photo of Alex Strohl by © Jared Mitchell Chambers jaredchambers.com
When thinking of travel photography, one person always comes to mind, and that’s Alex Strohl, the Madrid-born French photographer and entrepreneur who has always drawn inspiration from changing scenery. Strohl’s work is mesmerizing in its mystification and serenity. Instantly Framed’s very own Shalee Cooper sat down with Alex Strohl to find out exactly what it is that makes him tick.
Tell me about yourself. You’re kind of from all over. You’ve done an extensive amount of traveling, but you grew up in Spain?
Yeah, I was in Spain until age 15 when I got kicked out of school. I wasn’t a bad kid. I just didn’t like authority. It wasn’t anything bad, I just didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to get out there and play soccer.My parents are French and my dad bought a big piece of land in the South of France where there weren’t any highways, freeways or trains. My dad>, he’s a Forest engineer, so he likes the outdoors.I guess I got this passion through him.
Leaving from Madrid, a big city to a house in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors was pretty extreme. I had to go to boarding school.
So on the weekend when you go back home and there’s no neighbors, that’s how I started nature photography.I just picked up a camera there, like an
What kind of camera was it?
An Olympus OM1.
Then I bought stacks of Fujifilm. The camera was terrible, but I thought it was good because the film thing was complicated.
I had a motorcycle and I used to get lost in the woods with a camera trying to take photos. There was nobody to play with on the weekend. All the kids from boarding school go back home, so everybody was pretty far away.
It’s interesting because a lot of your images I’ve noticed – have this overall sort of sense of isolation. It’s definitely like YOUR experience of what you are witnessing. It’s amazing. You have such an incredible eye. I’ve been following your work for a while.
That’s good to hear. Thanks.
Tell me though, when you shoot, do you like to be solo?
I’ve tried shooting solo and it’s different. I’m not sure I prefer it. It looks like I’m solo, but I’m rarely solo. On trips I’m never solo. I’ve never tried to do a trip solo. Maybe I should. It might be different.
Tell me about Stay and Wander.
Stay and Wander is an agency I started with Maurice Li who is a photographer from Vancouver. He’s also a very good Instagrammer. We created Stay and Wander to set up a market rate for Canada in terms of mobile photography assignment. There’s a great Instagram community in Vancouver with people that have great followings and great engagements. So these people started to become valuable to the eyes of brands.
And even in Canada, brands started reaching out to them. You know, there’s a brand that reaches out to you like “ Oh yeah you want a backpack for your next trip?” So they give you a backpack, a cool looking backpack, because they expect you to talk about it somehow or post a photo of it on Instagram. So as these situations were arising more and more, we decided to roughly represent these people and have a roster of photographers. Now when brands do that, the photographer can simply say “Talk to our agents.” We are just here just to get a fair rate for everybody.
Yeah, that is so so important!
Yeah we’ve also been doing campaigns. I think that’s our most exciting side of the business; actually running campaigns and helping do consulting for touring destinations. That’s what got us started. We are doing some work for Alberta One by One, which is a campaign relief for Explore Canada. It was a seven-day road trip across Alberta. We did this to help Explore Canada (the tourism brand of the Canadian Tourism Commission) have a better social presence and have them be associated with these cool photographers from different parts of the world. We do campaigns for other brands, not only tourism, we also do lifestyle campaigns. There are other things that we are working on, but of course, tourism is what got us started because Maurice and I really love to travel.
So how much time are you ever home? Out of a year, what would you say?
Well last year for the past half of it, more than half of it, we didn’t even really have a home. My girlfriend and I were renting an apartment but we just put everything in storage and left for 5 months. Even with the money that you don’t pay in rent you can pay for so many flights. So we didn’t have a home, I think for six months. We stayed a bit in France with the family and then went into Norway and we went to Morocco and then we spent more than a month in Chile. To be honest, I think it’s cheaper to travel than to live a normal life.
I think I read somewhere that originally you were studying design. Is that right?
Yeah, I studied Graphic Design. In 3 years I finished my Bachelors Degree in Quebec City. I never really practiced any Graphic design professionally. I used to do websites for people but I’ve never been interested in pursuing a Graphic Design career.
So at what point did you know photography was it?
It was more casually. When I was in my first year at University, I had a friend that was a Freestyle skier and he needed a group of photos for sponsors. I was the only one that he really knew that was in the arts, and he asked, “Can you shoot me?” and I thought okay. I remember I bought a Nikon D40 I think and I just shot him. The photos were okay and he used them and got his sponsors. Then I ended up with this camera and was like okay well I’ll keep using it.
So how do you edit your work? Do you like to go in phases where you shoot and then you edit? Or do you shoot and then immediately want to see the work and edit it?
No, no. I like to let it mature.
So, when you’re shooting photos for your Instagram or VSCO, are they all shot from your phone?
What you see on VSCO is all from my phone. I’m always shooting with two cameras. Always. So I have my phone and my camera. I’m not shooting the same images with both. I’m shooting different stuff with my camera. More close to my heart, I would say. The iPhone I’m looking more for striking, visually striking. And with my camera I’m telling a story. Different concepts.
It’s interesting because the medium dictates the way that you’re shooting.
Yeah, yeah. I’m looking for different results with different tools.
How do you usually edit when you’re shooting from your phone?
I edit it with Snap Seed and VSCO. It’s pretty sleek. Sometimes I get better edits with my phone than with my laptop or my computer! [separator top=”5″ style=”single”]
All images © Alex Strohl