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To Parts Unknown For The Perfect Shot

Drawn to hostile locations most would seek to avoid, photographer and filmmaker Paddy Scott’s willingness to embrace danger offers fresh perspectives on places less travelled

Curiosity, vision and opportunism are behind every great photograph. Paddy Scott’s work is also the product of something else: courage. Although born in London, Scott’s attraction to extreme environments has taken him to many of the world’s most politically and geographically hostile places, and it’s his ability to bring still images to life – be it a Himalayan avalanche or Patagonian plain – that makes his work so powerful.

But while the photo, or the film, may be the sought-after end product, it’s only ever a small part of a much bigger operation – one that, for Scott at least, invariably involves no small amount of adventure. For a man who has scaled the Himalayas, twice reached the South Pole and paddle-boarded his way down The Amazon, photography is synonymous with exploration.

A sense of remoteness, isolation, or seeing a landscape from a unique perspective is what drives me

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Q: In 2017 your photo of an avalanche in Pakistan saw you nominated for Wildlife Photographer of the Year – is an element of danger an essential component of your work?
A: ‘While many of the places I have photographed present challenges, whether it be political or natural, it’s not why I seek them out. I would not deny that an element of danger adds to the sense of excitement and adventure, but I think more important is a sense of remoteness, isolation, or seeing a landscape from a unique perspective is what drives me. What’s so interesting about seeing people’s reactions to your work is that they are not influenced by the effort it took to get there! I find some of my favourite images are the ones that remind me of a close call or a point of an expedition, however that is not indication that anyone else will appreciate them.’

Q: What is the most impressive landscape you’ve photographed?
A: ‘Antarctica has left the biggest impression on me. The vast expanse of it is mind blowing. Once you get up on to the polar plateau and leave the mountains behind you soon realise that all you will see for the next two months is an endless horizon of ice and sky, and all that under 24-hour daylight. Over the course of a two-month expedition the landscape is continually impressive but it’s not necessarily the most photogenic, because the weather and landscape can sometimes remain the same for days on end. The most impressive to me photographically is the Himalayas; it takes a few days to get your head around the scale of what you are seeing.’

Q: What’s the toughest environment you’ve worked in?
A: ‘I think Antarctica and Greenland are probably the toughest – trying to keep equipment going in such cold temperatures is a constant struggle. Everything becomes a challenge for the body, of course, but also for equipment. When everyone else has gone to sleep it’s the photographer who is sat cradling some batteries in his sleeping bag, trying to get them warm enough to charge.’

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Q: Is there any environment you would refuse to travel to?
A: ‘I don’t think so, no. There are places where the political situation would make me nervous about travelling to, but they can end up being some of the most interesting and rewarding.’

Q: Are you drawn to people or places?
A: ‘Places I think, or rather landscapes, although I find myself being more drawn to photographing people and hearing their stories as I get older – I don’t know why that is. Ultimately though, there is always a thrill in standing somewhere that very few people have stood before.’

Q: Some of your work involves the use of drones – how important is it for photographers and filmmakers to use modern technologies?
A: ‘There are so many new technologies appearing all the time and it is important to keep abreast of them, but at the same time it’s important to remember that the basics of what you are doing have not changed: the most important things are imagination and creativity – and a desire to see over the next horizon. Ultimately all you are trying to do is control the light entering your camera in a way that will speak to people in some way.’

Find out more about Paddy Scott and at paddyscott.com and follow him @paddyscottphotography

Words: Issac Williams

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