Landscape photography by Michael Schoeberl
As is the case for most artists, my photographic vision has been shaped by a number of influences. But three ideas do stand out in terms of what I strive for with “Alpine Simplicity”. Two of these are initial ingredients, as it were, and the third what their presence will produce.
First is reduction to the essentials. Christopher Jamison OSB, the former abbot of Worth Abbey, once described the lifelong task of a monk as that of “finding a spacious place within narrow walls.” In other words, a monk deliberately removes unnecessary elements from his life to focus on what really matters and in so doing actually enlarges it beyond what was possible previously. Similarly, in reducing a scene to its essentials, I hope to produce images that become more meaningful through their simplicity. What matters is emphasized, what clutters a scene removed.
Second is the conviction that the simple elements of life are often also the deepest. The strongest proofs of the existence of God are not based on signs and wonders; they begin with simple observations – such as “There is change” or “Things exist” – and from these premises work to the conclusion that God must exist. Therefore the glass on my table is a greater signpost towards God’s presence than someone raised from the dead, even though very few would think of it this way.
When photographing in the mountains, I am looking to find that depth in the simple things. Glorious sunsets have their place, of course, but I am usually more drawn towards simple shapes and patterns, especially in bad weather. To me, they speak of a depth that the spectacular would often hide rather than reveal.Finally, if an image successfully combines these two aspects of simplicity, I believe it will accomplish what I am ultimately aiming for: it will radiate peace. To borrow from Elijah’s encounter with God, an image ought not to be a whirlwind but a still small voice. It should quietly draw one to itself and allow for meditation and reflection over long periods without ever growing stale. And ultimately – in its own small way – it should serve as a pathway to God, who is simplicity.
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Michael Schöberl is from the Munich area of Bavaria, Germany. He works in Munich and lives outside the city in rural farmland. He spent more than ten years abroad, living and serving with Christian outreaches and communities, including the Servants of the Word, Word of Life in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, and Charis Community in Belfast, Northern Ireland.