For any nature-loving, wanderlust-consumed traveler, French photographer Alex Strohl‘s Instagram feed looks straight out of a dream. The Madrid-born globetrotter has attracted over 1 million followers for his unique brand of adventure photography, and it’s easy to see why. His gorgeous photos, captured in places as near and far as Montana and Norway, offer a soothing antidote to anyone weary of noise, crowds, and bustling city living. Rustic cabins in misty woods, backpackers perched boldly on the edges of cliffs, and wide expanses of breathtaking land and water conjure up romantic, idyllic views of beauty deep within the great outdoors.
Strohl, who also runs a creative agency called Stay & Wander with his friend and fellow photographer Maurice Li, will be publishing his first book soon. Alternate Living “looks to offer a glimpse into the lives of people on the periphery of society, whether nestled high up in the mountains far from paved roads and running water, or tucked away down an unforgiving Arctic fjord accessible only by boat,” according to the photographer’s website. The limited-edition volume, which is slated for shipment in February, is available for pre-order now.
We had the chance to ask Strohl about his career and passion for adventure photography. Scroll down to read that exclusive interview, lightly edited for clarity and length.
How did you get into photography?
For me it had a lot to do with circumstance. As a teenager I lived in a very isolated part of southern France. This remoteness led me to spend a lot of time alone, scouring the forests on my dirt bike. I would throw a camera in my bag, taking pictures as I went; it all started very organically.
What is it about travel and adventure photography that attracts you in particular?
I’m always hesitant to use the word travel, it’s something about the connotation–I feel as though it implies some temporary escape. What I love most about the journey is immersing myself in new places. Getting a very real and visceral feel for the lifestyle of the people surrounding the landscapes I shoot. It is that cultural understanding that encompasses the adventure for me. It is important to live your photos and not simply take them. I believe that authenticity really shines through.
How were you able to turn your passion into a career?
Honestly, looking back there isn’t really a precise moment I can point to and say definitively, “That’s when it became a career.” I had some early exposure, pre-Instagram, that made some of my travel possible financially and also, I think, gave me some important confidence in my work. Aside from that, some combination of discipline and persistence made for a long and somewhat smooth transition. I believe it was important that making photography a career was never the goal; I wanted to go around, and the more I did, the more opportunities presented themselves. My passion was never turned into a career, my career has grown out of my passion; it sounds minor, but I believe there is an important distinction.
Stay & Wander largely came from some of Maurice’s and my early experiences on Instagram. We saw two things in particular: firstly, we identified an opportunity to create exciting projects for like-minded brands using both the platform and our circle of talented friends; second, it became clear that many of the same talented people using Instagram didn’t understand how to valuate their work. We felt that a platform like Stay & Wander would help them better navigate the photography and influence world.
What are some of the places you’ve traveled to?
Every landscape and culture I encounter has a different impact on me as a photographer. Each new place brings with it a new method of viewing the world. Montana was an especially important trip; I believe it really cultivated the identity I am building, pushing me to explore the subtle nuance around me and be less focused on specific destinations. Alaska was another impactful trip; something about the expansiveness of the landscape and how unspoiled it remains–that dynamic was fascinating. Aside from that, I have become increasingly drawn to rugged topography and cold weather–places like Norway and Patagonia, where, due to the relatively low altitude, jagged peaks can mix with the sea; this makes for very unpredictable and unique landscapes.
You have a huge social media presence, especially on Instagram. Has having that enormous following influenced or shaped your photography in any way, whether positively or negatively?
I believe Instagram has had a positive influence on my work, particularly in how it has driven me to continually go further. The social aspect, for me, isn’t validation so much as motivation. It has allowed me to shed light on some of the sometimes-forgotten beauty in the world. One of my most memorable experiences was spending five days in the backcountry of Montana with full-time cowboys who where working on a traditional, horse-ridden cattle drive.
In terms of a negative, perhaps just being over-connected and at times consumed by sharing, there will always remain a beauty and authenticity in allowing yourself to be disconnected and truly present.
What do you hope viewers get from your photography?
I just want the viewer to look at life in a different way, to be motivated to go and see the world around them, to truly respect the environment by becoming a part of it. I don’t want my work to make people wish they were in my shoes, I want it to inspire them to kick ass at their own life–either finding whatever they are passionate about, or just pursuing it if they already know what that is. Life is far too short to be unhappy.
Lastly, describe your perfect adventure.
Good company, first and foremost. Being surrounded by like-minded, positive people who you love is so important.
To be lost and immersed in a new culture, away from daily life. I guess to be in a mountain hut somewhere in northern Kazakstan–yeah, that sounds about perfect right now.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Alex Strohl.