These Mountain Images Will Haunt Your Dreams

French photographer Alexandre Deschaumes shows mountains in their natural state – very, very moody.
Mountains of Madness
Thorsmork, Iceland © Alexandre Deschaumes
By Dominique Granger

The sensitivity for the beauty of what surrounds us can be a great strength, especially when you are a photographer. Alexandre Deschaumes not only has that strength, but is able to share it.

Strongly influenced by literature and arts, but also by his inner melancholy, his images bring us to an ethereal world of mountain terrain deep among the French Alps, Patagonia and Iceland, where he has spent countless hours in search of the precise moment for the perfect shot.

More: See the world's most mysterious places

Torres del Paine, Chile

Mountains of Madness
Torres del Paine, Chile © Alexandre Deschaumes Why choose the mountains — what inspires you?

Alexandre Deschaumes: I like their strength, their greatness. I’m pretty picky when it comes to mountains: I like the ones that are peculiar, that have strong charisma and a strange shape. I like mountains with character.

Aiguille du Midi


Mountains of Madness
Aiguille du Midi © Alexandre Deschaumes

How do you choose your destinations?

To find the type of mountains I love, I need to do quite a bit of research before heading somewhere. I look on the Web, on maps; sometimes it’s an intriguing name that catches my attention. … All I need is to get a clue that gives me the idea that a specific mountain can be interesting.

More: Check out Jokke Sommer flying under the Aiguille du Midi bridge

Landmannalaugar, Iceland


Mountains of Madness
Landmannalaugar © Alexandre Deschaumes

Tell us more about the process.

I look at all sides of the mountain and I research on Google Earth. I look at pictures. I often get a nice surprise once on the spot. Sometimes, a piece of the mountain I never thought would look good reveals itself in a different manner because of the clouds floating around it.

Les Aiguilles Vertes, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
Les Aiguilles Vertes © Alexandre Deschaumes

Does local knowledge play a big role in your choice of day and mountain?

Yes, yes. I’m starting to get better at analyzing the weather patterns, I know the moments that are favorable to make it all look good, but it’s not always the case. The problem is often that when it’s beautiful for a photo, it can be quite dangerous, like when a storm is coming. It’s not always the best for a hike in the mountains!

Punta Bariloche, Argentina

Mountains of Madness
Punta Bariloche © Alexandre Deschaumes

There are certainly risks associated with going into the mountains in such conditions. What type of preparation do you need?

I mostly need to be inspired and motivated. If I’m inspired by what I see, I can find the energy. I’m not a very sporty person to start with. The inspiration I get from the atmosphere and vibe is what gives me the energy to go through all of it.

Aiguilles du Diable, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
Aiguilles du Diable © Alexandre Deschaumes

You’re not "sporty"?

I’m in good shape overall, though. I hike on a regular basis and I have to be in shape and used to carrying heavy bags for a while.

Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
Aiguille Noire de Peuterey © Alexandre Deschaumes

How do you feel when the get a moment of perfect light and composition in front of your eyes?

It really inspires me. It’s really intense, though, so the feeling I have is quite weird, because what is in front of me is so incredible. I’m always very impressed, but I get really excited too because I know I have to act fast.

Massif des Aiguilles Rouges, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
Massif des Aiguilles Rouges © Alexandre Deschaumes

So, it’s not easy ...

I have to find the way to take the picture that will show the mountain the way it is, the way I see it. It’s a bit stressful too because if I see that the sun came out through a small hole in the clouds, it means always that it’s going to hide again and probably very soon. If I’m not ready, I have to find a way to do it, so it’s really all a mix of stress and fascination.

Unidentified, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
French Alps © Alexandre Deschaumes

Can you tell us more about one shot in particular?

[The Vallée des Français photo] is one of my favorites because there is a more poetic dimension to it, the wandering and solitude in nature.

Vallée des Français, Chile, Patagonia


Mountains of Madness
Figure in the mist © Alexandre Deschaumes

I like the dark atmosphere and the backlight, with the sun shining through a veil of clouds, and the fog covering the whole valley. It’s the unusual silhouettes of the trees that guide our eye. The fact that it's shapes of tree that we don’t see often — that shot was taken in the Andes in Patagonia — gives it a weird and exotic side. The eye follows the path and there’s the person in the middle.

It was just someone who was passing by. It really looks like he’s just there, thinking, wandering in this surrealistic scenery. There is a bit of a ghostly, hypnotizing feel to it, with the sharp peaks on the right that have a very dramatic and evocative shape. It’s a photo that is halfway between reality and fantasy: That is why I like it, it corresponds to my inner self.

Vallée de Serre Chevalier, French Alps


Mountains of Madness
Vallée de Serre Chevalier © Alexandre Deschaumes

Do you have a dream destination?

There is a list of precise destinations that I put together, but it’s for a project that we would love to do with a producer who did a movie on my work already, Mathieu Le Lay. We want to do a series of episodes about new spots, but we are still looking for sponsors.

Unidentified, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
French Alps © Alexandre Deschaumes

But anywhere in particular?

I can say I would love to go to Butan because it looks quite scenic and not many people have been there. There is a part of the Himalayas that is still quite secret. There are so many beautiful places, but they were so photographed already. What I like the most actually is to find angles where people have a hard time to recognize where the picture was taken, that make people dream just with the evocation.

Landmannalaugar, Iceland

Mountains of Madness
Landmannalaugar, Iceland © Alexandre Deschaumes

Is there a place that really made a lasting impression on you?

Iceland, but it’s so common now. Patagonia too, in the Cuernos Mountains. The face of these mountains keeps fascinating me. They are so massive yet their texture is so different, and with all the weird shaped trees at the bottom it’s an impressive mix. It did make a big impression on me, but so many places did.

Aiguille des Deux Aigles, French Alps

Mountains of Madness
Aiguille des Deux Aigles © Alexandre Deschaumes

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