Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The world's most haunting landscapes

By Josh Valcarcel
updated 11:59 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Old mill in Eastern Bavaria, Germany. Old mill in Eastern Bavaria, Germany.
HIDE CAPTION
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
Straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kilian Schönberger explores wild landscapes in the region of Middle Europe
  • He recreates the magic of the old myths that inspired Tolkien and The Brothers Grimm
  • Fog is the essential ingredient for the haunting pictures of the colorblind photographer

(Wired) -- Like a professional location scout for Grimm fairy tale movies, photographer Kilian Schönberger seeks out and explores the less-traveled regions of Europe, searching for places that test the boundaries of fantasy and reality. The results are haunting photographs that look like they were smuggled out of a dream.

"Tolkien's books, like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, were inspired by the old European myths, legends and fairy tales," says Schönberger. "The movies featured the wild landscapes of New Zealand -- but I wanted to find out if there are similar wild landscapes left in the populous region of Middle Europe, too. Therefore, I visited places in Germany, Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Austria."

The resulting series is called Brothers Grimm Homeland, for which Schönberger expertly uses framing, fog and lighting to subtly suggest the fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm. He lets our imaginations do the rest.

Read: Haunting Photos of a Crumbling Post-Communist World

Beginning with Children's and Household Tales, published in 1812, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm collected and published folklore; specifically the stories that they believed reflected and preserved aspects of their own Germanic culture and faith. Stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty all originated in European folk tales. Thanks to their research, these fables held enough appeal to survive the centuries.

Castle Kasperk, Czech Republic. A previously unpublished photo in the series.
Kilian Schönberger

"As a kid I was deeply fascinated by the magic of those stories," says Schönberger. "Now -- grown up and living in a rather big city (Cologne) -- this magic has disappeared in my everyday life ... I try to restore this world in my pictures."

Schönberger is a geographer as well as a photographer, and he combines both disciplines to communicate more than just the scenic beauty of a landscape. He does a considerable amount of research both ahead of time and in the field, taking into account landscape genesis, culture, and history. The locations he seeks are often rural and remote, and he uses fables and local fairy tales as a source when searching for new and lesser-known photo locations in Europe. Once he's finally found the right spot, the weather conditions have to match up perfectly.

As a kid I was deeply fascinated by the magic of those stories. I try to restore this world in my pictures.
Kilian Schönberger, photographer

"Fog is an essential ingredient for the otherworldly look I am searching for," Schönberger says. "I would say I have 'mastered' my personal 'fog forecast' abilities, but it's still more often than not a game of pure chance whether the fog has the right density or not. Sometimes it lasts years until you'll get the desired conditions."

Schönberger actively began pursuing photography in 2003, starting with a compact Ricoh Caplio RR30. The following year, he spent his alternative service (Germany's version of mandatory military service) near the Alps, which took him to some amazing landscapes.

"This was the time I started to reflect on composition and light control," he says. "One year later I unfortunately dropped the Ricoh camera down a waterfall -- seems like my photographic passion for landscapes was present from the beginning."

Read: What Happens When You Zap Instant Film With 15,000 Volts

The sudden loss of his only camera eventually pushed him to purchase a DSLR in 2006, but his work didn't become what he considers truly ambitious for another three years. While on a six-month trip in Norway, he became drawn to scenes that characterize what he now describes as the "melancholic and harsh beauty" of his remote surroundings.

"In technology-driven urban environments, it's principally hard to find resting places untouched by disturbing visual, olfactory, or audible noise," Schönberger says. "These kinds of places are endangered in today's world."

Along with the long hikes and inclement weather, Schönberger has the added challenge of being colorblind. The blindness affects several tones, rendering him incapable of distinguishing green from red, magenta from grey, or violet from blue. Rather than be detrimental to his work, over the years he's learned to transform it into a source of strength. By ignoring color, he's free to focus more on the composition, which can be difficult to tame in chaotic forest environments.

Ultimately it's Schönberger's instincts, vision and editing that infuse his photos with fantasy and elevate them above simply beautiful landscapes.

"I don't want to show just portrayals of natural scenes," Schönberger says. "I want to create visually accessible places where the visitor can put his mind at rest and make up his own stories."

Read more from WIRED:

A Room That Wrecks Your Perspective

Creepy Portraits of Ventriloquist Dummies

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!

Copyright 2011 Wired.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
L.A. artist Christine McConnell styles herself as a glamorous pin-up, but her sumptuous cakes evoke the Tim Burton-esque realm of fantasy.
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
A new generation of creatives are taking code to a more colorful realm, using digital media to push the boundaries of art.
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From space vacuums to dial-less phones, 50 objects offer a colorful glimpse into daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Every June, 200,000 perfectly styled people attend the Glastonbury Festival, known as much for the music as the glamor on its muddy fields.
updated 7:24 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world? Starts looking for the key to all creativity.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
French photographer takes us on a nostalgic trip to the golden age of Hollywood with images of glamorous movie palaces of the art deco era.
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitor walk next to the artwork 'Continuel Mobile - Sphere rouge' by Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Unlimited section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Over 92,000 people flocked to Art Basel, a top international contemporary art fair, to see works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
CNN bring you the latest from the Olympics of architecture, this year directed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
updated 7:30 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
After years of research art experts and scientists have found a painting hidden underneath Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
A convoy of the world's most luxurious supercars drives from England to the Monaco Grand Prix, causing a stir along the way.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
This is what happens when seven world-class architects design bus stops in a tiny Austrian village.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
A new exhibition in New York shows that when it comes to the art of origami, it takes a lot more than just folding paper.
updated 2:07 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Vivid Sydney, a festival of light, music, and ideas, sets the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House alight.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Atlanta's High Museum of Art is showcasing 17 visionary concept cars worth millions.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Flamboyant gowns, sparkling jewels and A-list celebrities.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Wealthy Asian collectors propel sales sky-high at the annual art extravaganza.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT