Czech photographer Jan Khür captures the details we often forget: the sharp outlines of a rocky landscape; a blooming flower’s delicate shades of pink; the way wind causes poetic movement across seas. The Oslo-based photographer has traveled through some of the world’s most exquisitely scenic regions, developing a need to visually record his experiences. Here, he tells us more.
“I am interested in things like wind, movement, and the transformation of water; I get really carried away by nature,” he explains to us from his studio, in response to a question about how the natural world shapes his vision. “But the pictures are never as good as experiencing these places in real life.” With an eye for detail that is authentic and distinct, Khür describes his style as “quiet and hopefully honest,” where each frame is tempered by a sense of intimacy. His photographs do much to express the sheer beauty of the world’s varied landscapes—from artful patterns in bodies of water to rivers meandering through verdant valleys—his versatile portfolio offers an emotive reading of the natural world’s many facets.
His photographs do much to express the sheer beauty of the world’s varied landscapes
After a childhood spent in Bohemia, in the south of the Czech Republic, Khür moved to Český Krumlov, a small medieval town sitting on the river Vltava, to study photography when he was a teenager. “I was lucky to apply and get to art school when I was 15 and escape the world of conventional learning andgymnasium,” he explains. “I didn’t know how to draw very well so I chose photography, and at the start it completely overwhelmed me.” Khür picked up an old Konica point-and-shoot camera at a flea market for two euros, and from that moment, began photographing everyday life. “I continued to study at university though and at some point it all came together, so I began properly as an assistant for a few years. In retrospect each experience had its own way to influence me, both good and bad, and helped me get to where I’m today.”
Krumlov is a popular UNESCO world heritage site, and travelers come from all corners of the globe to see its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. “It is a magical place filled with history,” Khür shares, “and despite living abroad for more than a decade, it will forever be my home.” In 2010, the photographer first visited Oslo as an exchange student, Norway’s capital and one of the greenest and most progressive cities in existence. He latermoved there to live permanently, often documenting the people and vibrant places around him on analog film for both commercial and personal projects. “It is no news, but Norway is quite spectacular with its landscapes and nature,” he says. “Even though I don’t consider myself a classical landscape photographer, I do take pictures of Oslo—it is quite clean, but sometimes it even feels a bit empty; devoid of the kind of energy you experience in other cities.”
Khür’s captivating work transports the viewer to an adventurous dreamstate where nature trumps all concern
Resultantly, there are other destinations that have influenced what Khür likes to capture in his work: from wondrous countries like Japan and South Africa to cosmopolitan European capitals. “I like to feel the buzz of people and for there to be a little bit of mess,” he explains, “so it does make it more special to travel and visit humming cities like Paris or Berlin, who have their own unique atmosphere and imperfections.” Depicting the subtle complexities of life, Khür enjoys mixing the places up so it’s not obvious right away where he took the images. “Some of them are from the north of Norway where nature gets quite rough and the mountains are sharper,” he says, “and others are from around France—I started to visit because my girlfriend studied photography in Arles, and I always enjoyed capturing the sun and vibrant life there.”
Khür’s partner, Julie Hrnčířová, is also a photographer: together they bounce inspiration off one another, working through their artistic process together. “I love our talks about images, but it goes beyond that to music, shows, and literature—it’s really fun to be in a relationship where weshare so much in common and I think it makes me reflect on my work a lot, getting valuable opinions that push you forward,” he says. The pair work intuitively when photographing. “The situations are usually happening around me organically and hopefully I have a camera on me to capture them. Sometimes I see something and I might ask my subject to go back to that moment, but mostly I like to be spontaneous. Later on, Julie and I will work with our images to create new narratives from the archives: it is a more calculating way of working and has evolved with the years and the places we’ve visited.”
Khür’s captivating work transports the viewer beyond their current setting, to an adventurous dreamstate where nature trumps all concern. But beyond the natural world, where else does he seek inspiration? “I like to go to galleries and also I find architecture fascinating, although these days with the pandemic, it feels like online is where I seek most of my inspiration,” he says. “I am reading more this year and I feel that the imagination of places and people is a good influence, too.” As seen in this feature, Khür’s work is shot with both purpose and serendipity, inviting the viewer to anchor themselves in the present moment.