Peter Coskun - USA
1. Peter, browsing through your website means entering a world of passion and beauty. Your love for nature is easily noticeable. When did you realize that nature and wilderness would be an important part of your life?
It's difficult to pinpoint an exact time when I knew these places would end up being very special for me, but I imagine somewhere between 2011-2012. In 2011 I began to get more interested in venturing to far off places seeking peace and solitude. At first I wanted to see all the national parks, which is still a goal of mine, but more so in 2012 I wanted to explore more off the beaten path locations. Locations that I didn't think would be overrun with tour buses and long waiting lines. What I never quite took advantage of though was the places close to where I live now. The Superstition Mountains were a place that spoke to me the moment I laid eyes on the iconic view from lost dutchman state park. Just beyond the park lies the wilderness boundary, and once crossing that fence I knew the thought of leaving traffic and civilization behind would make me feel more at home. It is perhaps the one place that I will continuously explore no matter the circumstances, and plan to wander deeper into it's rugged wilderness to find that peace and solitude.
2. Many people may have an envious look on how you live your life and think that you`re able to live your dream. What would you tell them? Have there also been personal setbacks or deprivations for realizing this? How are you able to get over it?
I would tell them not to be envious. Everyone's version of living their dream differs greatly. I would say that, yes, I am living my dream, but it's probably not what people expect. I have a day job, though by the time people read this I will have parted ways with that job and begin focusing on photography full time. That may have been one of the biggest setbacks for me. There is never any certainty in todays world. Leaving a consistent paying job to do something I may not get paid to do for long periods of time is scary, but I feel is necessary for my own well being. I've thought about doing this for the last couple years, but could never bring myself to do it until now. I can't even count how many times I felt the need to be out in nature whether it is with a camera or not only to have to clock in to work. I imagine those days being out in a canyon or the mountains would have undoubtedly made me a happier person and created some truly remarkable moments for me. It would be genuinely more fulfilling than a paycheck as crazy as that sounds. Of course, it is not all about the making it a career for me. I truly cherish my time outside often sitting in one place taking note of all the intricate details of a scene, a mental photograph if you will. Many people assume that good fortune just follows me around, which is definitely not the case. There have been cases where I've been incredibly lucky, but I also see it as being right where I needed to be in that moment.
3. The social network helped to make your photography more popular. How do you think about the pros and cons of social networking?
I think in todays digital age, social media can be a huge advantage if utilized correctly. From a business perspective, I can't imagine I would be anywhere close to where I am now and the same goes for my photography itself. I've gained an incredible amount of knowledge from people who I otherwise would have never known existed without social media, and I certainly would not have had as much good fortune in regards to companies finding me to use my work in one way or another. I've met some truly incredible individuals through social media and have found great inspiration from the artists and photographers I've been able to follow, some who I have followed long before getting serious with a camera. Although most people see social media as a likes and favorites game of popularity, I tend to see it as a way to share my thoughts, my experiences, things I would want others to be inspired from. I want others to see a photo of mine and be inspired to cherish and care for the land they see in that photo. Of course, this comes with a negative notion as well. The more people to get out and explore means more traffic in these sometimes very fragile places. It isn't uncommon especially now with the current social media trends that there will be a handful of people who ignore any sign of significance to a place and show little regard for taking care of it. What I would like to see, and what I am trying to do a little more of going forward is bringing more awareness to these fragile places. More often then not, I see people only asking where a location is. Their mindset is to find the location, take the photo, post it to gain more of a following and move on to the next spot. I've come across people out in the field who ignore stay on trail signs, or who think it's ok to approach a wild animal. I'm not sure if they understand or have heard of leave no trace principles, but I think being able to educate others on what they shouldn't be doing in the wild and why they shouldn't be doing it could have a big impact on helping preserve these special places. It is up to everyone who gets out to explore to take care of the land we live on.
4. In 2017 there have been several environmental disasters, e.g. the Eagle Creek fire that damaged huge parts of the amazing Columbia River Gorge. How does a nature soul like you think and feel when such a wonderful region is destroyed, especially if it`s man-made?
I get two completely different feelings when a disaster is naturally caused, or man made. For the latter, my initial feeling is anger and disgust. It's hard for me to fathom that people can be so reckless and careless at the expense of others. I've only visited the Columbia River Gorge once back in 2015, but that visit was a special one even though it was one of the driest years in recent memory. I created my all time favorite image during this trip, so when I heard that the area was burning, my heart began to drop. Initially I began to fear the worst, that everything was going to be toast. It's still unknown if specific areas of the gorge are in fact gone, but like many, I suspect that a few special places have been taken away from us. Prior to the gorge fire, my girlfriend and I had visited Glacier National Park for a summer vacation. As we drove through northern Utah, all of Idaho, and most of our route through Montana all we could see and smell was smoke filled skies. The summer had been extremely dry, and during one particular evening photographing from the deck of the Swiftcurrent hotel we watched as a violent lightning storm moved through the McDonald valley. Even though we were watching a powerful display of mother nature from a man made deck, I knew that this show was going to lead to something tragic. Sure enough, the next morning the reports came in that three wildfires sparked by lightning had started up in the park. I couldn't quite be angry since this was just nature being nature, but I was certainly depressed and changed the mood of the trip. In due time, these places will recover, but they will most definitely be forever changed.
5. At the age of 13 you moved to Phoenix, Arizona, a city that`s completely surrounded by desert landscapes that obviously play an essential role in your photographic approach. Do you have a special bond to deserts?
I never thought I'd have such a strong connection with the desert, and not just one particular desert, all of it. There is something very intriguing about these arid lands that is both eerie and soothing to the soul. Maybe it lies in the fact that this has been my home for the better part of my life, but the desert is one of the most diverse places I've ever been. I truly never thought something so arid and dry can be so beautiful. There are canyons, mountains, rivers and lakes that I have connected with more so than others here in the great southwest. Part of me feels like this is where I was suppose to live, and it has surely been the most beneficial move for me than anyone else in my immediate family.
6. The western US is the principal place of your creative power. Do you find better access to landscapes that you`re familiar with? Can you also imagine do go new paths? What are your plans for the future?
There are so many places in the western US to explore that one would never have to leave the country. From the low deserts to the highest mountains with rainforests and coast line in between there is no shortage of exploring some unique landscapes. I know I could spend a lifetime just exploring a single state, or even a single wilderness area. I like to experience new places, but there is a reason I tend to return to places more than others. Aside from the familiarity to create new images based off of previous visits, I have a stronger emotional connection to these areas. There is a part of me that want's to see and photograph everything the earth has to offer, visit every continent, climate, etc. The reality of that for me however just seems impossible to achieve. Places like Greenland, Turkey, New Zealand, Antarctica are places I would love to visit in my lifetime. I have not done any major traveling outside the US and would like to expand my exploration to other countries. I am not sure what the future holds for me, but I'll enjoy the journey regardless.
7. Please tell us something about the experience of being outside, in the wilderness. What does it mean for you coming to those remote places, far from any other human being?
It is life changing, truly. Being away from everything, the everyday life is in a way spiritual. I find myself at the peak of my happiness and well being far off in remote places with nothing but the sound of a slight breeze and birds chirping. The sense of adventure, the peace and quiet, the relaxation all combine for some of the most special moments. This is the time I cherish almost more than anything, it is my therapy and my escape. I feel privileged to be able to experience all the incredible places I have so far in my young life.
8. Where do you find your inspiration? Which artists have been the greatest source of inspiration for you?
Two of my biggest inspirations in my photographic work have been Guy Tal and Marc Adamus. I've followed their works long before realizing I wanted to pursue photography. To me they were polar opposites in terms of style and approach, but I appreciated that and wanted to be able to show both influences in my own work (whether it is obvious or not). I am also inspired by the natural landscape, without it there would be no photographs for me to make.
9. If you look back on your life so far, are you satisfied with the decisions you made. Would you change something if you could? Which advice would you give to the people reading this?
For the most part yes, I think I've come a long way in my development as both an artist and overall human being. We can always do better for ourselves though. I think if I had found my passion a bit earlier things might have been quite different, but in a more positive way for me. I've filled my life with many great experiences which is what life should be about in the first place. I haven't fulfilled every experience I'd like to yet, but I am still very young and have the time to create those new ones. To the people reading this, I would say never take a single thing for granted, life is too short and there is so much we can and should be doing with it to better ourselves and others.
10. Final Question: This project is called "Vision and life". What do the terms "vision" and "life" mean for you, Peter?
Vision can be interpreted in many ways, but for me, vision is the power to showcase something creative and of meaning to others. Vision is not just a pretty picture, its the mental and emotional components of what we see and why we see it. I want others to be inspired by the content that I create. I wouldn't say that all my images showcase my vision as that would be pretty tough, but there are a handful of moments where an idea came to mind to portray something more than just a photograph. These tend to show how I may have been feeling, the mood I was in, or what I wanted to see myself. Often times these are premeditated, but I do find myself seeing something on the go and working with it which may end up working out much better than what I may have been looking for in the first place. As for life, we only get one of those. It is up to us to make the most of our lives and to choose our paths. Whether they are right or wrong, life is making mistakes and figuring out solutions. There may not always be solutions, but we work with what is dealt to us. Life is something to cherish more than anything, without it there is nothing, literally.