Dorin Bofan: Venturing Into The Unknown

A Peep into the World of the Wildlife Photographer

Adrift, Photography by Dorin Bofan

Dorin Bofan is a dreamer. And, he always aspires to live his life emulating his dreams. Dorin explores the wonders of ‘Light & Space’, ‘Adrift’ in this ocean of marvel called life. But a corner of his heart remains ‘Earthbound.’ It throbs for the silent choreography of the forest. It induces the wildlife photographer to capture the untold stories of those autumn leaves buried deep in their ‘Cold Sleep’.

‘All that we see or seen is but a dream within a dream’ is what famous author Edgar Alan Poe once said. Tell us about the dream that Dorin Bofan is living through photography.

Funny you mention Poe. He’s one of my favourite writers, a mad genius. What I can tell you for sure is it doesn’t come as easy as one might expect. For me, at least. I mean, it’s understandable that everyone looking at my images might think I’m living the dream, but it’s more struggle than joy, more work than simply doing what I love, more questions than answers. But those moments where I enjoy life to the full, even though scarce, are something to wake up for in the morning, something to plan for weeks, months, even years at a time. I never know if I’ll end up translating into images what I experience when being out there. It’s highly unlikely, but I try. Yes, we fantasize about a spectacular and joyful life, but everyone fighting for something of their own knows that when things really do happen, it’s highly unlikely that they resemble what we dreamt about. Reality is very different from what’s going on in our minds. Projecting ourselves in a bright future must be done with great care. Dreaming is a beautiful, but dangerous thing. So I guess I’m not living a dream, but more like trying to improve my day to day life by doing something creative that motivates me to be a bit better. This and a bit of selfishness as these are at the core of every artist, right? Travelling, seeing new places, living through new experiences, sharing the resulting images, working on small projects, working on improving my photography, my writing, my character, venturing into the unknown. My unknown, the world’s unknown. This is what gets me going. This is how I live ‘my dream’.

What was your impetus in taking up this art form to narrate your story? Have you received any formal training in photography?

Honestly, because I have no talent in arts. I have a deep respect for painters, writers, musicians and individuals that create from scratch. I wish I was like them. But I like to think what we have in common is the power of self-teaching and being passionate enough to spend countless hours, yet not enough, figuring out the ropes behind making meaningful images. This being said, photography, this apparently easy form of expression, has many secrets and challenges that only a few can master. I thank myself everyday for having understood that and not lying to myself that my works are of some value. There’s hard work to be done in order to stand out as a photographer who creates unique art and not just another image to be forgotten.

Together no matter what, Photography by Dorin Bofan
Together no matter what

As a photographer describe the close trust you have developed with nature and that is so self-evident through your works?

Showing respect and being humble in front of its power is what takes to be accepted into the wild. What these big words really mean is being properly equipped and knowing where you’re going, what you’re going to photograph, what the weather will be, having someone with you and feeling comfortable being cold, wet, tired or hungry sometimes.

From a photography point of view, what I learned over the years was basically how to see, how to look at things. Extracting, abstracting, simplifying, linking the elements together, finding aesthetic sense, clean perspectives, tri-dimensional appearances, these are the incentives I’m looking for.

But the real meaning behind the connection I have with nature is beyond equipment and aesthetics. It all comes down to being there, living the life in one of the simplest forms available to us, humans. And I guess it’s the same for everybody. Every trip enriches our spirits and it’s some kind of evolution for our emotions and understanding of the world. It makes us a bit more beautiful inside and maybe more knowledgeable and wiser.

Sweet Desperation, Photography by Dorin Bofan
Sweet Desperation

Your ‘Forest Choreography’ series is reminiscent of ‘the woods are lovely, dark and deep…’ of Robert Frost. Tell us of your wanderlust in woods.

Forests are the most beautiful and intriguing of all ecosystems. Complicated, chaotic, yet so balanced, they hold mysteries and a strong sense of peace. Not being much of a talker, you can imagine I really like being there, preferably by myself or with someone who appreciates a quiet time. As with any other subject, one should have a deep spiritual understanding of forests before attempting to capture them in an image. And that’s acquired by spending enough time there.

Whenever I enter a forest, I don’t want to know what lies ahead (except maybe for the bears). I want to be surprised and to discover those mysteries that relate to who I am. It’s difficult for me to give a straight answer to your question as I don’t possess the knowledge and the words, but think of a walk in the woods like a spring morning when you wake up happy, the sun is shining and you breathe the cool air outside. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, when you’re so sad that you suddenly let go of everything, you got nothing to lose, no more expectations, no more hopes, just existing in that state of sorrow that will eventually allow you to start over.

Your work ‘Micro Space’ is about nature’s calligraphy on the frozen plane. Are you very observant of your surroundings? How many of these works are a spontaneous outcome of your sensations as an artist?

Every photographer must be a keen observer, but I feel it’s more important to love what you photograph. With ‘Micro Space’ series is just like that. I’m fascinated by ice and cold in general and I got to understand them because I’m fortunate enough to live very close to a river. So the connection with this subject came naturally and I got to search for ice formations everywhere I went to in the cold season.

When it comes to photographs as spontaneous reactions to my feelings and to what I experience, I tend to make a separation between the states I’m in when being there and the actual photography act. My feelings are the result of many factors: my past, the people who have influenced me, the travels I’ve done, the questions I ask myself every day, the personal reasons to be happy or sad at that given moment in time. Experiencing nature gives me almost always a time to reflect, to pause whatever is on my mind, to recharge with the needed positive energy, to exist in what is closest to my ideal state of being, to how I project myself in a future where I have everything I want, not objects, but rather a spiritual settlement.

The photography act is different than what I described above. Its basis is the feeling when I’m out there, in the landscape, but it’s all somehow transferred into my rational side of the brain. As time passed, I gathered more experience and slowly developed, and still do, what I like to call conscious intuition. Just like any photographer, I trained so much for seeing certain situations, the juxtaposition of elements, abstracting and simplifying that it comes as a reflex. I don’t necessarily have to think about what I’m shooting, but I rely more on what it’s stored there in the brain to do the work. And the amazing thing that sometimes happens when I conduct my photography outings in this way is that, by not thinking too much, I see things in a fresh perspective. Chasing away my knowledge, still little I admit, into the back of the mind where it serves unconsciously to the creation of images, is one way to come up with new concepts. So yes, it’s spontaneous, but with the help of experience and allowing myself to feel, a thing that more and more people forget. But I rarely succeed in doing something meaningful out of these moments. Most of the time, I just enjoy my time out.

Worlds Apart, Photography by Dorin Bofan
Worlds Apart

You have also travelled to Swiss Alps, Dolomite region in Italy etc to name a few. Tell us about a fond memory or any anecdotal story from your trips particularly close to your heart.

What I can tell you about the Swiss Alps is that marmots are notorious thieves. In the Dolomites, one must be careful when making bookings at the rifugios, or else he or she might spend the night in the cold and deeply regret it. In Norway, another amazing country I was fortunate enough to see, there’s nothing I could complain about, except maybe for the almost non-stop rain. It’s a dreamland, not easy to photograph, but awesome to experience in person.

Goodbye Kiss, Photography by Dorin Bofan
Goodbye Kiss

But the best moments are still at home. I remember this March day, a couple of years ago when I and a friend decided to do a hike on a trail located 2 hours from the city. It was very early in the morning and it was raining cats and dogs as we hit the trail.

We soon became soaking wet and started questioning the whole thing, but we continued. We went through the woods whistling from time to time as bears are everywhere in that area. After a while, we got lost and had to go back to the last point where the trail was obvious.

Soon after finding the trail, we reached the upper border of the deciduous forest, a couple of hundred meters below the cliff we were supposed to get to. Here, in a clearing, I noticed through my wet glasses a young beech tree just as the rain was turning into snow.

I was shocked by the striking appearance and I just had to stop. All my equipment got wet, but I returned home with this one image that spoke wonderfully about our experience and the persistence that makes the creative act so worthwhile. The image still remains one of my all-time favourites.

And it’s not because of the image itself. It’s because it was one of the few moments in my short and strange photographic journey were things came together in such a way that they proved me I had to work harder and push myself to stay outside the comfort zone every single day, whether it’s hiking in terrible conditions or simply trying to put my ideas in writing.

It’s the best way to evolve and to educate yourself in being a better person. The other cool aspect about this story (quite boring, I know) is that I started to believe more and more in the magic of things and to open myself to events that don’t have a logical explanation.

I wouldn’t have made the image if we didn’t get lost, that’s for sure. I would tell you about a crazy hike in the snow up to 3300m somewhere in Italy, but I’m running out of words.

As a nature photographer, how do you plan and prepare for a day’s outing amidst nature? Any specific exploration planned for the year 2013?

I seldom prepare when it comes to taking photos. I just go out, enjoy the fine time and maybe the images will come out. If I work on a series, then it’s a bit different. I commit to making those specific images, but I allow for opportunities at any time.

When we go for longer trips abroad, my friends and I do careful planning. We usually don’t stick to our plans, but adapt to what we encounter there. There is a saying, the adventure starts when things go wrong. I promised myself that one day I’ll begin a real adventure, a journey with no plans, no maps, jumping right into the unknown, making my own path, instead of following the footsteps of others.

That day is close. Maybe we’ll have the chance to visit Norway again in 2013 and some higher mountains in Western Europe. Patagonia, Iceland, the Himalayas and Antarctica are still on the waitlist. :)

Portrait of Dorin Bofan

Dorin Bofan enjoys…

I appreciate being wherever I feel loved and understood and wherever I can experience solitude.

As for favourite books, Coming Up for Air and 1984 by George Orwell were great reads. Robert Capa’s Slightly Out of Focus was both amusing and moving. I strive for simplicity in my own writing attempts, something that everyone, educated or not, can relate to, so that’s what I like best. Steinbeck and Hemingway are fine gentlemen that I also look up to.

Favourite music includes The National, Sigur Rós, Florence and the Machine, The Hives (I don’t recommend the last one unless you’re missing a screw).

Regarding movies, Nói Albinói, Buffalo ’66, Into the Wild, Lost in Translation (movies where I can identify myself with the main character, usual misfits), are some of my favourites.

Find more of his work at his website.

Image Courtesy: Dorin Bofan