Great North Collective’s Squarespace website.
Tree tops in the pass © Chris Amat
New friends up top © David Guenther
Great North Collective is founded on the basis of three simple words: Explore. Create. Inspire. Formed by the unstoppable trio of photographers David Guenther, Mike Seehagel and Chris Amat, the collective is dedicated to creating a vast network of image-makers working not only to capture the diverse beauty of the Canadian landscape but also to share its hidden treasures with the world via their breathtaking Squarespace website.
Last month, the three of them ventured into Canadian Rockies, traversing an astonishing 1200 kilometers and stopping off in Jasper, Canmore, and Kananaskis. With mugs of warm coffee in hand and bitter cold winds brushing their cheeks, they ascended on foot, automobile, and helicopter to the snowy peaks, capturing the virgin terrain as it lay bared and uninterrupted by the markers of human civilization.
In addition to their own rich portfolio, Guenther, Seehagel, and Amat curate an ongoing features page on their Squarespace website, by which they highlight contributing artists and explorers as they tread off the beaten path, recording the stories of the flora, fauna, and people who guide them along the way. Ultimately, Great North Collective is about uniting creative spirits and bringing together those souls affected by a wanderlust that can only be quenched on Canada’s unspoiled soil. It’s about building relationships and forming a sense of community that extends well past the Canadian border. We spoke to the the trio about their passion for Canada, what makes a landscape photograph unforgettable, and why Squarespace is the perfect platform for the work they do.
Spray Valley in the morning © Chris Amat
Could you tell us a bit about how the three of you met and decided to form Great North Collective?
“The three of us first met at Chris’ wedding a couple of years ago. Chris and Mike had been friends for a long time, and David had been hired as the photographer for his wedding. We all kept in touch afterward, and eventually planned a weekend trip out to shoot some photos together in Southern Alberta, and Great North Collective was started over a few sandwiches at Subway in Pincher Creek, AB.”
Winding through Jasper, Alberta © Mike Seehagel
You recently visited Jasper, Canmore and Kananaskis in Alberta. What was it like photographing these enchanting landscapes?
“It is always a great time to get together with everyone and spend a few days traveling through the Rockies. We’re really lucky to live in such beautiful and picturesque part of the world. Spending time with close friends, taking a little break from life to experience nature and find new areas to document is really what Great North Collective is all about.”
Last light at Whitemans Pond © Chris Amat
Could you tell us a bit about your Featured Artists? Why is it important to you to include other voices in addition to your own?
“We wanted to create a community of like-minded photographers within Canada. There was a bit of a gap for that, and we wanted to create a space where everyone could get together, share their work and what interests them.”
How do you curate your Featured Artists? What kinds of stories speak to you?
“We encourage people to email in stories and photo sets they are proud of, and what they consider to be a unique Canadian experience. Our hashtag #greatnorthcollective has been a great way for people to quickly share their photos with us, and have other people see their stories as well.”
Into the glacier © David Guenther
How often do the three of you get to travel throughout Canada? What’s one of the most amazing places you’ve visited?
“As often as we can, really. Sometimes it does get a bit tough lining our schedules up- Mike and Chris both also work as designers in the advertising industry, and David is a full time photographer, but we try to get together as often as possible. As for favorite spots, that would probably depend on who you ask. But I think it is safe to say that the West Coast is a special place for each of us individually.”
Sunrise in Canmore, Alberta © Mike Seehagel
What do you think separates Canadian landscapes from others around the world?
“There are very few places in the world that are as wide open and untouched as Canada. It is so easy to head into the mountains and not see a single other person around for miles, and that is a pretty special feeling that I don’t think many other places can offer. It’s always crazy to be driving through the wide open Prairies, and an hour later be in the snow-capped Rockies. The diversity of the landscapes definitely makes Canada unique.”
What stands out to you in a good landscape photograph?
“It can be a number of things. Use of light, color, scale, time of year, etc. but what is great about photography is that everyone’s perspective is different.”
Rocky Mountain slope © Chris Amat
Are there any landscape cliches you’re tired of seeing?
“It is always great to see what people are up to, and kind of have to take every photo for what it is and what it may have meant for the person there. But that being said, the “beam me up” headlamp night photo is a little overdone.”
At the mouth of the Athabasca Glacier © David Guenther
Why did you choose Squarespace to build your site?
“After a few trials with other services, we wound up with Squarespace just for the fact it was so easy. Building our original website and updating it just ended up being more headache than it was worth, and with a website that needs content updated so often, this just really fit our needs.”
Bighorn sheep on guard © Mike Seehagel
Could you tell us a bit about the “Journal” feature on your site? Was it easy to set this up with Squarespace?
“The GNC Journal is where we share stories and adventures from the community, and from our own travels. These can be stories that were sent in to us, or that we have scouted out on our own, but it is a place for people to be inspired and check out great photographs. It is the backbone to what we like to do with Great North Collective. The Journal was very easy to set up and update as stories come in.”
Building a community is important for the kind of work you do, and your Squarepace website is a crucial component in doing just that. What are some of your favorite tools on your site?
“Our website plays a huge role in what we do, because it really is the main place to find great photos and read interviews with photographers from around the country. As for favorite tools, anything to do with the blog and photo galleries would have to be it. They are both crucial to helping us get our stories out there, and we have always been able to get that finished quickly and easily.”
Mornings in Spring © Mike Seehagel