"MATTERHORN" & "petrified"
“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams
French art critic Charles Baudelaire asserted that photography is not an art, that photographers are not artists but imposters. Baudelaire ignores the difference between a snap shot and a photograph however. It is one thing to see something beautiful and another to capture it in film. Capturing a beautiful moment on film is an art.
Photographs, with their formal suggestions of realism, have the power to delude, to clarify, and to define the world through reflections of reality. The power of an image relies on the medium of its creation, and in this sense the medium is not the camera but the photographer.
As a child, Croatian artist Nenad Saljic believed that art was not something he was good at, he recalls thinking, “I can’t draw. I’m not an artist.” His beloved math teacher introduced him to photography, after which Saljic attended film school and filmed a few Super 8 shorts while earning his degree. Film school redefined his theory of art and the notion that perfect sketching is the only determinant of artistry.
“I finally realized that creation is the basis of art.”
Although he wanted to pursue photography after film school, Saljic’s life was pushed a different direction. 18 years of his adult life were spent in the world of international business after obtaining a PhD in Economics.
As Saljic trekked through the Himalayas nine years ago he was prompted to reassess his life’s path, returning to his passion for photography.
As a result of Saljic’s training in caving and mountaineering, “my first art projects,” he says, “were connected with the landscape, especially with caving photography. My early work was the seed of an idea that has been hibernating and waiting for a long time until I was grown enough to materialize my ideas in an art form.”
“I always do long-term projects. I've spent almost seven years to complete the Matterhorn project. I started the Petrified project in 2010 and will probably continue for a few more years. I just need to immerse myself in the place, to take enough time to reflect, to explore.”
Saljic references a quote from John Ruskin, the Victorian British art critic and social commentator, who took the first known daguerreotype of the Matterhorn in 1849:
“There was always more in the world than men could see, walked they ever so slowly; they will see it no better for going fast. The really precious things are thought and sight, not pace." (1856, Modern Painters Vol. III)
Saljic points to a long-forgotten literary masterpiece, The Living Mountain, in which author Nan Shepherd says about her journey to a mountain:
"So there I lie on a plateau, under me the central core of fire from which was thrust this grumbling, mass of plutonic rock, over me blue air, and between the fire of the rock and the fire of the sun, scree, soil and water, moss, grass, flower and tree, insect bird and beast, rain and snow – the total mountain. Slowly I have found my way in." (Nan Shepherd, 1945)
She remarks in the book's closing sentences:
"For an hour I am beyond desire. It is not ecstasy, that leap out of the self that makes man like a god. I am not out of myself, but in myself. I am. To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain."
Saljic proudly defines art as the continuous exploration of reality and new possibilities of expression. His work shows an eagerness for exploration, both exploring the world and searching for new modes of expression and representation. There is always more to a photograph than a mere moment captured; there is a story to be unraveled, there is a photographer, a viewer, and there are the natural wonders that make Saljic’s photographs so striking.
One of the most moving facets of Saljic’s photography is his unrelenting exploration of the Matterhorn. Mountains have long been the subject matter of painters and photographers alike; there is something spiritual and mystical about the mountain’s portrayal of the infinite.
There is a romanticism that surrounds the alluring danger of rugged mountain landscapes that has been long known by artists the world-round. Leonardo da Vinci hiked through the Alps in the early sixteenth century. His sightings influenced the landscapes in paintings such as "The Virgin" and "Child with St. Anne."
Furthering the notions of a mountain’s relation to romanticism, Caspar David Friedrich’s "Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog" captures the spiritual unknown of the mountain peak that Saljic does ever so cleverly with his photographs. Art historians have noted the self reflective and contemplative qualities of Friedrich’s painting. Saljic is continuing this long line of artists whom take the natural wonders of the world and transform them into ample portions of imaginative consumption.
As fellow Croatian artist Ivan Kozaric said, “Art is always something else.”