Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Chris Burkard, a landscape photographer, storyteller, and human being who keeps pushing himself to the limit and goes deep into his discomfort to progress. Traveling throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth, he works to capture stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with nature, while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere.
Layered by outdoor, travel, adventure, surf, and lifestyle subjects, Chris is known for images that are punctuated by untamed, powerful landscapes. Through social media, he strives to share his vision of wild places with millions of people and to inspire them to explore for themselves.
His visionary perspective has earned him opportunities to work on global, prominent campaigns with Fortune 500 clients, speak on the TED stage, design product lines, educate, and publish a growing collection of books.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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Pierre Lambert owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
This interview was transcribed by Descript.com.
Pierre Lambert: Good morning podcast. Welcome to Pierre T. Lambert Show. I am Pierre, your host. And today, I have with me, Chris Burkard. Yes! You heard it right. We have Chris on the podcast. That’s going to be awesome. Guys, I’ve been wanting to have Chris on the podcast for several reasons for a very long time, and I finally had the opportunity to do so.
So, if you do not know Chris. Chris is a landscape photographer, storyteller, and human being who keeps pushing himself to the limit and goes deep into his discomfort to progress. That is something I admire and love to do. In this episode, we will be digging into a bunch of different topics. We will be talking about why taking pictures for fun is so fulfilling even as a working professional, why investing time in what matters is the most important thing in life, how come cycling go to such an important place in his life, and how does it get him to agree to creative space, how does he find ideas in those moments, and last but not the least, ask him a weird question. “Is earth better without humans?” His answer might be surprising you, and last but not the least, we will talk about creativity, discomfort, and how to become better. That part is essential. If you are trying to create anything in your life, if you are trying to progress, I think this episode will be a purifier for you.
So, without further ado, let us welcome Chris to the podcast and dive right into it. Welcome to the podcast, Chris.
Chris Burkard: Thank you, man. I appreciate that so much. I appreciate you having me.
Pierre Lambert: Well, I appreciate you telling me even more because I know you are like a president.
Chris Burkard: No, just kind of. Life is a little crazy sometimes, and I think I am a big fan of trying to fit it all in. Sometimes that comes back to bite me in the butt, but for the most part, I love trying to make the most of my time. I guess you could say I’m a workaholic in that sense, so yes.
Pierre Lambert: That is always a balance between of « should I try everything or how am I going to miss out?” I have a fun question that I asked a few people the other day, and if I say photography, your first image, a photograph that comes in your head.
Chris Burkard: There’s not even a photograph that comes to my head when I think of photography. To be honest, there was a time in my career when I was obsessed with photographs, with the concept and the idea of photography.
Nowadays, when you say the word photography, or you say, what’s the first thing that I think about photography, I just think about storytelling. To me, it’s not so much about a single image nowadays, as it is about the overall process of telling a great story. When I think of photography, the first thing that comes to my mind is what is my favorite film.
I do not know why but what I realized more and more is that there is so much more to the process of creating a great image. There’s also the emotion and the feeling of what it was like when you created it. There’s the story behind the image.
There’s the why, who, and I want to know all that stuff. And although I have my favorite images, it’s probably the volcano photograph of the surfer in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, but I think more constant questions pop up like what’s the deeper story behind this or behind that or whatever. Sorry. I’m pretty terrible at the question games like: « what do you think of, and when you think about this »… because my mind doesn’t operate that way.
Pierre Lambert: I’m asking that because I’ve had different photographers and the older they get, the more they talk about stories versus photos or advance in their career. That’s something I feel and love about photos. In a film, it’s like, what impacts you deeper than say that’s pretty.
Chris Burkard: There’s a surface quality to something that looks beautiful, right? I think it’s almost easier to relate to like food. It’s like I want something that gets my taste buds quickly. I want a bag of potato chips and it’s yummy, it’s salty, and it’s good, and you’re eating, you’re thinking of your favorite potato chips, and they’re great, but the bag is done, and you didn’t get any nutrients, and it’s not that great. So, I look at amazing landscape photographs like that. I enjoy them. They are yummy. I’m a sweet and salty fan but what I want is something hearty, like a warm soup that fills you up deep inside and a slice of bread. I think the point being is there is a fulfillment that comes from connecting with other people’s stories. That’s the stuff that changes you. That’s the recipe that changes who you are as a person potentially and makes you, in some way, a better person, right? If you can relate to a story and take something away from it, those are the things that I care about.
Pierre Lambert: Do you feel that as you move a little bit further, you want to focus more on the stories and maybe the invisible ones?
Chris Burkard: I mean, absolutely. I still love the process of taking pictures. Here is one thing, I do not want to wax poetic every photo you take has to be this deep and meaningful thing. I love the process of going out and taking pictures because it is fun and it is fulfilling. That is it for no other reason, but the older I get, I look for projects that I am willing to invest my time in, and that is what I am saying. If I am going to spend six months on something, I want it to be something that I am a hundred percent on board with, and I care about a person and their story. So, to me, those things are all so critical. They are so important. I think if you are going to be investing your time, money, energy, taking time away from your family, it better be an important thing, not like, I am just going to go out and shoot this one.
Great action sports image. For me, I want to go tell a story about a friend that changed my life or a story that is significant, and I think when you get down to the meat of it, you know, so…
Pierre Lambert: I like what you are saying because it resonates with me especially on that can you work for something a little bit deeper…
Chris Burkard: Well, you are going to be willing to sacrifice more for something you care about. That is all there is to it. It is the same thing as me hiring because you have a camera and know how to operate it. That is unfulfilling, you feel used, but you are making money so you cannot really complain. But the point is, I am more willing to get everything, something I truly believe in. Those are the projects that you suffer for and the ones you suffer for are the ones that are good. That is what passion is. Passion is being willing to suffer for something.
Pierre Lambert: That is very true. What is your take on creating versus capturing?
Chris Burkard: That’s an excellent thing. To be honest. I love this concept of capturing an image and what that means. It’s like you’re setting a trap and you’re capturing something. You’re taking it for yourself as opposed to composing an image. Think about the tact, the elegance, the time, and the energy that a composer puts into composing an orchestra. They’re fully engaged in all of these elements, and they’re creating something beautiful. And then when it’s over it, it’s over. I think to me it sounds so stupid. Truly, the verbiage in which we describe our process of creating images should reflect how much we care about that. How did that process and respect it and the more you respect a place, the more time you dedicate to it, the more care concerned, whatever, I think it comes through in the images.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I agree. I like what you said about the orchestra because that’s what happens also. That’s why sometimes street photography, I do it because I’m in cities a lot and there are magical elements to it where you didn’t set up anything.
Chris Burkard: Yes, it just happened. Beautiful.
Pierre Lambert: You just captured life at one point and that will never be repeated.
Chris Burkard: Right. Right.
Pierre Lambert: It just makes me wonder when you do landscape like that and you’re in those places. Is there a way for you to have the landscape be a subject? Imagine you want it to tell a story and you could not add a human element into that landscape, what would be your thoughts on that?
Chris Burkard: A good landscape image is an opinion-based thing. That’s the hard thing. It’s impossible to be like, what would you do? To be honest, I never want to add a human subject, human element, or any element to an image. Unless I feel like it complements the image in a lot of ways. If I’m adding a human element, I’m adding a landscape to a portrait as opposed to the other way around. That’s the way I always see it. I grew up shooting surfing so I was always shooting a subject. I was shooting people on surf trips. It’s funny because, from that background, I was shooting surfing with a tight lens and then, all of a sudden, I’d shoot a little wider and a little wider to the point where I was showing the entire landscape and you’re adding the landscape to the subject.
For me, the story was always I’m shooting this person or doing this incredible feat of achievement, physical achievement and I’m trying to showcase the landscape in which they’re doing it. There was always a relationship between the subject and nature. Now, if I’m going into a national park or I’m going somewhere that is just so beautiful on its own, and I’m forcing myself to add something to it that doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t seem like you’re doing that place of service. I guess it’s a hard thing for me to see imagery and even in myself, I’ve done this. It is why I’m using myself as an example. Going to a place feeling that the only way I can make this interesting is by inserting a subject here, that’s not the right answer. I think what I find is usually the by-product of us being rushed, forcing ourselves to create something.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: Capturing an image and trying to like get through it as opposed to when you have the opportunity to go somewhere again and again or go somewhere that you’re able to pay your respect or put in your time. That’s when you get the amazing cloud formation, or the rainbow after a storm, or the low cloud sitting in the valley, and your photograph is so interesting and so unique that adding anything to it would be asinine and that’s the way that I see. It is when we go somewhere and it is crappy midday light. It’s not a very interesting photograph and you’re just going to put a subject in there and try and make it interesting. That doesn’t work. I don’t know. Do you know what I mean? That’s just my opinion.
Pierre Lambert: No, I know what you mean because I do the shortcuts too, I wasn’t with sprints, and there’s this epic, tough point, beautiful, and you add a subject that gives scales. You’re happy, but part of me also wish that it happened a little bit more candidly.
Chris Burkard: But the problem is nowadays something that happens candidly, nobody even cares, notices, or could tell the difference unless you take the time to explain it and then, by taking the time to explain it, you take away the mystery.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, that is true. That’s why I always like to discuss with you guys or with other photographers about that because everyone has a little bit of different philosophy around that, especially when I speak with people who like composite, very deeply images, which goes into totally art mode where it’s imaginary, which is interesting versus trying to stay in more documentary style or like capturing, and It always reminds us, I think as creators, what route do you want to take? And what story are you trying to be behind it?
Chris Burkard: Absolutely.
Pierre Lambert: One of your images, I have to share that. One of your images from Yosemite National Park got me to Glacier Point, and I didn’t know where it was, but I remember. I don’t know if it was a tutorial or video. One day, I saw that skateboarder.
Chris Burkard: That was maybe five years ago.
Pierre Lambert: The photo struck me.
Chris Burkard: It was becoming a bit popular.
Pierre Lambert: I was like, wasn’t that in Yosemite then, I Googled quickly and I found out it was Glacier Point, obviously the road, it was amazing, and I couldn’t help taking a photo there and stuff. I may use a skateboard.
Chris Burkard: It’s so popular. It’s crazy. I love it. Yeah. I mean, it’s funny how trends form and set. You don’t do something. I don’t aspire to create images in hopes to start a trend in some capacity. It’s just something that I had done in the past and done before. It’s almost like it dawned on me to want to take out the camera and take a picture of it and it’s so fun. I’ve been through a lot big-time, going around that bed and falling off into the rocks and whatnot and I always think I love our outdoor spaces, our national parks, finding interesting, and new ways to experience them, whether through climbing, flying over a paraglider or a trike of some sort, skateboarding, or recycling through. To me, I enjoy documenting the human experience, and whatever that may be, in some capacity.
Pierre Lambert: Speaking of trends, do you feel like it is daunting to post stuff, just thinking everyone’s going to do the same…?
Chris Burkard: No, I don’t care. I mean, man, it’s so hard because it always comes back to your intention, right? I understand that’s so important, but I think the reality is, if you’re afraid of sharing something because you know how somebody is going to perceive it, but it’s meaningful to you, that’s going against your nature. I think that in some ways, I also think there’s something to be said for being a photographer or a person in general who has a perspective, who’s willing to stand up for what they believe in. Even if some people don’t agree, I think we’re all too busy trying to please too many people. I’ve always loved the advice, the advice of Yvon Chouinard. If you’re not pissing off 50% of the world, you’re not doing your job. Not everybody should think what you’re doing is great or it’s cool, or it’s whatever, there should be naysayers. That’s a part of the process. I think we have created, we fostered a culture where we’re just trying to please everybody all the time.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: And that’s so unhealthy to not live in a world. I celebrate differences of opinion. I love that. It doesn’t need to be controversial. It just needs to be like somebody might like this, somebody might not, somebody might think this is dangerous. That’s okay. I don’t need to appease everybody but at the same time, I’m also not that type of person where if somebody is like going to call me out or say something, I’m just going to like roll over, I will tell, give them my opinion and make them realize, I am a human being with thoughts and intentions. And if you want to communicate with me, do so effectively via email or through DM or, whatever it might be, but simply voicing your opinion online as if it matters when you’re privileged to be able to take part in someone’s creative process, that’s not effective, in my opinion.
Sorry. That’s a long-winded answer to a not very long question…
Pierre Lambert: I think it’s great. I think more and more nowadays you see it because you’re in an age of instant feedback. It’s like you put a video on YouTube, you instantly see what happened.
Chris Burkard: It’s also challenging because what do you want to see? Do you want to see something? That’s always like rainbows and meadows and it’s just so soft. Everything’s like the best day ever. Amazing. I get bored with that. I want to know something about somebody. I want to know somebody’s opinion. I want to know a perspective that means something to me and if that means that person is going to share something potentially controversial, great. I welcome that because it allows me to see things from a different perspective. Why would we want everybody to see things the same way we do?
Pierre Lambert: Like going shooting with someone, who shoots on the low angles, and you think it is done. You felt that maybe there is something there. That’s cool. I want to segue into something that’s a little bit off the topic. It’s your adventure in Iceland, with the bikes, cycling. Did you learn anything from that experience? Because that’s a little bit off of what you’ve been doing so far?
Chris Burkard: I don’t think so. I think the reality, I’ve allowed people to know more about my life, that is all there is to it. There is a lot of stuff I don’t do. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t tell people.
Pierre Lambert: Have you been biking for a long time?
Chris Burkard: I’ve been cycling for five years, but I stopped when I had my son because it’s hard to take the time. I started riding again and I’ve learned to become more open with people and share more of my personal life. I’m also a certified yoga teacher. I don’t talk about that all the time. Do I need to? No. Do I need to share every single thing I ate every morning? Do I need to shove it down people’s throats that I’m vegan? I don’t care. So, the reality is I’ve tried to share insight into my personal life because it seems like people are interested, but I’m also a sensitive creature. It’s hard because if it’s not photography-related, people won’t care. I am trying to open up more and it is a part of getting outside of your comfort zone. I’m going to share a little more of the insight that makes me, me. And to be honest, cycling is just good exercise. But more than that, to be honest, it’s forced time for me to be able to think. And it’s forced time to allow me to create space for creativity. That’s all it is. And I’ll tell you what. There is no greater creative space you’ll ever enter than when you’re 58 hours without sleep. And you’ve exhausted your body riding 850 miles, and you see things, you’re hallucinating, you’re about to fall over, you’re bleeding, and everything hurts. You get some unique parts of you that I cannot express to others and how fulfilling that is for me. Not only understand, of course, like how far can you go? It’s not about that. There’s just this masochistic perspective people have like, why would you do that? And the reality is, I want to create space for creativity to happen. And I’m just like you, I’m always on my phone, and I’m sorry, I’m judging here, but I’m just like everybody else. I’m always on my phone, I’m always inhibited by the day today, and I’m getting it all in, but when I go out and ride my bike, I go out to rock climb or go out and do whatever. You can’t do anything else. I love that. And that is why I like to ride. When I’m climbing you, you stop, and then you can pull out your phone. It only goes for like 20, 30 minutes at a time and a chunk. I love climbing and running is hard on the body. And I used to do it a lot.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: But I urge everybody to find that thing for them – swimming or whatever it is. I’ve dabbled with a bunch of different sports over the years and I love something about that. That is a gift you’ve given yourself, the gift of being fully there.
Pierre Lambert: That’s your creativity. How do you call that? Spring or whatever?
Chris Burkard: Yes. To be honest, that’s what it is. I can’t tell how many voice notes I’ve recorded on my bike, where I’m saying, this is a great idea, stops, records because they come to you. It’s usually after a couple of hours of, you’re not bored, but you’re saying, this isn’t as visually stimulating as scrolling Instagram, right? But that’s what you need. You need to purge that for a bit, and when you do come back to things, you see them with fresh eyes. It’s powerful.
Pierre Lambert: I can a hundred percent confirm what you said and that’s what I was telling Ben. He was like, oh, come, couldn’t wait to go back in the water, and everything away from me, I mean it is like killing a lady at a funeral…
Chris Burkard: Yes. That’s what surfing is, it’s like a baptism. Every time you feel this rejuvenation of and spirit. It’s incredible but I also think that the more you do something, the more kind of complacent you get. You see people doing incredible things and still being unhappy and for me, that’s weird. You weren’t unhappy the first time you did it. You are probably overfilled with joy. It was a childlike wonder but you see people go out surfing and are angry and yelling at people. The reality is that there’s something to be said for doing something over and over and trying to find different results, which is why I like to mix it up. I’m not a cyclist. I ride my bike sometimes. I’m not a climber and I enjoy climbing. Sometimes I like trying new things and for some time and getting into it, moving on, and then dabbling back and forth.
Pierre Lambert: Do you feel photography is something that always stays with you no matter what, or there are times where you don’t want to shoot?
Chris Burkard: I’m not ashamed to say it, but I don’t pick up my camera for months at a time.
Pierre Lambert: Really?
Chris Burkard: Yes. All the time. The reality is I don’t want to be just a photographer. I feel that It’s limiting, and I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. What I feel is giving yourself to that craft of storytelling limits you. There are months and months where I will practice public speaking, or I will practice presentations, or I’ll practice because that’s what I have to do and try this. Imagine if you’re not a photographer anymore but you had to bring the same level of visual intimacy through public speaking. How would you describe things? How would you write things? I’ve been working on a book this last month that’s coming out in October. I was working on a film in Iceland last week, and there is a lot of other facets to my creativity that I try to foster. And I guess what I’m saying is, a lot of those require you to put a camera down and give time and space for those. And I hope that more creatives do that because I am excited to hear their voices in other ways or their vision, right? Other ways.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. What you say is something that is being unidimensional. It will keep you in the lane, in the box, and the only result you can expect is that lane or that box. If you’re not able to spread in different directions, no other results will come out.
Chris Burkard: None. Nothing else. I mean, that’s the thing. I’m blanking here, but basically, the definition of being crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting your results, right? We do that from time to time and I guess that’s what I’m trying to get away from like why am I just doing the same thing over and expecting new results? How else could I express this thing that I’m passionate about and the thing that I’m passionate about is not photography. The things I am passionate about is sharing my perspective with the world, the things that are meaningful to me, the things that I fear losing, and the things that I love.A lot of that is nature and human experience, people, and a lot of things and I look for different ways to do it. I guess that’s how I would define myself. I think it’s cliche to be a storyteller, but I do hope to be a storyteller. In any way, I can.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. That’s good. I think you’re doing a pretty good job so far.
Chris Burkard: Thanks, man. I appreciate that.
Pierre Lambert: You’ve been working on it. I have a super weird question because something you said triggered me. That’s me being me.
Chris Burkard: I don’t mind weird questions.
Pierre Lambert: Do you think the earth is better off without humans?
Chris Burkard: No, of course not. I think it is the dumbest question you could ever ask. I am just kidding. It is a great question. It is funny because we are consumers. We consume. Animals consume, too. We consume by our very nature. I think that the answer to the biggest questions that we have in the world is not going to be: humans are destroying the earth. We are a disgrace. What does that even mean? You are talking about your race here, people. I am sorry that not everybody sees the same way or the same perspective. And, if we could, in some way, limit the number of new people coming into the world all the time, that would be great, but that is not going to happen. There will not be a year where there will be a halt and no more people are going to be added to the earth’s population base. That is not going to happen ever. That idea is done. I think the reality is that we need to foster more experiences where people can learn to care about the natural world because the greatest issue that humans have is we are too smart and we tend to think our way through everything and work out how to make things as simple as they could be and this pursuit of simplicity. I also mean technological advancements in how we can make our lives easier and this pursuit of ease is what has put us into this situation. It is different when everybody has to walk to a well and get their water or walk to a stream or has to engage with nature every single day. But when we have made life easier by living in cities and by being able to jump on the computer, I am not saying these are bad things, I am just saying that we have lost touch with nature and our connection to it. And when you lose touch with something, it is out of sight, out of mind. I choose to be vegetarian, vegan. I cannot come to grips with killing my food and that is just the reality. I do not have a problem with anybody else doing it. At all. I am not here to advocate for pita or the fair treatment of animals. I love animals and I hope they are all treated fairly, but I am not saying people should not kill animals. Everybody should do whatever they want. Personally, that is just me trying to be in touch with my reality and nature in general. If I am forced to, I would, right? But I am not. I also know that it is not something that is asked of me. So again, I am saying that I am as introspective as possible. I want people to be able to have experiences that force them to question who they are and be the most real version of themselves. I think the more opportunities people have to be out in nature to experience this stuff and not just like going to the grocery store, buying food, not knowing where it comes from, not knowing the process that it has to go through, not knowing anything. And I mean, I think food is the best example of out of sight, out of mind. There are million other examples that you could potentially bring up. And that, for me, is the greatest crux. I do not think humans are the scourge of the earth. I think we have done incredible things to create an amazing existence for everybody here for each other. We bring joy to each other’s lives and we also bring a lot of terrible things. but, I think, that the thing that we need to consider is where are we at in our journey with interacting with the natural world?
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I love those thoughts. I think it is very difficult to define first of all, what is good and bad.
Chris Burkard: Right. Of course. That’s the thing. You kind of set yourself up for failure even in answering the question.
Pierre Lambert: It’s crazy, and that’s what I keep learning as I go. Personally, because I’m very opinionated on many kinds of stuff, I don’t know where it comes from. I have an opinion on everything, maybe because I’m French, but in what you’re saying, what I come to realize and I would love your answer about, should there be no human in a way it’s like the earth would still evolve. It might still get destroyed. It might still disappear in 500 million years. Who knows? What I came to realize, just like one of the photos you shared, I don’t know where it was, but there was this guy on the edge, and the one side was dark. One side was brighter than the sun and you were talking about balance, and that’s how I came to realize. I mean, everything’s freaking balance, you know, whether you want it or not, whether you were destroying the earth or earth or like our vision of the earth within the next 200 years and all die or not, or go in space or whatever, it doesn’t matter. There are like 5 million other planets disappearing every day. A new star is coming up.
Chris Burkard: We are so insignificant. It blows me away that some people complain like it’s their job. And I really question where people’s pursuit of joy is in their life and the process of bringing joy to other people.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: And to me, that is a hundred percent. My mission statement is I want to bring joy and happiness to other people’s life because life is an incredible gift, and I’ve been given the gift of life by somebody who had to sacrifice a lot for me to have it. And that perspective is my perspective. Nobody can take it from me and, I feel like I am to bring joy to other people’s lives and try not to complain too much. And it’s a funny thing when I see something online or in the world that bothers me, rather than opening my mouth and giving someone my opinion about it. The first thing I try to do is think, Am I doing that? Is that something that I could be working on? Is where am I failing in that regard to living up to X person’s expectations. Not to say that you need to. But, I don’t think our first reaction should be to point the finger.
Pierre Lambert: It should be introspection.
Chris Burkard: It should be introspection, and I have realized a lot about myself in doing so. It also triggers you. It probably triggered you because there is something in your personal life.
Pierre Lambert: I feel that you are living your experience of life, meaning you are experiencing life with your lens. We are in the same universe or maybe a different universe, but my vision of you, right now, and your vision of me is a hundred, a million miles away from each other. I might see you one way, you see me one way, but you see me based on all the experiences you have had. That is current life and the same for me, and whenever I get bogged down, or when I realize that I may be too reactive on something that I do not want to intake, that is something I work on personally. Not to react and actively try to switch gears and think, how did it experience life? What can I take from that perspective? And, do I have a better answer than that?
Chris Burkard: Yes.
Pierre Lambert: And yes! It puts me in place. Sometimes, it is not bad. It is not good. I am not in the middle. I mean, if it works for you, man. I want to tend towards something that is harmonizing with whatever is around me versus saying, this is good, this is bad.
Chris Burkard: Right.
Pierre Lambert: Is it creating harmony, or is it creating discomfort for the environment of the people around me?
Chris Burkard: Yes. I also think there are times and places in which creating discomfort is a good thing. Because you are never going to make a change unless if everything is always kosher and easy-peasy. I think this call-out culture is what I think we are both talking about here, which is dangerous. It is the call-out culture without introspective culture.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: And I think that there is an important, that you need both, right? And I respect both and I, which is why when I see somebody saying something to somebody else, or saying something to me, or I want to say something to someone, I want to think about my own life. Well, how could I improve this? If this is something that triggers me, I do not know. So, I do not even know how he got on this topic, but ultimately, I think that for me, photography is a tool to bring joy, and that is all there is to it and I hope that my images could do that.
Pierre Lambert: That’s awesome, Chris. I think we can wrap it up here. Those are awesome thoughts and we could go on.
Chris Burkard: No, I like it. I enjoy talking about the more existential questions. As opposed to what are your f-stops and apertures, and the camera is just another canvas. That is all it is.
Pierre Lambert: It is like, do you want a blue hammer, or do you want the greenhouse?
Chris Burkard: Yes. I know. Exactly.
Pierre Lambert: You are saying, I do not know. I want a hundred nails.
Chris Burkard: Right, right. And, I think that is a great way of looking at it. We are building a house, and whatever you want to put in that house is up to you. And you are going to use different tools. It takes a variety of different skill sets and you can get there in a quick way, you can get there in a slow way. And I think the important thing is, what are your intentions on filling that? What do you plan to put inside? What do you plan? And I try to empower other photographers to consider because I consider this myself is like, what is your mission statement? And what are you trying to say with your images? It is so hard to give people advice when they ask if they do not know what they want, if they do not know where they want to end up. I cannot give you a roadmap. I cannot tell you which path to take. If you do not know where you want to go, it is nearly impossible. So, I think that is probably the mystery of life too. Anyways.
Pierre Lambert: I never asked for feedback on my photos anymore. Maybe I did want it.
Chris Burkard: But I have the hardest time I tell people online. They always ask, can you look at my photos? And I will say, I would love to, but I do not give feedback online because I do not know you. I cannot offer someone feedback. If I do not have a chance to sit with them, understand who they are, it would be so dishonest. I looked at your image for five seconds and say, they look great or imagine like telling someone, I looked at your image for five seconds, they’re terrible. That would crush them. It is also an opinion, and it does not mean anything. When I give feedback, I want it to be real and I want it to be honest. I think that requires understanding someone’s goals and aspirations, because, just because I do not like it, or just because I do not think it is whatever, it does not mean; it is bad or it is good. It just means that is my opinion. But as a teacher and as a critic, I have tried to learn to make my own opinion out of things and look at something in the greater context of like, is this work benefiting this person’s goal to get here? Whether I like it or not. That is irrelevant.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, I agree. My go-to answer is, do you like it?
Chris Burkard: Yes.
Pierre Lambert: First of all, do you like it? Because you do not need my approval. I put my face on the YouTube channel for many episodes. It does not mean that I have any right to tell you that your photo is…
Chris Burkard: Right. And I try to explain that. I aim to empower people to understand why they shot it. What was the driving force? What are you trying to say? And I think, by asking those questions, if someone takes that seriously, they will get to a place where they have a greater understanding of themselves and their work and everything.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, it is all about discovering yourself in the way.
Chris Burkard: Yes. Absolutely.
Pierre Lambert: Wrapping question, Chris. Meditation. Where do you stand?
Chris Burkard: I mean a hundred percent. I am huge into meditation, and I have taken actual meditation courses. Through my yoga teacher training, I was able to do quite a bit and through practice. I have done a lot, but to be honest, I do not think that meditation needs to be this sitting down, being quiet, your back is straight, your legs in a cross-like position, breathing out your nose. I do not think that is what you necessarily need to do. I feel like meditation can come in many, many forms. And to me, being out in the ocean is, oftentimes, a form of meditation. I think meditation is when you ask yourself to shut off some of your senses.
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Burkard: It’s a funny thing because for me, being on the bike can be a form of meditation. I say that because what I’m doing is I’m engaging certain senses a lot and I’m shutting off other ones. I don’t know how to describe that in the best way, but exercise has been a great meditation. Doing something repetitively over and over, and asking your body and your body’s focus on that. I’m not focusing on what somebody’s saying to me. I’m not focusing on other sensations. It’s a weird scenario because the point of meditation is you shut off certain senses so you can feel even more. And I think that’s the goal, and you can find that in many different ways. And I would say, find what makes sense for you, whether that’s sitting in a quiet room, whether it’s sitting at a sauna, whether your meditation is just reflecting in some capacity. I liked that when I ride on a train at home, I’ll put my plugs in so I don’t hear anything sometimes. I close my eyes, and my breath is nice to focus on, but I would say that anything that allows you to remove oneself from oneself, which sounds so dumb and esoteric, but I think that’s the goal in my mind.
Pierre Lambert: Well, yes. Think about the moment you start trying. I don’t think what you said sounds dumb anymore for anyone who’s ever tried to shut his line down. The voice that…
Chris Burkard: That’s the point. And, my mind is very active. I need that, that voluntary effort to shut my mind off a little bit. That has come through many different things and even though forcing myself to let go and do public speaking, I don’t enjoy it. I’m scared? Yes. But I do it because my heart starts pumping and I’m getting myself out of my comfort zone, I would be an imposter if I didn’t force myself to do things that were out of my comfort zone and this is why I do those things. Photography at a certain point becomes comfortable. We can’t always say, photography. That doesn’t work like that. There’s a lot of other things in my life. I even started learning how to ride horses. I bought a horse because they terrified me. That was something scary to me and my wife and it helped to try to overcome that. I mean, this is random.
Pierre Lambert: Yes, but you give your time into that on purpose. I heard something, or was it my wife? I can’t remember, but she said, you know what? It’s not a challenge for us entrepreneurs to start a business.
Chris Burkard: No.
Pierre Lambert: She said, but now ask an entrepreneur to get a daytime job and stick through it for three, five years, that’s a challenge because everyone talks about you should quit your job and do your own thing. If you’re entrepreneurial, that feels natural.
Chris Burkard: You gravitate to that.
Pierre Lambert: What if we ask those people to stay in the job. She’s like, so comfort is a completely…
Chris Burkard: It’s a total perspective. That’s the thing.
Pierre Lambert: I’m sure. When none is in his element, when he’s in the mountain struggling, or in a tough environment…
Chris Burkard: Run on, run on, for sure. And I think you took on to a public setting and force them to interact with uncomfortable people. I’m uncomfortable in that situation too, but through meditation and saying, this is part of my mission statement, that is part of my process, and to spread that joy because I can share my ideas and thoughts. I have to keep myself in check, saying this is the purpose. And at the point when it turns to drinks, and nobody cares, then my time is done. I’m going to bail. But I think that’s a part of it. We have to think about how we can grow and then put ourselves in situations.
Pierre Lambert: Right. That’s the best. I think we can leave everyone with those awesome thoughts.
Chris Burkard: Thanks, man. I appreciate that.
Pierre Lambert: Chris, just in case no one knows you. Where can they find you? I’m joking.
Chris Burkard: Yes. Just Google my name. I’ll pop up somewhere out there, random on the web. Yep.
Pierre Lambert: Thank you so much for today, Chris.
Chris Burkard: Thank you, buddy. I appreciate it.
The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast is where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories. Enjoy & spread the word to your friends about this podcast! Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 600,000 people. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.