Brian Yeagle has graciously contributed this travel based Q&A he did with Walter Pieringer, along with some photos that he’s taken throughout their travels together. There’s no doubt that Walter likes to “dive in” when it comes to traveling. Continue reading to check it all out!
Shout out to Brian Yeagle for the submission.
It’s difficult to think of persons you have traveled with more than once and had not at some point become agitated toward that person for something trivial or significant during that time together. It is with greater rarity to be able to name someone who has been an itinerant comrade a few times over and say truthfully that they have always made the experience richer, more pleasant, thrilling and basically were also the decisive element in making the whole thing possible from the start.
Every time I have traveled with Walter Pieringer he not only engages every bit of action that arises but also takes many steps to initiate interesting experiences for himself and his companions. His oversized woodshop-style glasses might lead you to believe he instructs teenaged Texans day in and day out making birdhouses and mailboxes; until the moment comes when you observe his prodigious employment of the Iphone and camera making quick work of any logistics and capturing images of unmistakable authorship. His command over these tools as well as others can easily leave one nonplussed and very appreciative when falling under the rendered benefits. From traipsing around Tokyo to a failed motorcycle ascent of a volcano in Ecuador, my admiration has grown for his draw to the unfamiliar and the necessary skills he’s cultivated making it possible to bring any concept into actuality.
I made an inquiry into his venturesome lifestyle and wanted to share some portraits of Walter I have made during our time traveling together.
Yeagle: Extraneous to all business motives, what drives you to travel?
Walter: I love it. I think mostly I want to explore the world, see interesting things, and have a wide range of experiences. And I get restless if I’m in one place for too long.
What positive and negative aspects of the itinerant lifestyle can you name in context of your own life?
Well generally I feel like I succeed at the whole seeing interesting things and having a wide range of experiences thing, so that’s awesome. The obvious downside is I’m gone all the time, and that makes having a traditional social life a little tricky.
Are you drawn to any particular location or people or do all hitherto foreign entities appeal equally to you?
I legitimately want to go everywhere, but I’m definitely drawn more to the “off the beaten path” destinations than I am to the more traditional tourist hotspots. I’m especially into being in the middle of nowhere and going places most people would never want to travel. I’d much rather hang out in the desert than in some tropical paradise, or camp in the jungle as opposed to stay in a fancy hotel.
Which do you think you are more passionate about, visiting foreign locations and cultures or simply the process of travel itself?
I think both are equally important to me. I truly love driving long distances and traveling in general, and the social interactions these activities bring; I feel like the act of traveling is such a good catalyst for creating interesting situations. As the saying goes, getting there is half the fun. But of course actually seeing and experiencing new and interesting things is a crucial part of the equation as well.
Does the occupation of photographer enrich or detract from your immediate experience?
It goes both ways. Usually I’d say it enriches it, because I really enjoy taking pictures, especially of interesting things I encounter while traveling. But the flip side is that always having a camera in my hand can limit my actual involvement in what I’m experiencing at times.
After joining you on a few trips the idea has generated in my mind that you have a bent for hazardous situations. Is it true that you tend to push moments of precarious nature a bit further to augment the thrill?
Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, I like to push things to the limit for sure. I don’t really have an explanation for you; that’s just how I’ve always done it. Sometimes it can really enhance a situation; others times it gets me into trouble. I like to think that for the most part the risks I take are pretty calculated though.
Has there been any harrowing experiences for you, true moments of life or death?
Oh yeah, plenty of those for sure. I’m trying to think of a good example. . . . um, in 2007 I saw a guy break into my friend’s car outside of a bar in Durban, South Africa. He grabbed Chase Hawk’s backpack and took off down an alley; I chased him, tackled him, and retrieved Chase’s bag, which was sweet but clearly not the smartest decision I’ve ever made. I think I may be mellowing out a bit in my old age though; just last week I found myself pinned against a barbed wire fence by three men in Bogota, Colombia; when one of them raised a knife above his head, I happily handed him my camera in hopes of avoiding being stabbed. Definitely a bummer, but considering how frequently I take my camera to sketchy areas, something like that was bound to happen eventually.
Do the images you create have greater or lesser import to you than the actual experience that afforded those creations?
The actual experience is definitely what I’m in it for. The photos are a nice bonus.
As a published photographer/writer how is each creative production influenced by your inherent style combined with the cognizance of where and for whom the material will be marketed?
I don’t put a whole lot of thought into it honestly. If I’m on a trip shooting for a specific magazine article, I’ll shoot anything and everything I can and make it look how I want it to look. Once I’m home I’ll select the images that work best for that particular article and simply enjoy having the rest, maybe show them to a few friends, or whatever. I suppose sometimes I’ll shoot a few photos specifically for an article – like if I know I’ll need an image for an opening spread to reflect certain aspects of a trip – but usually I’ll just shoot whatever and sort it out later.
What kind of ethical and aesthetic struggles do you contend with as a photographer?
Really my only struggle is not exploiting the people I’m taking pictures of. It can be a tricky matter; I want to capture interesting people – and people who are different from me and those who I normally interact with – doing what they normally do. But I also strive to not treat human beings like wildlife. Some people don’t want their photograph taken for one reason or another, or don’t want it taken in certain situations. But asking them for permission can be difficult due to language barriers, and in any case once I’ve asked I’m now capturing a completely different kind of image. I take it on a case-by-case basis, but as a general rule I try to use common sense and don’t shoot any photos that I think might upset my potential subject.
What is the salient reference point you employ to guide the creative process of image making; visual aesthetics, emotive quality, documentary import, etc?
I dunno man, I just try to make pretty pictures. I don’t think about it too much; photography for the most part is very automatic for me.