Markus Mauthe


Markus Mauthe: a life beyond the comfort zone

Markus Mauthe is considered a pro among nature photographers, someone who follows his passion with heart and soul. His likes to say that his job is “more a vocation than a profession”. For the perfect photo, no mountain is too high, no water too deep, no jungle too thick. He is the one who stays when the others have called it a day. The one who puts his own needs on hold when it comes to the perfect photo. The results: stunning images of places that have sometimes never been photographed before.

Mr. Mauthe, you are a nature photographer. What led you to this work?

I love photography, the outdoors and travelling. In this type of work, I can connect each with the other. I regard this as a stroke of enormous luck. I can fulfill my own dreams and longings and am grateful for this every day. It is my passion and also my livelihood. That’s why I say it is more of a vocation than a profession.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this work?

The advantage is that I can see the world and spend my time travelling – at the same time, that’s also the disadvantage. You don’t get to rest much and have go without things that others take for granted. But when someone (like myself) puts 100% heart and soul into his profession, he’s happy to make compromises. I made the decision to live an unconventional life and that’s a good thing. I lead a self-determined life – something I’m a bit proud of.

You’re like a modern nomad – always in another place.

I don’t feel like I’m giving anything up for this lifestyle. I’m doing what I love. I get to be curious and discover new places. For me, every experience is an asset, a true form of development.

You are regarded as someone who is always trying to take the next step and to overcome your fears of the perfect motif. Can you give us an example of this?

When I started thinking about the idea “natural wonders of the earth”, it was clear from the outset that I couldn’t pay tribute to our planet with my photographs and still exclude the element of water. After all, 70% of our planet is covered with oceans, and these are the most diverse ecosystems that exist. Water has never been my element and I was afraid of the water for a long time as a child. So to put myself under pressure, I bought my camera equipment first and then signed up for a diving course. That might not sound very brave to some, but every person has their own hurdles.

How and why do you do this?

I believe that happiness lies beyond one’s own comfort zone. For me this means always testing new limits. This also means overcoming them, which is connected with high stakes – mentally as well as physically. We are often much more capable than we think. But finding out how far I can go is always a balancing act. It’s also important to respect limits. Over the years, I've learned to trust my gut feelings. After all, the goal is also to come back from the trip healthy.

How happy are you?

At the moment I am very happy because I’m living just like I always wanted to as a teen. A large part of my happiness is defined by what I experience while taking pictures. Just like other people look forward to their vacations, I look forward to my photo productions: physical activity, fresh air, nature. When I can feast my eyes on pristine wilderness, then I feel like I have arrived.

How important is money for you?

At the end of my life, I don’t want to die a rich man; I want to have lived richly. I think a mistake that many people makes is to constantly work and save money, postponing their dreams while forgetting to really live while they are still fit. When they get older, they barely have the strength to realize their dreams.

What’s the most important thing in life for you?

The most important thing is that the people I love are doing well. Healthiness is paramount. All of my activities depend on a healthy body. I can only hoist my pack and head out if I’m fit. The older I get, the more minor ailments creep up on me, the more aware I become of this.

What is your life motto?

Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams and keep on going, even when it gets hard. Always get back up when you fall. Happiness lies beyond your comfort zone.

What advice do you have for others?

True to my motto: don’t just dream your dreams, try to realize them. Believe in yourselves and your ideas. It is important not to be too quick to give up hope. Everyone lands on their face sometimes. No matter what you are doing, you have to work hard to become one of the best. I believe that because of our society’s deeply-rooted thoughts about safety, many people give up too soon and aren’t very willing to take risks. If you want to be something, you have to pursue it with passion. You always have to say: I can do it, I want to do it, I will do it. Lack of confidence is detrimental in any number of ways.

But there are also people who don’t necessarily have a big dream. What advice do you have for these people?

Facing the risk of overcoming the limits of your own comfort zone can be extremely rewarding. I want to emphasize here that every person has his own limitations. You don’t have to jump out of an airplane to be brave. It’s about putting aside your own comforts, having the strength to do something new or even to confront your fears. Maybe then the dream will come.

What drives you?

For me, it’s my curiosity. Discovering new things and growing from encounters and experiences. I want to continue to take photos and to constantly evolve my imagery. Our Earth is so incredibly diverse - an endless wealth of wonderful motifs. As long as my health allows it, I want to see as much of it as I can and capture it on my camera’s memory card. Much of what we can see today will no longer exist in a few generations. Nature photographers today are, unfortunately, chroniclers of a changing world, which is often very sad.

What do you want to achieve with your work?

My multimedia shows and books are meant to remind as many people as possible how breathtakingly beautiful and varied life on our planet is. I make it no secret and say very directly that we finally have to get up off our rears to preserve this diversity. With our throw-away society, we humans are just going to destroy our livelihood and I want to make as many people as possible aware of this.

What differentiates your concepts from other shows and reports that can be found on the market?

My professional basis is photography. For over twenty-five years I have been working to refine my own visual language. I don’t want to be interchangeable with my art and style and, until now, I’ve been pretty successful with that. Aside from my determination to work only at the highest level in my photography, I also want to touch people emotionally with my images and stories. The power of good photography and stories with gripping narration is immense. We live in an age in which our society is always moving further away from our natural origins as a part of nature. I want to try to wake up – or keep awake – as many people as possible to the wonders of nature.

Thank you for the interview Mr. Mauthe!

Interview conducted by Karoline Krenzien/Greenpeace