Eric Bennett - USA
1. Eric, you`ve been making a living as a filmmaker and photographer for well over a decade. When did you realize that the camera would become a main part of your life?
I can’t think of any specific moment where I had any kind of profound revelation that I would end up dedicating my life to photography, but I was 23 years old when I decided I would pursue videography as a career. Leading up to that, I had decided on several different careers based on income, and among other things, I tried doing some web design work which paid well but I just didn’t enjoy doing it. I came to the realization that money would never make me happy, and that it was pointless to base my life around earning it, so I decided to just commit to what I enjoyed doing the most, which was capturing the world with a camera and sharing messages that I feel can enrich our lives.
"Arc Angel" Paria River, UT
2. You grew up in San Diego, California, and currently live in Northern Utah. It`s more than obvious that the epic landscapes of the Southwest have a huge impact on your work. Please let us know something about your connection to this area.
Honestly when I first moved to Utah, I was spending very little time exploring all of the amazing places I have close to home. I was mostly interested in international travel and I was shooting outside of the country for the most part. After a few years, I started to dedicate more time to doing short adventures in between my longer, international trips, and I quickly developed a strong relationship with Utah’s wilderness. It has gotten to the point where most of my trips I am planning are around here in my state and I am squeezing in other international trips between those. I can see myself in the upcoming future taking a few years off of traveling abroad all together and just roaming around all of these places near home. The scenery of the state of Utah is so unique compared to anything I have ever seen. It really is like no other place in the world, and especially the southern Utah desert. The raw, naked landscapes have given me an intimate and clear view of the early stages of the Earth’s processes. They have taught me about water and how things on this planet are formed, and how everything is connected, even human beings, in this glorious and beautiful system, the circle of life.
"Observers" NSW, Australia
3. Landscape photographers often talk about the “experience” when they`re out into the wilderness, surrounded by pure nature, entering the “flow state”. How important is the experience for yourself for achieving the best possible artistic approach?
I think this is a huge thing a lot of guys are looking over, and it shows in their work. As I scroll through my feed lately, I see a lot of 2 dimensional images. By 2D I am not saying they lack depth as far as a visual element, rather they lack emotional depth. When an image is shallow and one dimensional, it lacks the ability to teleport the viewer into the scene to experience it for himself in a way. They represent nothing more than what can be seen on the surface, they don't make me feel what it is like to be there, what it smells like, what it sounds like, and I believe it’s because the artist neglected to experience those things himself.
I always say that great photographs come from great experiences. When I travel to places now, it isn’t just because I want to photograph them. I go places because I want to be there, I want to see them, not just the icons, but what is on the ground, around corners, up above, and maybe find what others have overlooked. From doing this, inspiration sparks and I get ideas for photographs. When we take photographs we are recording an experience, not just documenting a place, and an experience has to be had before it can be recorded.
"Rainbow Forest" Patagonia, Argentina
4. On your website you say: “I hope that my imagery can inspire a desire in others to protect and conserve the little wilderness we have left.” What do you think about the responsibility of all humankind for our planet?
As human beings we have an overall, greater intellectual capacity than any other species. But with great power comes great responsibility, and I don’t believe our responsibility is to dominate and control all life on this planet, as the majority of our race has been trying to do since the beginning. I believe our responsibility with our greater intelligence is to take care of this planet and act as stewards. The planet should benefit from our presence, not be devoured and destroyed by it.
"Witchcraft" Tongaporutu, New Zealand
5. In late 17 you started a desert project after you lost interest in mountain landscapes which you usually love a lot. You decided to change something and resurrect your creativity. Do you think that a change or development is important for any kind of artist?
I think our circumstances in life are constantly changing, and when our circumstances change, we adapt, and we transform in order to keep moving forward in spite of obstacles. I began to take shorter trips with my family around Southern Utah so that we could spend more time together and from that I started to see the desert in a different way since I was a different person than when I had visited in the past. So I wouldn’t say that change for the sake of change is a good thing, but rather to be flexible and roll with the changes that come in life and create art that expresses that. If we try to stay stagnant in order to please others, and just keep following the same formula that “works,” then we will cease to be artists and we will just be machines.
"Cornucopia" Colorado Plateau, UT
6. You traveled more than 30 different countries. Do you have a favorite place? What makes it so special in your eyes?
Well, to be honest, the Southwest is my favorite place in the world, hence why I live here, but to not be boring, I would say my favorite place I have visited away from home, would be New Zealand. I really love everywhere that I have been, since every place is unique and special in some way, and worth experiencing. But New Zealand was a place that was beautiful, wild, natural, that also has great culture, people, food, and weather. It reminded me of where I grew up in Southern California, except populated with Hawaiians and with the swiss alps close by, then put all of those things on steroids, haha. There are super epic stretches of coastline, both beautiful, sandy beaches and rugged, rocky sea stacks and cliffs. All of the rainforest is very lush, mossy, and overgrown, mixed with redwoods and ferns. The glaciers, mountains, and highlands are all very well preserved and not too touristy. All of the nature there just feels very happy, like it’s in a constant state of celebration of life, as we all should be.
"Loopty Loop" GSENM, UT
7. Do you prefer traveling with a partner on your side? Or do you also like being all by yourself?
I really enjoy traveling alone because I feel more free to be spontaneous and change plans at any moment. I feel like I can be more productive, feel more and see more, when I am alone. However, I also love traveling with like minded friends, or with my companion. They are two different experiences so it is hard for me to favor one over the other. They both have different pros and cons. Lately, I have been more accustomed to traveling with other people, since I usually am with a friend, a student, or my family.
"Wake" Patagonia, Argentina
8. Where do you find your inspiration? Are you interested in other kinds of art? Which artist has been an inspiration for your creative work?
I wouldn’t say I really find inspiration as much as inspiration seems to find me. It’s something that just happens while I am out exploring in the wild. I learn lessons and I try to share those lessons with others through my images. I do look at a lot of other photography to get ideas for techniques and such, and also just because I enjoy seeing what other people are sharing with the world. Some guys whose work I regularly look at are Guy Tal, Floris Van Breugel, Marc Adamus, and David Thompson. As far as other kinds of art that interest me, I have always loved music and sometimes I will pick up my guitar and write something. I like to paint and draw whenever I have free time and I don’t feel like photographing. I really enjoy reading and writing as well and those are two things I am constantly doing in between photography. Some many not consider skateboarding an artform, but I do, and I still try to go out and skate whenever I am in town and the weather is good.
"Valhalla" Wind River Range, WY
9. Do you have one single picture with a very special personal meaning for yourself? Please tell us something about it.
Man, this is a tough one. I feel like every image in my portfolio has a specific trait or uniqueness to it that justifies it being in there. They are all meaningful in a different and special way. I think the image that stands out to me most right now would be this one though, “Flourishing Life,” from Zion National Park last fall, in 2017. I took this photograph while exploring the Narrows, a long, deep slot canyon that is very popular for both hiking and photography. However, most photographers rarely make it very far in, so I was curious to explore the entire section of the narrows, 7 miles long, and see if I could create some unique photographs of places that hadn’t been captured before.
A buddy and I started hiking, and as we got further and further into the canyon, the crowd of hikers thinned out more and more until eventually we were all alone between these massive walls, seeing stretches that we had never experienced before in person nor in photographs. It felt like a completely new place, and the leaves had recently turned to fiery orange, yellow, and red. I remember coming to this part of the canyon and turning around and seeing this scene. Before taking out my camera I took some time to just stand there and look. I was so impressed by what nature had created. There was so much life growing in this crack, somewhere in the desert. Every single flat surface seemed to have something growing on it, like a place of very desired, tree real estate. I tried taking a few pictures but the light wasn’t right. So the following day, we made the long haul back up here, starting earlier in the morning and I waited for the light to hit the wall at the right angle to bring the scene to life. This image always takes me right back to that moment, standing in this enormous canyon, feeling that deep sense of love and connection with Mother Earth. I have a huge metal print of this image hanging in my office now, and every time I look at it, it brings a smile to my face.
"Flourishing Life" Zion, UT
10. Final Question: This project is called "Vision and life". What do the terms "vision" and "life" mean for you, Eric?
In artistic terms, the word vision is the imagination an artist has for what he will create. It’s the ability to see something before it exists, the way the artist perceives the world, what he sees beyond the surface. I think what an artist can offer to the world is his unique way of seeing life, his optimistic and beautiful perspective that can uplift and teach others. Technology can make life easier, but it is art that makes life meaningful.