Photography, and the Art of Living on Purpose

Peter Fritz with R5 | Photography on Purpose

We do a lot of things through conditioning and habit. Our work, our family situation and our financial and aspirational needs dictate, to a large extent, what gets our attention.

Treating photography as an intentional act – a practice – uncovers myriad opportunities to relieve stress, reconnect with ourselves and foster our innate creativity. Landscape photography elevates this to another level by encouraging us to venture outside, feel the seasons, and see everything in a whole new light. For many, it becomes a lifelong passion that brings purpose and pleasure to their otherwise busy, structured lives.

My images today are the culmination of more than two decades behind a camera, followed by a long self-induced absence, and then the rediscovery of it all. For me, photography provides a balancing force against the relentless demands of modern life and its responsibilities, pressures and stresses.

My hope is to share what I know, what I don’t, and what I’m experiencing along the way. Today, photography is less technically demanding than it used to be (Try shooting a 300 km/h GP bike with a manual-focus 800mm lens. On film.). It’s more about seeing and interpreting things in your own unique way. In the days of film, there was far less latitude for creative expression. Today, there’s almost nothing you can’t do.

But like most things, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The Internet (and especially social media) is awash with images containing absurd levels of saturation and dynamic range (not to mention fake moons and fireworks), but I prefer a more measured approach. Like many professionals, I would prefer my images to grow on you rather than punch you in the face.

Whatever your preference, photography offers fabulous scope for personal, technical and artistic expression. And if it’s landscapes you wish to shoot, the whole world is your canvas.

Recent Favourites

The last time I was excited to go outside and create images was almost 40 years ago. As a young teenager, I realised that every image I made was like a time capsule – a unique, never to be repeated slice of history. With each image, I was freezing a moment in time – when the light was just right, and I’d witnessed and interpreted a scene as only I could.

Today in my 50s, I’m finding beauty everywhere I turn. There’s also a level of authenticity in my images that was lacking throughout my younger years. In 1986, my mentor, Joe Richelieu, gave me some wonderful advice.

 He said, “It takes time to find your style; your own voice. So until you do, study the greats. Learn why their images are so good, and don’t be afraid to copy them. Because one day, through that process, your own style will emerge, and your images will be uniquely yours.”

Since re-engaging with photography, I now know what Joe meant.

The images you see here are my current favourites, so expect them to change rather often. To see the rest of my images, check out the gallery.

A story of two beginnings.

Most photographers my age start out the same way: someone (perhaps a thoughtful parent) hands them an old camera, hapless fumbling ensues, followed soon after by an insatiable urge to shoot everything.

My introduction was no different. I was about 12 when my dad handed me his beloved Voigtländer – the camera he’d used decades earlier to document his big lap of Australia. A robust, simple camera of unburstable quality, it taught me to calm my mind and view things with curiosity and intention.

Kodachrome film was expensive back then, and waiting a couple of weeks to see the outcome of your efforts was normal. Like most photographers who started out in the film era, this forced a deliberate, careful approach to composition and metering. Despite the cost, though (and the absence of instant gratification), I photographed everything – from spider webs and sunsets to motorbikes and people. I funded my passion by selling stray balls collected along the boundary of the local golf course, plus letter openers I’d craft from six-inch nails.

First Sales

Me and my first bike – a Honda XR-75

The Seaford motorbike track yielded my first saleable images, mostly to proud parents of young riders. One day, a strange character in a Bedford van rolled up and thrust a few rolls of Tri-X 400 in my hand with an encouraging, “Show me what you can do, kid.” His name was Les Swallow, and he owned my favourite magazine – Trail & Track.

A few months later, at the age of 14, my first article appeared in print. Others followed, and I was eventually offered a full-time gig with the company that later acquired Les’s rag.

Turning Pro

I went on to shoot for a stable of motoring titles like Car Australia (now MOTOR), 4×4 Australia, AMCN, and a smattering of others – plus a handful of car manufacturers and freelance clients. It was a wild period of race tracks, motorsport royalty, luxury resorts and exotic cars in amazing locations. Sadly, it was the time before smartphones and selfies, so I have almost no photographs of myself throughout that decade.

Although I shot a metric tonne of exotic cars, famous racers and gorgeous motorcycles, my true love was always landscapes. Getting outside, holding a camera and slowing down offered solitude to a young man still trying to figure out who he was. At times, it would be the only thing that stopped me going crazy. Indeed, if it weren’t for an art director who convinced me to leave my first job in banking to join Syme Magazines, I probably would have had several heart attacks by now. Or died of alcoholism. I was good at banking, but it was a soul-crushing job that left me anxious and miserable.

Photography, on the other hand, was immersive, exciting and liberating. It allowed me to create something that no one could replicate. To conceive and capture an idea; to freeze a moment in time was thrilling, and it remains so to this day. 

Photography 2.0

Me and my kids – reason enough to smile!

Following two decades of highs and lows (career and business success, divorce and financial collapse, midlife crisis, remarriage and financial reparation), I picked up a camera again in 2020.

Within a few short weeks, I realised how much I’d missed it. But unlike my early days of striving to ‘get the shot’, my experience now was all about slowing down again, being present, and enjoying time amongst nature.

Venturing outside, walking slowly and really seeing your surroundings is an elixir for the modern life. Whether you make an image or not is secondary – it’s the act that matters. I think my images today are better for it, too.

Landscape photography is therapeutic, both physically and mentally. It gets us out of the house and out of our head. It engages our left and right brain simultaneously – the technical and creative – so that our subconscious can rise above the noise and work quietly to resolve whatever plagues us.

And so once again, photography has saved my life – gently coaxing me to breathe again, appreciate my surroundings, and freeze a fresh new set of moments.

It’s good to be back.

Let’s be mates.

I’ll tell you what I’m up to from time to time.

All content © Copyright 2020, 2021 Peter Fritz

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