“I would like to be remembered as a photographer who inspired people to get outside and explore wild places”.
Today we get to know photographer Chris Burkard on a deeper level and wonder at his amazing work. Chris is a world traveler who is known for exploring remote locations and surfing in places that most people would find undesirable due to their hazardous conditions. He began his work as a surf photographer and has expanded his resume to include TED speaker, author, and filmmaker among other things. Follow along as we learn about his family, his book and of course, the alpacas.
EotB: People call you the Ansel Adams of our generation… how do you feel about that? Has he been an inspiration to you?
CB: It makes me feel incredibly honored. Ansel Adams is one of the photography greats and has always been a huge inspiration to me, especially in regards to his environmental work. To be in the same conversation as him is an honor.
EotB: How would you like to be remembered by future generations?
CB: I would like to be remembered as a photographer who inspired people to get outside and explore wild places. This is what it’s all about for me. I want people to understand the importance of nature and of our environment and I think getting people outside is the way to do that. If I can make that happen, I will be incredibly happy.
EotB: Your wife stated in your podcast “When Chris does things he goes all in, 150%” Would you credit this type of mentality to your personal and professional success?
CB: I think so. I think it has its pros and cons. Sometimes I take things too seriously or go too all in, but I do attribute it to my success. When this all started, I knew I would have to give it 150%, and I told myself I’d give myself five years to make it happen. If I hadn’t, I would have to move on to something else. Whether it’s photography or biking or yoga or being with my family, when I do something I want to do it and pour everything I have into it. I don’t believe in doing something half-heartedly.
EotB: Please. Tell us everything about the alpacas.
CB: Hahaha. I have two alpacas, Suzy-Q & Mistal, one of the many joys of my daily life. They’re actually really great animals to have and it’s awesome to have them at my house. I particularly like raising my boys with animals around, I think it’s great for learning and maturity.
EotB: We love The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth. What inspired you to write a children’s book and this very deep story about finding happiness?
CB: Like I said my overall goal is just to inspire people to get outside in any way they can. I think teaching kids the importance of the outdoors at a young age is incredibly important. It all came to mind as I had my kids and was trying to teach them this lesson. Seeing the book come to life was amazing.
EotB: We love your landscapes and especially nature abstract photography. Was it your love of outdoors that brought you to photograph in that way? What other content do you enjoy photographing?
CB: It was. I like to remind people the camera is just a tool, what is important and what you’re showing is how you look at the world. Nature has always played a huge role in my life. Growing up on the Central Coast of California most of my time as a kid was spent enjoying the great outdoors and as I’ve grown older and traveled further this connection to nature has only grown. My photography works to show other people this personal connection and how important nature is to me, and in turn, I hope this helps others to feel the same way. However, I started in surf photography and this has always been a passion of mine. Over the years I have grown to love aerial photography as well.
EotB: You have such a talent for making the viewer of your photos feel like they know how it feels to have been to these hard-to-reach locations. What is your favorite thing about traveling to these isolated places and to capture them in image and essence?
CB: It sounds cheesy but my favorite is sharing them! It was always my goal to see the world and I love every second of being in these places, but sharing it with people who don’t have that opportunity is the best part. One of my very favorite things is when someone tells me they went somewhere because they saw my photos and decided to go too, that’s what it is all about for me.
EotB: In your TED talk, you state “There is no shortcut to joy, anything that is worth pursuing is going to require us to suffer”. What suffering have you experienced in your career and once you overcame it, what joys resulted?
CB: I have experienced many extremes to find joy. Whether that be intense weather conditions, freezing waters, long travel hours, food poisoning, etc. Every job is different and those moments of suffering have all lead to the amazing adventures I have had. When I am traveling, I always try to plan ahead and think through situations that may happen. Some trips take me up to three years to get everything straightened out. You have to think through extreme situations that may happen such as, “Can a helicopter get here if we need rescue? Will I need bear mace?” If you don’t think about those things beforehand, things could go horribly wrong. But in the end, coming away with new photos brings joy and is always worth it.
View Chris’s TED talk here.
EotB: What is your main goal as a photographer and film maker?
CB: My goal has always been to create images that inspire people to get off their couch and explore.
EotB: Tell us about the film Unnur at the Tribeca Film Festival. What was its evolution from your photography, and what was it like to direct this film?
CB: The evolution has been really fun, the film just allows us to tell even greater stories than photographing does. For me the story of Elli Thor raising his daughter as a single parent is something near and dear to me. Growing up in a single-parent home I watched my own mom balance the risks of raising me in a way that would allow me to carve my own path while not passing on an inherent fear of the unknown. This film is for everyone who hopes to raise kids and share with them the places and experiences they cherish most. It is a tribute to the complicated world of parenthood.
To see more of Chris Burkard’s work you can visit his website here. You can also follow his official Instagram or if you want to see the more candid moments of his life, follow his second Instagram account Burkgnar.