In the Shadow of the Matterhorn
Featured in Lonely Planet Magazine - January 2019
At the end of 2018 I had a phone call with Lonely Planet to talk about a story I’d shared earlier that year on their new Trips app. It was about two trips that I’d taken to see a mountain in Switzerland called the Matterhorn and they asked me to compare two photos that I had taken in the same spot but in two contrasting seasons. I shared about the different experiences I found travelling in both Summer and Winter and why I was drawn back to the same exact place.
It’s very exciting to see my work used editorially! I hope you enjoyed the feature if you managed to grab a copy. If you missed it, you can now read the story below, plus a few extra words from me at the end. Let’s call it the deluxe version!
“As a photographer I’ve always been drawn to mountain landscapes, as they provide the ideal dramatic background for a picture. Mountains also appeal to me purely as a travel experience: there’s something about how they make you feel small and yet also significant, in that moment, that I really enjoy. That’s what prompted me to photograph the mountain during two different seasons. There are perhaps two or three lakes around the mountain where you can see it’s reflection in the water, and this is one of them: Stellisee near Zermatt. For the whole trip I took in summer I was chasing the sort of light you can see here, and the way one face of the mountain is lit up in the sunrise. I used a tripod to take the picture; that’s me you can see in the shot.
The second photograph was taken the following year in late winter, so ski season was almost over, and the landscape was very quiet. I’d been waiting for three days to take the shot. I had hiked in the snow up a slightly roundabout route to reach this spot, and then set up camp there. It’s not a camping experience I would recommend to beginners. Temperatures were around -8 °C and I needed a sturdy spade to dig the small trench that I set the tent up in. When you do this, it’s important to know the area well, so you can be certain you’re setting up on solid ground. Because of my previous trip to Zermatt I knew where I was and that it was safe to set it up where I did. It was very difficult to tell: the snow was so deep you couldn’t even see the benches along the trail by the lake.
While I waited for the cloud that often hugs the peak of the Matterhorn to clear, and for the sky to gain the luminous quality it has in this picture, I had the chance to quietly absorb the majesty of this vast, nearly deserted landscape. I find travelling alone a freeing experience, because it gives you the space to observe your surroundings without interruptions,
When the right weather arrived, I took a picture of the mountain in the same way as I’d done the previous summer, intending the two images to work as a pair. I like both images, but the winter one particularly takes me back to a really special, inspiring experience and the beauty of the mountain.”
Mountains represent a spiritual experience for me. A place where I feel close to God. Like I shared with Lonely Planet, there’s something amazing about the scale of a mountain and the way it makes you feel so small, yet so significant. It’s a place where you can experience the grandeur of creation and yet discover your place among it. I’ll never take for granted the freedom and peace I’ve found among these landscapes. That’s what truly draws me back.