If you've ever wandered through the woods of Saxony, Bavaria or Bohemia, you'll know it doesn't take long before your imagination runs away with itself. The forests, valleys and mountains of central Europe certainly do lend themselves to the fairytales and legends of old, with their depth and breadth covered in crumbling castles, twisted dark woods and beautiful, expansive vistas.
After all, Germany is the home of perhaps history's most famous fairytale creating duo, the Brothers Grimm. Considering this, it would seem impossible not to think they drew a significant amount of inspiration from their surroundings.
It seems the same is true for German landscape photographer, Kilian Schönberger (whose surname, rather wonderfully and ironically, roughly translates into 'Beautiful Mountain' in English). He has created a photography project, titled "Brother's Grimm's Wanderings", in which he scours Central Europe for landscapes that could be taken from a page of a fairy tale. Check out some of this work below:
Discussing his own work, Schöneberger explains:
I think there is a deep longing for tranquil naturalness among people in our technology-driven environment. Therefore I don’t want to show just portrayals of natural scenes – I want to create visually accessible places where the visitor can virtually put his mind at rest and make up his own stories.
This is certainly something I can testify too. Living in a busy city hardly gives you much time for reflection and relaxed thought, and now sitting in an office with traffic streaming by outside, I do kind of wish I was amongst the landscape of these images. As the author Wendell Berry once said:
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible.
I mean, there isn't an obscenely huge iPhone 6 advert anywhere in sight.
Schönberger's colorful and vibrant images are even more impressive when you learn he is in fact partially color-blind. He has difficulty differentiating between tones of brown and green, which considering he photographs landscape, can be quite the hindrance. However, he hasn't let it get in the way of his photography, and indeed, it could even be an asset. He explains:
I recognized that I could turn this so-called disadvantage into a strength, too and developed my own unique photographic view.
In order to find the perfect location, Schönberger will often travel for days, camping out in cabins or where ever he can get a roof over his head. He also researches the areas extensively, often using their own legends and folk-tales as potential leads.
I’m also a big fan of old fairytales that are linked to locations where I’m taking my pictures. Sometimes I even have found new locations through reading those old stories about a certain area.
From a personal perspective, it's good to see Schönberger capturing a certain mood in his images without resorting to the same old cheap photographic tricks. Often, some photographers simply nuke their images with High Dynamic Range post-production in an attempt to make their images appear moodier. As a result, it strips them of any kind of sense of reality, which I think is important if you're trying to portray the real world.
Instead, Schönberger uses simple framing techniques to capture the almost ethereal qualities of the real world. Take for example the image below, titled 'Prisoner'. The single broadleaf tree amongst the looming conifers already creates an odd and unusual image, but it is the almost equidistant framing of these trucks in the foreground (as well as their silhouette nature) which makes them almost literally appear as prison bars.