If your worldview has been a little bleak lately, Gary Arndt had some photographs to show you. The self-taught, award-winning travel photographer and blogger brings an expansive collection of his international captures to an exhibition at Track 29 Gallery opening Thursday.
Track 29 Gallery
The entrepreneur’s journeys began back in 2007. At that point, he had started a handful of companies, sold one, and went back to school to study geology and geophysics at the University of Minnesota.
“I kind of got bored,” he says, “so I came up with the idea of selling my house and traveling around for a year.” That year turned into 10. Though he now has an apartment in Uptown, he isn’t there much. Documenting his travels is a full-time job.
“When I began traveling, I knew nothing about photography,” he admits. “Absolutely nothing. I took a lot of bad photos.”
Practice makes perfect, or so it would appear. Take one of his favorite photos of all time, a picture of a woman standing in front of waterfall on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. Her back is turned and her arms are outstretched.
“It’s almost as if she’s posing for me,” Arndt says. “It’s so perfectly framed. I have no idea who this woman is. It was completely by chance. I was 100 yards away. She got up, stood, posed, sat back down. I don’t know why she did it.”
Among his favorite locations to photograph are Namibia, Alaska, and the Old City of Jerusalem. He’s on schedule to finish visiting all 59 national parks in the U.S. this year, and also aspires to be the first person ever to visit all the national parks in Canada. “Some of those parks, when you get to the real far north, hardly anybody goes to,” he says, “yet they’re some of the greatest places you can visit on Earth.”
When asked which destinations he considers unphotogenic, he hesitates. “It may not be the place. Sometimes it’s just me.” New York, for example, has never been a strong source of inspiration for him. Perhaps the Big Apple just isn’t exotic enough?
“One of the things I really want to encourage people to do is to travel more,” Arndt says. “Americans don’t travel that much internationally. We have a lower rate of passport ownership than most countries. I think it would behoove a lot of Americans to go see more of the world, because when you see things with your own eyes, you’re going to have a very different opinion. I traveled pretty extensively through many Arab countries. The impression that you get actually being on the ground there is so different than what you get from the media, which only wants to talk about violence and terrorism.”
Arndt finances his travels by working with tour companies and tourism boards to promote their locations. His massive social media following – 197k followers on Instagram – also nets him promotions and sponsorships.
It isn’t all smooth sailing, however. Working while constantly on the go, without a daily routine or a home base, was challenging. “Now when I come back [to Minneapolis], I’m editing my photos on a 27-inch monitor with a fiber internet connection. I’m much more productive,” he says.
It seems that the omnipresence of cell phone cameras would devalue professional photography, but Arndt says the reverse is true. “It’s made good photography all that more valuable,” he says. “One of the things I noticed traveling is people would spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment, assuming the more expensive the camera is, the better the photos they would take. You have to know what to shoot and you have to now how to edit and process your photos as well.”
To that end, Arndt’s next venture is launching an online photography course to help others learn how to use their cameras and take better pictures.
His show at Track 29 includes upwards of 45 photos. “Seeing how people respond to my images online, it’s far more entertaining to sit at a wall and look at all the places saying, ‘Where’s that? Where’s that? That’s neat!’ rather than staring at one photo.”
We had to ask: Is travel photography and blogging as fun a career as it sounds? Or is it work as well?
“It’s work,” he says, “but I don’t want to do anything else.”
IF YOU GO:
Gary Arndt: “Everything Everywhere”
Track 29 Gallery
June 1 through September 30
The opening reception runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 1.
Track 29 Gallery