Beyond the Map


An interview with Michael Terhorst

“Tajikistan seems to be near and at the same time so far away. That’s why it was important to me to find this feeling in the colors”.

Michael Terhorst won our fifth theme of Life Framer Edition V, World Travelers, judged by Steve McCurry. His image felt both recognisable and unfamiliar – the sepia tone creating something raw and tactile, simultaneously old and contemporary, close to the touch but a thousand miles from home.

Keen to know more, we asked Michael more about the image, his travels, and how photography balances with his full time job as a cameraman for documentary television projects…

Michael, congratulations on winning our World Travelers theme. Can you tell us a little bit about your winning image and the series it’s from? What story were you wanting tell?

When I was in Tajikistan it was mainly because of a television documentary I was involved with about drugs. A lot of heroin comes through this country from Afghanistan. But while I was there I was most impressed by the people. I tried to capture this in pictures – to approach the topic in this way instead, and this series is the result. It’s less about the topic of heroin, and much more of the people in this country. “Herdsman” was created in this context.

The images from that series are imbued with a sepia-like tone – a treatment our editor described as feeling simultaneously old and contemporary. Can you tell us a little more about your shooting process? Were you consciously seeking to create a certain feel?

“Herdsman” shows a shepherd in this vast landscape. Tajikistan, and this image in particular, seems to be near and at the same time so far away. That’s why it was important to me to find this feeling in the colors. Even though it is very easy to create this look, after many approximations in color correction and many other colors I had tried, it seemed to me to be the right one. So I always came back to this coloring and finally decided to use it. Especially because it does not correspond to the high sharpness or the current ‘insta’ look. I always thought of old photographs – photographs you have seen of horse riders from many years ago. I am very happy that this comes across.

Michael’s winning image for the theme ‘WORLD TRAVELERS’, from his series Tajikistan

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