Winners Exposed: Nenad Saljic

9th May 2013

© Nenad Saljic, Croatia, 1st Place, Landscape, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Croatian photographer Nenad Saljic’s majestic images of the Matterhorn captivated the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards honorary jury’s attention to receive first place in this year’s Landscape category.

“’A Portrait of the Matterhorn’ is a kind of memento to all climbers who dared to go there and for those never returned,” Saljic says of the portfolio.

One of the most famous Alpine peaks, the Matterhorn is also one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. A mountaineer and caver himself, Saljic fantasized about climbing the Matterhorn since he was a child.  Ten years ago, he finally found the chance to visit the region, and since 2009, he has made the 12-hour journey at least twice a year to photographic the famous peak. Since beginning the photographic project, he and his wife have logged over 22,000 km travelling to the famed Matterhorn. 

“The main factor is anticipation,” the photographer says. “Long hours of waiting for magic to happen, ready at any time, trial and error, experimenting with different exposures to capture the movement of the clouds and stars, and, of course, good luck” are all the components of finding success through this series.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about the images before, during, as well as after shooting to get the right tonal range, contrast and textures,” he says. Sometimes Saljic’s editing process will take him months until his vision is realised. His work goes beyond simply documenting the landscape in front of him; the Matterhorn project brings to life the photographer’s connection with the scene, and is his imagination and photographic techniques come to life.

“I see the Matterhorn as an old lady, a femme fatale,” he describes, “dangerous but attractive, very beautiful in spite of her age of a few hundred million years, who is changing her haircut, makeup and wardrobe every day, every hour, every minute and every second.”

To Saljic, the repeated draw of the Matterhorn is unavoidable.

“It’s such a beautiful place,” he says. “It is one of the most beautiful places on earth; there is such good energy around. The area is so beautiful that we didn’t find anything better than there.”

Saljic developed his love of photographic mountain scenes in just the 6th grade. “I spent every weekend going to the mountains and the caves taking pictures,” he says of his student days.

In university, Saljic's career path took a turn, and he pursued a course of study in economics. Holding his PhD in the field, he spent many years teaching at university and travelling for his career in international business.  “It was intense,” he said. “I stopped doing photography for eighteen years. I was so busy.” 

It wasn’t until a trekking expedition to Mount Everest in 2006 that he reinvigorated his love for the field. “I switched off completely,” he says of the trip. “It was 25 days without a mobile phone, completely isolated. After we got back, I purchased by first digital SLR.”

Now, Saljic’s passion for the field radiates through his work.  His Matterhorn project has been repeatedly recognised as a first place winner for National Geographic photography contests, and his second long-term project, “Birth of a Ship” has just received first place in the PDN Photo Annual Personal Category.

“Follow your heart,” is his biggest piece of advice for newcomers to photography.  

For more of Nenad Saljic’s work, visit his official website here and visit the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House in London, open through 12 May 2013.

© Nenad Saljic, Croatia, 1st Place, Landscape, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards
© Nenad Saljic, Croatia, 1st Place, Landscape, Professional Competition, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards