in -15 degree temperatures to jumping in freezing cold fjords the whole trip was filled with moments that were unforgettable. The best thing is having my family there to experience it all by my side.
Elements: Your beautiful daughter is the star attraction in your recent works, what’s the idea or concept behind this?
Andrew: Everything about Norway is big and it is hard to express in an image just how small you feel. That’s where Isla came in. She is a more than willing model and has a good thirst for adventure herself. She would happily stand in freezing temperatures until I got the right shot and having her involved gives her a sense of purpose in the project as well. Having her in the photos brings a sense of scale and warmth and a sense of wonderment that only a child has.
Elements: Norway is a massive trip, what gear did you take on the journey and why?
Andrew: Norway was a massive trip so it’s best to be prepared, I took my full kit – back up body, filters, tripod, lenses. About 25kg worth of gear, but you need it.
Elements: Among your works from the trip, which one stands out personally for you?
Andrew: Probably the biggest standout was the image of Isla standing on the rocks in front of the mountain and there was a perfect reflection. The location was just on the side of the road, we waded through waist deep snow and there wasn’t a breath of wind. You shoot these photos and you can’t believe what comes out on the back of your screen. It just seems surreal.
Elements: What’s one piece of equipment you wish you had on the journey?
Andrew: Better socks! My feet were freezing.
Elements: What first drew you to taking images in Norway?
Andrew: I did a trip to Iceland in 2014 and fell in love with the ruggedness of the landscape. I knew I had to bring my family to this part of the world and so the decision was made to go to Norway. There are places in the world that make you feel so small and are so different to what I am used to it makes shooting images really interesting and refreshing.
Elements: What do you think makes a memorable landscape image?
Andrew: I guess being able to draw the viewer into the photo to make them feel like they’re standing there themselves. Or to inspire a sense of adventure that makes people want to book a ticket and experience it for themselves.
Elements: What do you think the viewers take away from your work?
Andrew: I hope that people take away that sense of wonder, that innocent childhood adventurous spirit that is unmarred by adulthood.
Elements: Was there any difficulties regarding shooting in Norway? No doubt it was extremely cold.
Andrew: The biggest difficulty I faced was the cold. Your feet and hands feel like they are going to snap off at times. Batteries fail pretty quickly in the minus temperatures. Wading through snow up to your chest to get to the next location isn’t the most ideal situation but it’s all good when you get back to the warm van.
Elements: Who are some of the photographers that may have influenced your work, and how did they influence you?
Andrew: So many people these days are producing incredible work and you can take bits and pieces from everyone. Guys like Chris Burkard, Felix Inden. Guys close to home like Russell Ord who has always helped me out, Chris Gurney, Steve Wall and Mark Clinton, the list is endless. Especially the guys that I am exhibiting with are all big time inspirations to see them pushing their boundaries and creating some amazing artwork.
Elements: What are the advantages and disadvantages of exhibiting in collaboration?
Andrew: This being my first collaboration it has been a big learning curve. I’ve really enjoyed having the support of the other artists and supporting them on their journeys also. At this point, no disadvantages so yahoo.
Elements: Who is another creative in the collective exhibition that you admire?
Andrew: It is hard to pick just one because they all have done so well. Personally for me, I really enjoyed Paris Hawken’s exhibit. She works so hard at what she does and has a real unique take which I love. She is definitely going to do well in future.
Elements: What are your thoughts on shooting individually versus shooting with friends or small groups?
Andrew: I think they both have their benefits. Sometimes shooting solo you can go a little bit crazy not knowing if you’re producing good images but sometimes being alone your imagination can help you create your best work. Shooting in groups or with friends gives you opportunity for feedback and a second opinion that you might not have thought of.
Elements: How has social media played a part in your photography?
Andrew: Social media is a double edged sword. Its great to have a platform for people to see your work but it’s easy to hide behind a computer and let it dictate how you feel about your work. That’s why the surface exhibition has been so good just to bring an outlet for aspiring artists and thanks to all for coming down and checking it out.
See more of Andrews Work: website.