Photography is enjoying major superstar status as the choice art form for the coolest, most chic interiors and since we recently launched the incredible work of German artist Mario Gerth in our very own Art Room, I thought it might be interesting to take you a little behind the scenes of his creative process and share some details of his travel stories from his journey through India and Africa. As someone who loves to travel and discover new places and people myself , I was intrigued to find out a little more about his everyday experiences on these epic trips and how these may have impacted his work. I caught up with Mario recently to chat and asked him some probing questions!
What age were you when you started photography and what made you get into it seriously as a profession?
I was eight when I got my first black and white camera for my birthday along with one roll of film with twelve pictures. It took me one month to take these twelve pictures but I loved to be careful with my resources! Years later, I cycled the world from 2004 to 2008 as a personal challenge to myself. This was a turning point and I knew I wanted to go back to some of the wonderful places I had seen on that trip . I went back to Africa and took my camera. I wanted to return and record the beauty of the world to share with friends and others who are not so lucky to travel.
What do you hope to capture in your images and what keeps you motivated?
I want to capture the beauty of life and nature and show to this to the world. If we would all see the beauty in a tree, in a mountain range, in other cultures or every little animal, we would not destroy it as we do it today. My mission is to open the eyes and give an idea of how we are gifted with a wonderful world surrounding us.
How do you plan your trips and find the people you want to photograph?
There is no plan. Sometimes something triggers an interest or a desire to visit – maybe it’s a TV documentary, an article in a magazine which might gives me the mental picture of what is a place like. and I want to discover more, But my picture is incomplete and I need to pack my bags, go there and discover the missing pieces of the puzzle.
What was your interest in the Sadhus or Holy men and how did you finally find them?
I have been obsessed for many years in the Sadhus, these holy men live such a different way to what you and I know. He ( the Sadhu or holy man) renounces his earthly life, all his worldly attachments, leaves his home and family and takes on the lifestyle of an ascetic. As part of this renunciation, he also leaves behind his clothes, food and shelter, and live on the generosity of others. Sadhus are like no other no humans. They choose to life a modest life amongst the poor.
Their only riches are found in spirit and humanity. I was fascinated by them and set off early 2013 to look for them; in hidden temples of crowded Delhi, on the bench of the holy river Ganga in Varanasi and close to the Himalaya mountains in Nepal. In these places I found them.
Do you stay with the families or tribes that you visit and if so where do you sleep?
I love to discover the daily life and try to stay as much as I can. I am always prepared with my own equipment to stay at any place. Living with other cultures for days gives me an idea of how to photograph them. Taking a technically good photo is one thing but putting feelings into the same photo is another thing and this takes time. Before I took my first portrait in Africa I spent about 3 years there.
Can you describe a highlight of one of your adventures in Africa or Asia and why it was so special?
During my cycling trip across the world I passed through the big Sahara desert. For days I struggled to get from Sudan to Cairo and I found myself in the middle of the biggest dessert , alone for days and running out of water. I was too weak to cycle, I just had no energy and I collapsed. It was night when I woke up in a shelter somewhere. A nomad found me and took me along with my bike to his home, fed me, gave me water until I was strong again. We spent a few days together until I set of again but my mind and soul return again and again to him. Since then I have been obsessed with the generosity of the nomadic people and dedicated my work as a photographer to them.
Have there been any dangerous situations that you’ve encountered on your travels?
No. If there was any kind of so called dangerous situation, it was caused by me who was not prepared enough and if you travel with love and freedom you receive the same. Its no secret.
Your work was shown at the Rio Olympics how did this come about?
Firstly I came across the work of graffiti artist Eduardo Kobra in Miami and loved the style. A few months later we got in touch and he told me about his immense project for the Olympics in Rio . He’d been commissioned to produce giant street art murals – they would represent five indigenous cultures from five continents and the murals he planned could be the largest street art murals in the world. I was excited to work with him to have my image ‘Mayo’ produced by him on this scale and in his unique style. It was amazing!
Do you have a favourite image? If so can you tell us why?
My most favorite image I am going to take next week when I am back in Africa. I am sure of it!
Mario’s connection with Africa is a strong one so much so he even chose to propose to his girlfriend ( now wife!) while they were out there together on one of the many trips. The impromptu marriage took place the next morning in a cave church with around fifty guests from a local tribe that they had never met before – what a perfect scenario for an adventurer! Talking of adventures, Mario is heading out to Africa again as we speak to a remote part of Ethiopia this time to begin his next project and I for one am very excited to see what special moments he captures on this trip.
Thanks Mario for sharing some of your stories with us and I’ll look forward to catching up with you on your return!
You can view our full collection of Mario’s prints in the Art Room.