The photographer who treats the mountains as a canvas and the skiers as brushes

“The images that best represent my artistic vision involve the presence of shadows. Thanks to the black-white contrast the snow outlines precise shapes: without the shadows these shapes would not be so marked. The human presence, specifically the presence of the skier, adds dynamism and action to the composition, bringing it to life.”

Shadows and light, snow and composition. Oskar Enander is a mountain artist, his photographs are chromatic sonnets, respectful homages to the sublime emanating from peaks and crevices, from slopes and gullies. Swedish by birth, but Swiss by adoption, among the heights of the Cantons Oskar has found his own Eldorado, combining his greatest passions and turning them into a prolific work.

“I have always skied and I have always liked to photograph, so in 2002 I decided to combine the two things. A few years of apprenticeship allowed me to make my style and name recognisable, to create connections with brands e companies: these factors have been fundamental in modelling my career. I believe that the opportunity to combine photography with skiing and hiking is a privilege, few people are lucky enough to do so. However, it’s not an easy job, on the mountains you can’t afford moments of superficiality, the risk is always high…”

Oskar’s experience is based on over twenty years of relationship with the mountains: sacred-naturalistic places of which he has studied every meter, every angle, every sunrise and sunset.

“I spend almost all my time in the mountains. I started doing this over twenty years ago, at the time I was taking pictures with an analogue camera and I had my own darkroom. In order to get the right shots I think you need to have a great knowledge of the landscape, but there is a lot more than that… The sun, for example, is another crucial element. I always shoot at dawn or at sunset, in the middle of the day the sun doesn’t have an interesting and functional yield for my type of photography. The lines and morphology of the snow are also really important. It’s impossible to know where you can find the perfect snow: snow is constantly changing, it’s never the same… I modeled my style in the Engelberg mountains, this is where I live and spend my days, the shape of these peaks draws unique shadows.”

This almost hermit-like search for the perfect snowy glimpse has made Oskar a sort of guru of mountain photography. A status that becomes even more fascinating when we think about the pathology that has afflicted him since birth: color blindness.

“I am not completely color blind, but I have some problems with colors, I tend to mix them. For example, I see purple as a dark blue. Along my career I got used to this partial color blindness, so I never experienced the pathology as a limitation to my artistic sensitivity. I also use a lot of black and white, this aesthetic choice on the one hand protects me from chromatic problems, on the other allows me to give my works a different sensory rendering, in my opinion with the black and white they become more incisive.”

The incisiveness of Oskar’s shots is not the result of sporting effort, but of the enchanted instant. Inside his compositions nature and geometry, vastness and smallness intersect.

The man, or better, the athlete-skier becomes a useful instrument to embellish mountain views and white vertical walls. With his skis he plays the role of the painter inside the painting, drawing sketches and trajectories on a white canvas.

“I’ve never been particularly interested in photographing official competitions, because on those occasions skiers and photographers have no freedom, they are limited by a long series of restrictions. In the races I don’t find the same beauty that I observe in a solitary skier, committed to face the fresh snow and a virgin track. Having said that, I believe that sports photography should capture emotions. I try to do this through the crystallisation of a precise moment. It’s fundamental to be inside the moment and to show that moment, even during the competitions: in that case it’s necessary to focus on what the athlete, the human being, is feeling and experiencing.”

And in the near future, Oskar Enander’s artistic research will continue to focus on exalting the mountainous moment. A moment that he will also seek outside of Engelberg, thanks to the serial works commissioned by renowned international companies.

“During the next months I’ll travel around the world, the destinations will be Canada and, probably, Japan. Living in the mountains often gives me the opportunity to work from home: something that I will keep doing in these months. The brands know me, they know what my artistic vision is and they are aware that I can also work while staying here in the Swiss mountains.”

Oskar Enander
IG @oskar_enander

Text by Gianmarco Pacione