Christmas is a great time to be in St Moritz and its not just for skiing. So often I have been to ski resorts just to ski and eat well. Don’t get me wrong the skiing in Sankt Moritz is fantastic and world beating. There is also more sunshine there than just about any other ski resort which is very welcome after weeks of grey skies in Zurich. But some times the smallest things are the best. Simply going for a walk in the snow is glorious. I got up early to take these pictures and had a pleasant walk on the half Island of Silsersee in Sils. It was a truly mindful experience. Walking on snow at minus 9 you can hear the crunch of snow under your boots. If you stop you can experience true silence as the surrounding snow absorbs all the sound. Just looking out across the lake to the sides of the great mountains is breathtaking. Slowly watching the sun come up over the mountains gives a great sense of anticipation. The early morning light is so subtle and has many different colours that normal daylight does not hold. But there is a small window of less than half an hour to literally see the world in a different light, with soft purple pink light reflects off the water and then it’s gone.
I also love the transitional nature of the water on the lake as small patches of ice float on the mirror surface of the lake. Most of the lakes in St Moritz are already frozen but here it’s like watching a giant slowly going to sleep. Even just watching the snow-covered trees is mesmerising. What I love is see the tree from a distance then slowly approach it observing how the ice and snow form on its delicate branches. Ice crystals refract the light in a way that no lights on a Christmas tree can.
On the white snow if you look carefully you can see the footsteps of animals. At the edge of the lake ice is forming in skirts. But the thickness of the ice is not yet strong enough to support the weight of human, the footprints show a daily traffic of smaller creatures that have discovered a new path to travel. Being there alone is like deep meditation, the chaotic world of the city disappears and the chatting monkey is silenced. I said to a friend the thing I love about being in the mountains is this sense that there is a much bigger force that will be around a lot longer than me. The question is though in what state will this beautiful place be in the future?
Many years from now, will these photographs be a distant memory of something that no longer exists?
This is the focus of my project Water the Essential. The goal is to raise awareness of water issues around the world. What exists now may not exist in the way we know it in the future. We have a responsibility for the next generation to preserve what we have and also to carefully manage our water resources. We also need to think of water as a universal key to our very existence and indeed everything that lives on this planet.
Thanks to the Hotel Hauser who are supporting the Water the Essential project
You can see my Photographic light boxes near the end of January at the Hotel Hauser. We are also supporting the Water Survival Box Charity, which provided clean drinking water and shelter in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.
If you have a chance I highly recommend visiting St Moritz. The more I go there the more I want to stay and explore.
What should I cook, a Turkey or a Goose?
How many people are coming for Christmas day?
"Would you like another glass of Champagne darling?"
"Thank you yes, this wrapping paper is simply divine."
Everyone is running around buying stuff for Christmas. It’s exciting and be honest, you know that after the holiday period, half of it will be in a landfill. May be the most exciting thing is just the buying of it, because after its unwrapped it sits on the floor and gets thrown in a cupboard or a box. Many of us also have financial pressure to keep up the pretence of Christmas, so the very thing that is supposed to make us happy is making us more stressed out. So less is maybe more. Less consumption and more genuinely trying to help others.
Its sounds a bit cynical but the best part of Christmas is sharing good times with friends and family. Unfortunately we aren’t all so lucky. Some people have absolutely nothing and they don’t have the means to drag themselves out of this situation. So if you have a chance, help a little, give a little and make it better for those who have less.
I started these two photo series a long time ago but some how they relate to each other. Think of it as my Christmas cards. The first series was of homeless people around the world. It started in 1991 in Los Angeles where I noticed homeless people everywhere. However the longer I lived there the people became invisible as if they didn’t exist. The irony is that no one wants to exhibit these pictures either. But what is truly sad is, that these people were once like you and me, but events and circumstances led them to this place on the street.
The other series is La Dolce Vita, which is a sarcastic statement on the ideals of fashion and consumption. I was in Paris in 2014 and was amazed by the exquisite shop windows of the great fashion houses. They use mannequins that represent bodies and people that don’t exist in the real world. It was like the famous Greek sculptures of men raised from the seabed over 2000 years ago. Something we could aspire to but never be. Also the dream to be part of it and never succeeding leads to unhappiness. Just as the homeless didn’t meet their dreams, whatever they may be.
Our friends Shannon and Alex organised a fantastic Charity Christmas concert with the children in the neighbourhood singing and playing music. At the same time they raised a significant amount of money for Room to Read, which is a fantastic charity whose goal is to educate girls in poor countries. Everyone had a good time and we all contributed and it brought our community together in a genuine way. The charity I am working with the Water Survival Box is providing immediate shelter and drinking water to people in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This is something hopefully we never need, but let’s face it no one is immune to natural disaster.
So buying less and giving more at Christmas may be more fulfilling and you have the opportunity to genuinely help. You can also make a donation, but often the most valuable thing is your time to help others. Merry Christmas and may it be merry for others who need it.
Here are some charities to look at but there are many more
Vaughan James is a photographer and writer based in Zurich Switzerland