And what about after you come back from a trip? You’ve got all this footage, all these photos, these experiences. How do you start to parse through that?
After you come back from a trip, for that part of the creative process, I think, it’s good to allow yourself as much time as possible. Sometimes, you need time to recover mentally and physically from a trip instead of trying to dive right back into it. So if you have the opportunity to give yourself as much time there, that’s usually best, so that it could marinate and you can really figure out what the ideas that you want to convey are.
Because most of these things, especially the ones that I do, aren’t scripted, so you often have to pull back through the footage. Even if you had a good idea of what the story is, it might be different than what you originally set out to do. Especially with filmmaking, find the right collaborators and make sure you only move forward when you know you’ve got the right people on your team to help you.
I want to ask a little bit about how you and Taylor work together, because I know that must be a pretty intimate and big relationship the two of you have. I can’t quite picture that. I’m wondering how your personal relationship has affected your working relationship, or vice versa, over the years.
Our relationship started when Taylor was still in grad school at the Yale School of Forestry studying climate change and how to convey these big ideas on film. Over time, she’s influenced me in that direction and I’ve helped her on a lot of adventure shoots. She definitely supported me during some of the early years, and now she has a lot more of her own projects that I support as well.
It’s definitely not a perfect balance, but it evolves every day, and it’s always really exciting for us to see what the other one is doing and try to support each other the best we can. I’m usually supporting her with cinematography roles; we’ve done a lot of projects that are total collaborations, like the Ashes to Ashes film that her father got us involved in, which is a story of an artist who’s a lynching survivor and he’s trying to heal from racial trauma with his art.
We also just came back from the Kuril Islands with Chris Burkard telling a science and climate change story. We just know each other’s strengths. When we get into an interview setting, for example, I’ll normally operate the camera and she’ll ask the questions, even though we’ve worked on them together and have a general idea of what to say.
Were you ever nervous about working with someone who you’re involved with romantically? Were you ever worried about those two worlds being the same world?
I don’t know if I ever worried about it. I’d always just kind of accepted it. This lifestyle is full of a lot of traveling – you’re not home very much – so I just always knew that we would have to work together quite a bit or we’d never see each other, despite getting advice from a lot of friends and business partners saying not to mix the two.
But, you know, life is short. I think the most important advice is just to do your production with people you love, if it’s romantically or non-romantically, and surround yourself with a good crew that’s going to get along. So I never thought twice about it. And that’s not to say it’s not hard at times. It can make things more emotional, but that also makes what you’re doing better, because you care about it so deeply.
Taylor notwithstanding, I’m wondering what artists or photographers you most admire, or who you’d cite as an influence.
I’m not a super-schooled art historian or xenophile. But I really respect some of the more creative and humble cinematographers in the field, like Emmanuel Lubezki, Edward Burtynsky’s work on landscapes around the world, and all the other National Geographic photographers.
It’s just nice to be inspired by your peers constantly, like my friend, Cory Richards, and how he’s growing into portrait photography as well as adventure photography and works on climate change and religion. And Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier for all the conservation work they do, in addition to just incredible water photography.
There are a lot of younger individuals around the world, too; there are just a lot of insanely talented, younger creatives out there that blow me away constantly as well. So I’m pretty open to the places that I get my inspiration from.
On a similar note then, is there any quote in particular that excites you or gets you motivated?
I want to say something funny right now, but I don’t know if I really have anything for you. No, I’m not the kind of guy who walks around and thinks of the world in, like, Instagram quotes. But “carpe diem” is always a good one – seize the day. I think I learned that when I was a kid, and it sometimes pops into my head, even though I never say it.