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Q&A with superstar photographer Chris Burkard

Photographer Chris Burkard regularly visits some of the most beautiful, off-the-grid locations on this planet. He's a specialist at capturing extraordinary moments in extraordinary places. That's why he was the perfect person to visit the On Mountain Hut.


An accomplished explorer, photographer, speaker, and author, Chris Burkard travels throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth. 


He works to capture images and stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with nature while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere. 


For Chris, photography is a way to inspire others to travel, to find joy, and to seek experiences outside of their comfort zone.  

This summer, we offered him a little of the same thing as we sent him back to the source of On to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime stay in the On Mountain Hut.


And you can too. Just click here to view the Instagram post below and find out how you can be first to secure your stay when the hut returns next year. 



We sat down with the prolific photographer for a Q&A ahead of his trip to discuss his insatiable desire to wander, doing time in Russian jails and why he's excited to be heading into the Swiss alps. 



Hi Chris, have you always had such a strong desire to explore nature and the world?


Growing up in a small town and never traveling as a kid really left me wanting to know just what was "out there." I think that you learn to appreciate travel better, the less you do it as a kid. When I got my first passport at 21, it felt like some magical gift to finally see the world. And I didn't hold back.


To this day, I really feel like that was my education, and I learned so incredibly much from seeing remote places and documenting them.



Do you remember your first trip away from home? Can you tell us about it?


My first trip ever was a work trip to the Middle East. Needless to say, I fully committed! I was on assignment for Transworld Surf, tasked with exploring the surf potential in the area. It was an eye-opening experience.


I still remember the sound of prayer over the loudspeakers at the mosques in Oman. I really had my eyes opened to the kindness of the people there. It blew my mind, and I felt like I was able to, finally, get an education in empathy. 



You've been to some of the most exciting places on Earth. Does anywhere particularly stand out as being extra special to you?


Most of my time spent in the Aleutian Islands and the Kuril Islands was the most eye-opening for me. Mainly because of how active they are volcanically…they are a sight to behold. You are watching new land being created right in front of your eyes. There aren't many places in the world you can see that happen.


So, I yearn to go back to these places any chance I get. I've also been to Iceland 37 times, and I try to go back every year at least a few times. I have great friendships there, and environmental causes that I try to work on when I'm there.


Anywhere that has steep mountains that meet the sea; I'm pretty much head over heels for.



From the good to the bad; what is the scariest and/or worst photoshoot you've been on?


Russia 2009. I got sent to jail for 24 hours then deported to Korea - all because of a visa issue. It was the most terrifying experience of my young life.


We were standing in customs and, one by one, everyone goes through. I'm the last, and it turns out the date was wrong on my passport because the person who had stamped it in the embassy just messed it up. So they shoved me in a jail cell for 24 hours with a — no joke— one-eyed guard, shut the door and left.


I got deported to Korea and flew back to Russia the next day. We spent the next fifteen days looking for waves, and in that time we were able to surf for about two hours. Ironically I got more press for that trip than for any other I've ever done.

             - speaking to National Geographic 



What are you hoping for from your trip to the On Mountain Hut?


The solitude most of all. Also getting the chance to document something that isn't permanent is really special.

The idea that the hut will be gone in a matter of months makes the experience that much more fleeting, and the images that much more valuable.



What does "Back to the source" mean to you?


Well, I think it can have many meanings. Most importantly, I feel it means back to the source from whence we all came. Nature being that source and anything that gets us closer to nature gets us closer to our true, most genuine, selves.


There is an introspective quality to the natural world, and it can have a real effect on us. I look forward to tapping into that at every opportunity I get.



All the photos in this article appear courtesy of Chris Burkard. You can see more of his work on his website and Instagram account.