Last month I was interviewed by Christian Hoiberg of CaptureLandscapes.com. It was an interview full of well-thought-out questions and dug deep into my connection with nature and how it, as well as photography, helped shape me into the person I am today. The following is a snippet of the interview. If you want to read the whole thing.. click on over!
TJ Thorne is an American landscape photographer with a deep connection to nature. In this interview, TJ talks about the importance of photographing for yourself rather than pleasing a crowd, how nature and photography has been therapeutic for him and much, much more.
Thank you, TJ, for taking the time to give such an in-depth and deep interview.
Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you got started with photography?
Thanks for the opportunity Christian! I’m honored for the opportunity and amazed that people might want to hear about me and my thoughts.
My name is TJ Thorne and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA based out of Portland Oregon. I’ve always had an interest in photography and it really started to take hold in my high school years.
I was drawn in by the simplicity of the medium and how that simplicity created a challenge in having to fit the offered world, my thoughts, and stories into a little frame. I originally shot anything that interested me, which at that time was mostly punk bands, street scenes, and food (I was in the culinary industry).
When I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2001 my relationship with nature deepened with the abundant, accessible, and diverse landscapes and my camera joined me on my hikes. As time went on my hikes started to become less about the elevation gain and mileage and more about the photos.
In 2012 I realized that there was a whole genre and community of photography dedicated to photographing nature landscapes and soon after I created what I consider to be my first landscape photo called Kiwanda Solstice. I threw myself into the deep end of landscape photography and here I am.
How has nature and photography played part in shaping the person you are today?
I’ve always had a deep relationship with nature. Growing up, my time was primarily spent outside. Instead of watching television and playing video games I was riding dirt bikes, swinging on vines in the forest, climbing trees, snowboarding, swimming, and generally just roaming around outside.
In 2001, when I decided to leave everything I’d ever known to move to Oregon, a place where I knew no one, had never been, and where I didn’t have a job, my decision was based on the accessible nature and the fact that there was year-round snowboarding.
For my whole life, nature has played a huge part so I couldn’t help but feel compelled to photograph it. It’s always been there for me when I needed it most and it’s where I feel most at ease, centered, and rejuvenated. In fact, I’m answering these questions as I sit on the rim of Crater Lake because for the first time in a while I feel like I can finally think clearly and let my stream of consciousness flow uninhibited.
I appreciate these moments where I can get away from life and focus on living. But it goes much deeper than that because nature kept me safe during my battle with alcoholism. Instead of drinking, I went hiking. I knew that as long as I was in nature, I was safe. Maybe not ok… but safe.
Photography during those hikes helped keep my mind wrestled to the ground and in tune with what was around me, giving me a deep sense of gratitude that I was out experiencing that moment in a profound way instead of making poor decisions.
That whole process of fighting my demons and having nature to help in the process really increased my dependency on it and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for nature and photography.
You’re not one who releases tons of images each year. Can you take us through your creative journey and tell us what it is that you look for in an image?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure that out for a while. I do know that if there’s anything that makes me uncomfortable with an image, I won’t release it.
I’m a very firm believer in quality over quantity and I can be pretty picky about it but it more comes down to connection. I have to feel connected to the image and it might sound weird but it’s almost as if my images tell me when to process them. Certain images will just start speaking to me. I think it has to do with what I’m going through at the time and how that image or the process of taking it aligns with those emotions, and sometimes a longing for the specific time and place that it was made.
Rarely ever do I process an image just because I think it’s a pretty picture, and I think that’s important. I’ve done that before and those images always stick out to me when I review my portfolio and they never stay a part of it for very long. I’ve also noticed more and more that what I go to nature to find is what’s showing up in my images: simplicity.
I feel the majority of my work, especially my most recent, is very simple. It might consist of some designs or patterns in nature, or if it’s a more grand scene, very simple in the elements that are present.
It’s encouraging to realize that my work is representative of my subjective connection with nature and now that I’m conscious to it I feel that I can continue to explore that aspect and create in a more satisfying way.