By Manny Lopez
Australian Peter Lik is known for his ability to capture spectacular panoramic scenery. Completely self taught, Lik's passion for his work is infectious. With 15 galleries in the United States and Australia, Lik recently opened his latest in La Jolla on Prospect Street. Well worth a visit, his galleries offer a rare combination of beauty, depth and color.
Q: Why La Jolla?
A: I've always enjoyed being near the coast and I wanted a good West Coast presence. La Jolla's just got a really nice vibe to it. I've just got to have a good vibe whenever I open up a new gallery. You have to have a Southern California presence. It's known for art and it's just a beautiful place, mate.
Q: How do you choose a location to photograph?
A: Mate, it comes with a sixth sense … I just do a lot of research finding these locations, and I guess when I'm on location everything has to come from the heart. I have to go check out the location and wait for the right light to shoot.
Q: It must take a lot of patience to sit and wait for the right moment to shoot.
A: Mate, I've got no patience. I get angry just waiting at a red light. Or I'm in line at the supermarket and I'll jump and change lines. But I've got this uncanny presence to wait for Mother Nature.
When I go out on location, I just have to be prepared. Sometimes I can wait up to a week for the lighting. I guess it's the mind-set when I go out there looking for a shot. Like if I want to shoot some oceanscapes around the La Jolla area. I might get it on the first night or I might have to wait a few days. Sometimes up to a couple of weeks for the light to be exact to shoot a sunrise or sunset.
Q: How do you capture that magnificent lighting in your pictures?
A: Well, lighting is key. You've got to be at the right location at the right time. Everyone always asks, "Have the photographs been back lit or done on a computer?" It's called an alarm clock. You wake up at 4 a.m. and you get that beautiful soft light.
Q: How did you get involved with photography?
A: My parents were political refugees from Czechoslovakia. I was living in Melbourne in Australia in the suburbs. They gave me my first camera when I was 8. I actually still have my first little snaps with me today. They're just 4 x 4 inch, black and white shots. I guess because my mom and dad were into photography a fair bit as well. They were sort of hobby photographers. I've got a couple of their old albums here. I felt comfortable with the camera. The fist shot I ever took was a spider web out in the front of our house with a dew droplet on it. Back then to shoot was so expensive and I was a poor kid. I didn't have any money. I had to save up for film and developing. It used to cost a fortune, but ever since I could remember, even growing up in my teens, I had to have a camera everywhere I went. It can't be taught. Photography has to come from the inside like a musician or a painter.
Q: What would you say differentiates you from someone like Thomas Kinkade?
A: I guess it's my style of photography. People like Kinkade have a style that's very conservative. Traditional is the word. My style of photography which is panoramic, is very cutting edge and pretty radical, dealing with color and abstract composition rather than shooting a field of flowers in front of a mountain range. You have to look a lot further past that and maybe photograph the tree or the sky or the grass or the foreground. You've got to look a little bit further past the average landscape. Simplicity, composition and format would be the three characteristics that make me who I am.
Q: What should someone who has never been to one of your galleries expect to see?
A: Most people are completely blown away and taken back by the power of Mother Nature. They're going to walk in there and see the canyons and the deserts and just be surrounded by the power of Mother Nature that I just go out there and capture. I've dedicated my life to doing that. So you walk in the galleries and you feel my energy and my vibe and where I'm coming from.
Q: What can we expect from you in the future?
A: I'm going to be doing another series of shots of wildflowers up through the back of the hills there in San Diego. I'm really looking forward to that. It all depends on the amount of rainfall we get. They will be a series of shots of abstracts of flowers. It's beautiful moving into the spring time.