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Backpacker|November - December 2020
See the world through the viewfinder of one of the world’s foremost adventure photographers.
By Louisa Albanese

Modern wilderness photography is a paradox. It’s practitioners' quest to find and compose the perfect shot in untouched terrain, knowing that their published image could very well undo the remoteness that made the place special. Chris Burkard knows this better than most.

For 8 years, he worked as a photographer for Surf Magazine, a dream job that took him around the globe in search of the perfect wave. But the lifestyle lost its luster when Burkard started to feel his images were selling an adventure fantasy that didn’t exist. Often, lurking just out of frame beside unspoiled-looking beaches were throngs of people and high-rise hotels. Instead of using his skill to make busy places look pristine, he started to crave the pristine places themselves. He wanted the real thing. But that would require a new skill set and an earned understanding that any place worth visiting— any truly remote place left—extracts a toll on the body and mind to reach it.

“If you want to create something memorable, you’re going to have to give something of yourself,” he says.

So began the next iteration of Burkard’s career, the sore shoulders, and bruised hips part. But walking the path adds something new to his work, a sense of realism you can trust, even if the images themselves make you wonder if such a place could actually still exist.

Ushishir, Kuril Islands, RUSSIA

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