Feel its infinite energy. Immerse yourself in nature’s elements and you’ll start living on the edge — both of your seat and civilisation itself
Few people have the drive to keep up with nature’s forces, but these three passionate photographers have an instinct for capturing the mood and intensity of the outdoors. Their collaboration for the upcoming Peak Performance cruise collection creates a surreal glimpse of the untamed landscape that surrounds our cities, channelling a rawness only achieved through living on the edge. Their photos come to life as clothing becomes the new canvas. The Forumist had the rare chance to speak with the men behind these images, catching them while they were on the road, to discover what motivates their dynamic lifestyles.
He may be based in Bergen, Norway, but Alric Ljunghager is hardly ever at home. His photography keeps him on the move, and this fast-paced lifestyle inspires his photos. “The chaos outside has so many perfections, so your imagination turns into pure observation,” he says. “Nature comes up with these beautiful ideas that you would never have thought of yourself.”
Although he has been taking photographs for as long as he can remember, this is his first year working with Peak Performance. “Giving responsibility to a photographer is a brave thing to do,” he says. He didn’t expect to see his photos out on the streets in this new format and is excited to see the final design, explaining that he thinks running with the unanticipated is necessary “for the extraordinary to happen”.
Ljunghager used to be in front of the camera more than he was behind it. His story changed when he broke his neck a few years ago. Incredibly, such a serious accident didn’t stop him from moving forward: his deep love for skiing and the culture that comes with it has kept his resolve strong. He learnt quickly that photography allows him to experience the culture of the outdoors in an even stronger way. “Turns out that I love it more than skiing itself,” he says.
Transitioning into his life as photographer means he is travelling to new locations all the time. “My clothes are always in a bag,” he says, “but I always gain new perspectives, and coming home with that new knowledge becomes part of the exploration.”
Ljunghager believes his travels wake up his brain because he is always introducing new visual and sensory situations into his routine. Immersing himself for weeks on end in -25C environments for 12 hours a day is an unimaginable experience for most, but he embraces this environment. “The brain can’t really comprehend the environmental changes. They get so intense and real. It feels like teleportation.”
His powerful and scenic photographs are often a result of snap judgments and intuition. “It’s so beautiful, and it’s here and now,” Ljunghager says. “The less control, the better – then I can really observe and just appreciate the moment.”
It’s a special love for the midnight sun, freezing waters and the chilly Nordic landscape that drives John Strandh’s photography. He was brought up in the north of Sweden, where he decided to dedicate his life to ice sports before he realised how much he loved photography. He is now both a photographer and cinematographer and his work in both fields reflects his genuine love and respect for nature. The outdoors is the most common setting for his stories and he often returns to the north. “Shooting in the wild is where I come to life,” he says. “The fact that we humans have almost lost all connection with the natural world is my strongest drive. Though we know that we need nature to survive, we tend to forget.”
For Strandh, timing and location are the most important things. His 10 years of shooting in the wild has taught him that he just can’t afford to be limited by external factors such as gear and clothes – he’s learnt how to be prepared to contend with nature’s fluid ways. “Usually, the conditions are extreme in terms of weather and temperature, so I try to make sure I am ready for any kind of scenario. It’s key not to be limited by external factors because time and patience are everything,” he says.
Strandh has recently been filming a television series in northern Sweden and also keeping up his longtime, nature-focused collaborations with the artist Ionnalee. “I like to capture moments that should – and could – be a part of a normal person’s life.” He has travelled around the world for shoots, but doesn’t get tired of spending time in the Nordic winter. “There are many dimensions to it,” he says. “But you need to spend a lot of time in the outdoors to see the difference.”
Talking about the new Peak Performance cruise collection, he says: “Mixing different ways of expression is always interesting.” He has made films with them in the past, but is really excited about the upcoming collection. Having his photographs brought to life on people’s bodies is a new way to connect with them. “Our work has the minimalistic, timeless and functional in common,” he says. “I want to draw people’s attention to the simplistic and natural, and inspire them to experience nature first-hand rather than only through social media.”
“I think I’m too restless and too curious to limit myself to do one thing only,” says Martin Wichardt on why he doesn’t define himself as a nature photographer or limit himself to any category. While he also enjoys shooting in the studio, he prefers taking his camera out into the wild. “I shoot a mixture of lifestyle and sports to document stories and portraits. A lot of what I do is based outside, often with nature as the setting.”
After starting off skateboarding and snowboarding, Wichardt was drawn into photography by the culture and lifestyle that naturally comes with outdoor sports. Bringing his camera into those environments wasn’t a far reach for him. “It just feels natural,” he says.
“They’re both very visual and expressive [activities]. It’s all about individual style and emotions.” He bought his first camera when he was 19, several years before he studied photography at Kulturama in Stockholm, graduating in 2011. “From there, it’s been pretty much just on,” he says. “Basically, it comes from being a kid, flipping through magazines, wanting to access this amazing world – wanting to create powerful images like the ones I saw.”
He has been collaborating with Peak Performance for two years, but the upcoming collection is something entirely new. “Hopefully, it will put a smile on someone’s face, make them dream about distant places or long for the winter.” This project holds special meaning for him because he shot the scene on his first trip to the Alps, when he first decided to get into photographing skiing. The resulting image represents the moment he really decided to go for it. “We worked hard for six days straight and were out on the mountain, shooting in every kind of weather – it was on this trip that it all started,” he says. “It’s exciting and honourable that people are going to walk around wearing this moment on their bodies.”
The love of outdoor culture is a great part of his drive, but Wichardt says the real drive behind his photos is his curiosity and constant search for interesting lighting. “The unpredictability and lack of complete control is fascinating,” he says. “Ambient light, with all its shapes and variations, is everchanging in its nature. It varies in colour, temperature, intensity and direction. This is what inspires me, catches my eye and makes me press the trigger.”
For the upcoming collaboration, fashion becomes the backdrop for photography as these windows into the wild enter our homes and streets. The photographers’ images are taken out of traditional viewing spaces and transferred onto clothing as a real-life gallery – an original platform that combines the outdoors, fashion and self-expression. This new format is a way to fuse nature with identity, to share the love for an outdoor lifestyle and to bring it with you into any environment.
Peak Performance’s cruise collection is out in September. Stay tuned to see the entire collection on TheForumist.com. Featuring the work of talented nature photographers Alric Ljunghager, John Strandh and Martin Wichardt, this new line is redefining tradition as we know it
Words by Eimi Tagore-Erwin
Special thanks to Peak Performance
1. Alric Ljunghager
2. Portrait of Alric by Sakarias Majander
3 – 8. Alric Ljunghager
9 – 12. John Strandh
13 – 21. Martin Wichardt