Photographer Bernhard Edmaier

“My work is an ongoing expedition”

Already in school TUM Alumni Bernhard Edmaier experienced the geography’s books images as insufficient. The geologist turned his hobby into a vocation and uses his photography to show how breathtakingly beautiful inanimate nature is.

As a teenager Bernhard Edmaier helped to renovate and expand an old farm house. He enjoyed doing this so much that he opted for a degree in Civil Engineering. “TUM had a good reputation at the high school I was attending”, Bernhard Edmaier explains his choice for this university. “And last but not least, it was close to the Alps for white water rafting, hiking and ski touring.”

In 1977 Bernhard Edmaier enrolled in Civil Engineering at TUM. Yet, he was a lot more interested in TUM Professor Dr. Georg Span’s lecture on Applied Geology and promptly changed his field of study. Geology, the processes that have shaped the earth’s crust and keep doing so today, fascinated him. The books, however, that tried to depict these processes were much less appealing. Already in school the badly illustrated Geology books annoyed him. Bernhard Edmaier wanted to do it better and more professionally. He had always enjoyed taking photos and his uncle and sister had given him good cameras as a gift right after finishing high school. “I wanted to show how spectacular geological phenomena look in reality”, he remembers.

Photography grounded in Geology

In 1987 Bernhard Edmaier completed his studies and worked as a geologist in tunnel construction. But his passion for taking photos of inanimate nature remained. When a publishing house in Munich set eyes on his impressive photos of volcanic eruptions on Hawaii and Sicily, they immediately wanted to turn them into a photo book. “The book was a big success. With that, I transitioned into being a full-time photographer”, Bernhard Edmaier explains.

Aerial shot of Lake Ruth in Australia.

For his breath-taking landscape photography Bernhard Edmaier travels to remote areas of the world several times a year like here to Lake Ruth in Australia (Photo: Bernhard Edmaier).

Since then, the foundation for his photographic work is what Bernhard Edmaier learnt as part of his Geology degree at TUM: the knowledge on planet earth and its formation. “The diversity of stones, the formation of mountains, tectonics, volcanic activity, weathering, erosion, the variety of structures, colours and shapes of the surface of the earth – these are the topics that I try to visually capture in their aesthetics.“ All his photos rest on these geological phenomena – and show them as a work of art: be it impressive glaciers in Alaska, sandy areas in Iceland, red-coloured lakes in Chile, craters in the Ethiopian desert that are yellow from sulphur, or turquoise-ochre coloured hot springs in Wyoming.

For the protection of inanimate nature

In addition to his emotional-artistic view, a scientific, documentary aspect always matters to Bernhard Edmaier, as well. By providing geological and geomorphological factual texts, his partner and TUM Alumni Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl (Doctorate Geology 1991) is covering that in all his photo books and exhibitions. They met each other at TUM. Together they now spark a wide audience’s enthusiasm for the inorganic side of nature.

“Environmental protection is usually about preserving the biodiversity of the respective eco systems” Bernhard Edmaier says. But for him, that is not enough. “Also the ground beneath our feet, the earth’s crust – the stone skin of our planet – with its multitude of forms and structures needs to be included. It deserves attention and protection, as well. Again and again, that is what I want to raise awareness for with my pictures.”

The ground beneath our feet deserves attention and protection, as well. That is what I want to raise awareness for with my pictures.

Several times a year Bernhard Edmaier travels to the most remote places on earth. “I see my work as an ongoing expedition”, he contently describes his lifestyle. He is taking photos under scarcity of oxygen in five thousand meters height from a small plane, dares to approach the red hot frontline of lava flows and is standing in freezing cold mountain creeks up to his hips. Bernhard Edmaier has turned his hobby into his vocation. It is not surprising that this is also what he recommends to the young students. “You should try to professionally do what you are interested in and what you can identify with – and then consistently pursue that with a certain degree of flexibility.”