Getting to know Alister Benn

being more creative creativity & photography desert landscapes landscape photography thoughts photographer profiles speaker series Oct 14, 2022

Our next speaker in the Fall Speaker Series is Scottish Landscape photographer Alister Benn.  I can’t remember where I came or when I first came across Alister, but I can tell you that he has instrumental to helping me to see in his words “The key attributes of photography:  Luminosity, Contrast, Color, Geometry, and Atmosphere.

This came through his various eBooks where frames complex subjects in easier to understand ways, but also through his Covid Podcast called Vision and Light that is also a YouTube channel and most recently as I was granted early access to view his first hardcover photography book, Out of Darkness.

With forwards by Joe Cornish and William Neill you got a good sense of what the experience of photography has meant to Alister as he dealt with challenging periods in his life.  Quoting from Joe Cornish “Alister… shows us a place where his own internal struggles have been faced and vanquished by letting go, by surrendering artistically” and William Neill touches on a different aspect how “The solace of wild places nurtured a brighter world for him, a better balance to cope with the ups and downs of life.”

I admire Alister’s ability and courage to speak about the darker sides of our struggle as humans and the honesty in which he tackles shortcomings and defects of character.  In his words “I sought solace in writing and long solitary walks through the hills.  If I could escape into a blank page or a big I at least felt less constrained.  I was in a continuous fight to escape myself.”

This book is a journey though the Gobi Desert.  To find some of himself in the big and open spaces.  I hope you can join us live for his talk on "Understanding the Landscape" - The emotional language of vision." or if you missed it you can pick up the entire speaker series.

Below are 4 questions to get to know him a little better.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your photography?

I would say the number one thing would be that photography is a lot more to me than just making photographs. The experience of being out in the landscape comes first; just being out, climbing hills, exploring a rocky coastline or a forest. Nature has an amazing capacity to heal, and being out there with a camera allows me to engage, switch off, tune out of the stresses of everyday life and just "be" for a while.

Learning how to be me has been of massive value and over the past 6 or 7 years my photography has shaped a whole new attitude to life. I have found a true calling in mentoring, education, writing and encouraging others in their growth as artist's and creative people.

What is the most memorable scene you have captured?

Too many for sure! The milky way over Everest from 5700m and being so unbelievably cold, but unable to leave. 7 expeditions into the Gobi Desert hundreds of miles from the nearest road; really out there was probably the most life-changing. So much so, I wrote a book on it! 

Who inspires you to create?

Myself. I have written a great deal about the role of inspiration in our development, and it is a fine line between motivation, but also blanking out your own creativity by being too influenced by others. One thing I have said often is this: "Photography is a wonderful way of expressing yourself" - "But it relies on knowing yourself." Personal development, introspection, experimentation, curiosity and imagination play huge roles in self-expression. Our art allows us to explore the darkness of our soul in ways external validation does not. 

What is next for you on your photographic journey?

Into the unknown. COVID really hammered our business. From leading 26-30 weeks of workshops a year, we went to zero workshops for 2 years. I focussed on building our online business model, but now we are starting up workshops again, and we are really excited about that. I think my primary photographic focus is getting the Out of Darkness book published and sent out to the people who are buying it on presale. 

My own creativity is very much tied into the continued growth of our Expressive Photography Community and the role it can play in helping people deal with mental health issues, or even mild self-doubt or low feelings of self-worth. There is so much value in self-actualisation and I believe our unique creative output is a sure way to grow and become generally happier and well-balanced people. 


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