Tim Hall’s photographs convey the scale and majesty of landscape and the sense of freedom and awe it evokes. Inspired by the works of photographers and artists such as Salgado, Sugimoto and Rothko, his eye is instinctively drawn to the symmetry, pattern and colour of his surroundings, as he strives to capture the drama and spirit of place.
Tim’s deep love of nature and the environment has led him to travel extensively with his camera, from the British seaside where he compiled two series, Coast and Storm, to the streets of Jodhpur and the banks of the Ganges in India, and most recently to the diverse communities of Morocco and Montenegro.
Above the Clouds documents his journey into the mountains above the villages of Lech and Zurs in Austria; his mountainscapes explore the fragile relationship between the natural world and those that venture within it.
Tim has a longstanding affinity with the mountains of Europe, having skied with his family from a young age. “Perhaps my motivation was based on nostalgia,” he says. “I wanted to capture the sense of excitement and surrealness of seeing a place for the first time.” The Arlberg was unfamiliar to him when he arrived in 2008 but he was immediately struck by the grace and serenity of the scenery.
His pictures capture the wonder he felt travelling up the Kriegerhorn chairlift for the first time, the clouds lifting to reveal a snow-covered panorama. “As a photographer one always hopes for that magic moment when an image literally falls into the lens – it kept happening in Lech,” he explains. “The joy of the Arlberg is that the scenery is gentle as well as being vast and monumental. I feel a huge sense of excitement whenever I am here.”
The symmetrical aesthetic of the mountains – the rock formations and chair lifts, and lines of skiers following their guides – add structure and symmetry to Tim's work. “I enjoy the sense of scale; tiny skiers against enormous nature,” he says. But it is the muted qualities of the mountains: hazy light, low clouds and the soft tones of the rocks, sky and slopes, that make his mountainscapes so distinctive. “I want to create a sense of the drama that you feel up in the mountains but also the calm”. His compositions are thus simple – suggestive rather than specific. He uses a square format camera to allow as much space into the composition as possible, conveying the silence of high altitude and that sense of solitude and trepidation that is felt on a ski tour or climb. “I am a great believer that less visual information creates a more powerful impact.”
Tim's choice of subject matter, the timing of his shots, and his film stock, work together to give an elusive Turner-esque feel to his pictures – the line between photograph and painting is blurred. As Hubert Schwarzler, former head of tourism for Lech commented, “Tim simply paints with his camera.”
Just as nature works in patterns and repetitions, his mountainscapes form a coherent series, working both individually and as groups. They move through the seasons, from the wind-packed snowfields of winter to the dappled summer meadows, via the visual metamorphosis that takes place in spring and autumn. They show how quickly conditions can change on a mountain; the play of light and shadow that constantly reshapes the view. “The true beauty of the landscape wasn’t revealed to me until I returned in the summer and walked for days on end through spectacular scenery that had been blanketed by snow only weeks before,” Tim says.
Many of the scenes included in the collection are immediately recognizable to those who are familiar with the Arlberg but others are more abstract. Grand Tour shows two people disappearing along an isolated track above the Monzabonsee, with the clouds descending. “I like the way that the figures are so exposed to nature , battling against the conditions, yet in charge of their own destiny”
The mountainscapes in Above the Clouds will, Tim hopes, lead the viewer beyond the particular scene to a memory or space in their mind that reminds them of an experience of their own. “I like the idea that in their more abstract nature my pictures might take you to a more spiritual place.”