Traveler With A Camera
Photos © 2004, Nevada Wier, All Rights Reserved
As the sun sets above an ancient wooden bridge in Myanmar, three women push
their bicycles along the weathered structure, the scene dramatically silhouetted
against a brilliant orange sky.
Nevada Wier has photographed the old bridge many times during her multiple visits to Myanmar. Today she has captured her "moment," her "dream shot," that instant of spontaneity when she and her camera become one as something takes place that moves her.
While visiting the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in 1990, Wier exchanged greetings
with a man seated on a bench. He had never met a Western woman before and was
delighted. She has just taken his portrait. The man rests after his day's
work. A lone thread dangles from his pants leg, his feet splayed in a way that
tells Wier he has worked all day barefoot in the fields. We do not see his face.
The portrait is one of his life and his world as it exists today.
Wier is a traveler with a camera, a professional tourist with a curiosity about the world, who for the past 30 years has lived in New Mexico. Wier admits she "just can't stay put" and for the better part of each year visits and photographs the world's most remote places, documenting the people, their everyday lives, their cultures, and their countries.
Though Wier grew up in Washington, DC, she attended Prescott College in Arizona
where she participated in an outdoor program that reshaped her life. Hiking,
kayaking, mountain climbing, the young "city girl" soon found herself
walking through the desert in Hush Puppies with blisters on every toe.
In the mid-70s she became a river guide and climbing instructor for Southwest and Colorado Outward Bound Schools and led a group to Nepal. It was her first touch of Asia, a place she has never been able to leave behind.
"I realized I was passionate about travel," she says, "and having been a climber I started out in the Himalayas but soon realized I was more interested in the cultures that live near the mountains. Traversing through the villages interested me. I feel comfortable going to remote places and learned early on to observe the habits and to travel in the same mode of transportation as the locals."
Wier tells of her first expedition to China, setting out on a ski mountaineering
expedition in the mountains in Szechuan. "The Chinese don't ski
and there was no snow," she recalls. "I felt pretty foolish standing
there with all my ski gear. It was a lesson."
Wanting to maintain the peripatetic lifestyle yet not remain solely an outdoor guide, Wier decided to make a foray into photography. She got a job on a local newspaper and tried a number of different directions. Over time she integrated the technical knowledge of the camera to the way she looked at the world. "It took time to develop my own sensibilities," she says, "and I look back at my early images and cringe. I vividly remember looking through those images deciding why I favored a particular piece. It was more than technical mastery. Primarily it was and still is the image that resonates with me.
"Photography is rather right brain, left brain," Wier says. "It's hard to be a technical master, yet be able to let go and capture your creative spirit. Cameras can drive you nuts and you must know your camera and feel comfortable so you are working fast and reacting without thinking about technique. That means you are photographing from the heart.
"Many photographers are literal but I am not. I'm not photographing
what I see but rather in a way that only the imperfections of a camera and film
can render. I want to photograph the way my camera sees, to transcend my own
little documentary world and go into the world of the machine."
Using a wide angle to photograph close, Wier lets people know she is there and to become accustomed to her presence. "A telephoto must be used carefully," she says. "I think it is upsetting for people to look up and see this huge lens being pointed at them. I am very careful, and as soon as anyone starts to notice me, it's down.