Here we feature the first in a series of three interviews with the internationally-renowned photographer Philip Lee Harvey. Before we take a look at two very different location shoots in Haiti and in Libya, we meet the man whose 15 years in travel photography have taken him to more place around the world than most people can name.
“I’m a travel photographer in widest sense”, says Philip Lee Harvey, whose stunning images of over 90 countries have appeared on the pages (and covers) of Conde Nast Traveller, the National Geographic Traveller, The Independent, the Sunday Telegraph, Tatler and Vanity Fair. His driving passion is the spirit of why we travel and the emotion we create by moving across place and space.
A travel photographer for 15 years, Philip trained as a graphic artist before spending a brief stint as a photographer’s assistant. “I didn’t spend too long as an assistant, though” he laughs. “Too ambitious!” I ask him if he thinks his graphic design training was an interesting start to a career creating images. “Yes”, he agrees. “I’m still interested in simple graphic imagery.” This becomes clear when looking at some of his strikingly simple yet powerful landscapes and portraits.
As you might expect from someone who spends two thirds of his year travelling to far-flung locations, Philip loves everything to do with the outdoors. He is especially interested in travel as exploration and is passionate about the history of exploration itself. “If I’m going somewhere new, I’ll research the history of exploration and photography in that area,” he says. “For instance, when I go to Antarctica, I’ll look at all of Frank Hurley’s work from his trips to the area and I’ll research Shackleton’s expeditions.”
Philip is keen on visiting the most remote places possible, finding them the most interesting and photographically challenging. “I like to go as far as possible North, South, East and West,” he says. The list of places he’s seen is enough to turn me green with envy. I would expect such a widely-travelled person to be able to come up with a top ten of places he’d still like to visit. When I ask the question, though, he is momentarily speechless and says he couldn’t possibly choose. “At this time of year, it would need to be somewhere snowy – I love snow”, he says. He names Siberia – “an amazing place” - but no sooner is the name out of his mouth than replaces it with others, unable to choose. It seems that, no matter how long you spend exploring, there is no end of places to yearn for.
So what’s next for this travelling travel photographer? Amongst a packed schedule, he is particularly looking forward to one forthcoming project. “I have an exciting trip planned for later on this year, to catch the monsoon going across India. As a yardstick I’ll look at the history of previous work done by photographers there.”
“I’m keen to do more exhibitions. I’d like to do a book at some point, but I don’t want to do it too soon. I want it to be a really good retrospective of what I do.”
We’ll be staying in touch with Philip over the next couple of months, when we’ll bring you the stories behind his fascinating images from Libya and the Sahara. The stories are almost as amazing as the photographs themselves.