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PPD Spotlight: Oskar Landi's Moonlit Landscapes

By David Schonauer   Thursday January 12, 2017


Is it lunacy to photograph by the light of the moon?

Not for New York-based photographer (and PPD reader) Oskar Landi. Fifteen years ago, Landi spent New Year’s Eve camping with friends in the Sahara. While they snoozed, he was tossing in his sleeping bag, unable to sleep. Finally he got up to stretch. When he looked around he saw  a landscape illuminated by a full moon. Dazzled, he took a photograph.

“It’s a completely alien landscape, with this blasting light, surrounded by no noise whatsoever,” he told Wired  recently. “It’s a different reality.”

He’s been moonstruck ever since: Landi has photographed moonlit landscapes in 11 countries on four continents for a series he calls “Plenilunium,” which is Latin for “full moon.”

“So far the project has taken me to remote areas of different countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia, from the Arctic to the Sahara Desert, from the Amazon to the Alps, from the southwestern US to the Indian Sundarbans,” Landi told PPD recently.

The reasons that prompted the work of some 10 years have changed over time, Landi notes. “I would say that the main drive has been a basic human need to explore, to search for a limit, a physical and psychological edge to be examined through the camera.  After living for almost two decades in New York, an urge to deeply to reconnect with nature has also become crucial to me. Nighttime is possibly the best time to reflect on our presence in the cosmos.”

Landi chooses locations well away from the light pollution of urban areas. “Satellite images after dark reveal our impact on the planet and shows that light pollution will keep growing in every corner of the world,” Landi says. “The project attempts to reimagine a primordial landscape while raising awareness to this environmental issue.”  

Landi follows the lunar calendar and catches last-minute flights to locations when he has to. “Logistical and technical challenges are always present and can be quite frustrating — weather conditions, location picking/scouting, shooting in darkness, exhaustion, not to mention budget limitation and failure —  i.e., coming back with no pictures,” he says. He works with a variety of cameras, making exposures as long as 30 minutes, noted Wired.

The project is entirely personal — only one image in the series was shot for a magazine assignment.

“Ultimately every time I set out to work on this project, it becomes a perceptual experiment,” Landi says. “We are never as aware as in unfamiliar circumstances, and being in the wilderness at night is the perfect place revisit the concept of ‘the sublime’ in both its harmony and menace." He says he hopes to turn the series into a book one day. 

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