Several years ago, I was taking a morning hike up Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont. When I reached the summit of the mountain, I turned around to admire my accomplishment. What I noticed when I looked back towards town was how the clouds had settled into the valley covering everything with a softness that only nature can provide. There was something in that moment that provided me with a sense of peace and wonder. It was something that, if I was a photographer, I probably would have wanted to capture.
However, I am not a photographer. Unless you count my dog photos. But as much fun as these are for me, these photographs don’t necessarily capture the same sense of awe and wonder like a great vista or an expansive landscape. That is probably why I was drawn towards the work of Tressa Mancini
Tressa Mancini is a photographer from Montana. She shares pictures of the Rocky Mountains and rural landscapes that demonstrate her connection to the land. That is why I was excited to have Tressa join me for an email interview about her work.
Please enjoy my conversation with Tressa Mancini as we talk about landscapes and the awe that can be found in the natural world.
NaturalistWeekly: Hi Tressa, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Tressa Mancini: I’m Tressa Mancini coming to you from Montana. I was born in Colorado and raised in Montana. I have lived in the Rocky Mountains all my life. I was blessed with mentors who cultivated in me a love for hiking, skiing, and long country drives!
NW: I have followed your work for a while now and I must say that you take wonderful photographs. Can you talk about the role that nature plays in your art?
TM: Montana is known for being Big Sky Country, and having part of Yellowstone National Park. This is the kind of scenery that feeds my artist’s soul. I started with photography when I was fourteen, and I have continued with it for the last decade and a half. I can easily travel over a hundred miles and spend an entire weekend on one backcountry photoshoot!
But allow me to tell you a little bit about my mental health and faith to further answer this question. Severe depression has been a factor in my life for years, and Christ gives me the strength and a reason to keep going. I relate to God as the Creator – nature is His master artwork. I feel closest to God when I am immersed in the beauty and expanse of nature. Out there – in God-made landscapes – I am reminded that, despite the darkness and chaos in the world, there’s still beauty.
The Psalmist said it best:
“He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.”
Man made environments cannot replicate the peace and allure of nature, and so retreating to nature is a coping strategy for me. Photography is a way to create memories of the natural havens I visit. There are more lucrative types of photography – like wedding photography – but nature will always be my preferred subject.
NW: Tressa, thanks for sharing such a personal part of your experience and it is obvious that nature provides you with a sense of peace and healing. Can you talk about your favorite place for photography and why that is?
TM: Mountains! Mountain environments offer a diversity of visual pleasures that few other landscapes can match. There’s snow, forest, meadows, wildflowers, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, cliffs, etc. in the same mountain range. Hiking in the mountains is an adventure – I never know what landscape will greet me around the next bend in the trail,just hopefully not a grizzly bear. Mountains give a locality a unique identity. For example, Wyoming’s Tetons, or Denver, Colorado’s Front Range.
If I had to pick a specific location, it would be Paradise Valley in Montana. The sapphire waters of the Yellowstone River with the snow-covered Beartooths in the background – nothing can match that view! Many of the rich and famous have second homes there, and it is not hard to see why.
NW: Do you have some favorite artists? Or, what other artists inspire you?
TM: Paul Holdorf is a Montana photographer who takes breathtaking nature shots. His photos do not feel like stagnant images, but portals into some of the most beautiful places in nature. I can only dream of taking pictures half as beautiful! You should check out his pictures of the Northern Lights!
Jay Wesler, another Montana photographer, tells stories with his photographs – something I admire immensely. His black-and-white photos are simply striking. While I usually prefer photographs with vibrant colors, Wesler’s work is an exception.
Another artist who inspires me is Sara with Wishing Tree. Her Seasons series consists of colorful, surrealist paintings featuring natural subjects. I also relate to her posts about her mental health journey. Examples of Sara’s Work can be found on the Wishing Tree website.
NW: Can you share a favorite photograph and tell us a little bit about why it is your favorite?
TM: This photo is of Wind River Canyon in Wyoming. The image is one of my favorites for a variety of reasons. The landscape is different from what I usually photograph, and this image came out to be quite beautiful. I also love it because I took the picture during a trip with a close friend I had not seen in six years. A photograph is more than the picture itself – it is the journey and the memories associated with the image.
NW: Tressa, thank you so much for sharing your work with us! How can people find out more about you and your work?
TM: My best work to date is displayed at my Fine Art America gallery: I am most active on Instagram @facets_of_nature and there I sometimes post more informal photos. I also have a WordPress blog: Facets: Capturing Nature’s Beauty
My second and more personal blog – Depression & Hope – is an exploration of mental health and faith on the path to getting better. This site is Mydepressionhope.com
A special thanks to Tressa for participating in this interview. It was a pleasure to get to know more about Tressa and her work. If you are a poet, author, or visual artist who is interested in talking about nature and how the natural world inspires your work, send me an email at naturalistweekly[at]gmail.com for more details.
Our conversation happened over several emails and has been slightly edited for readability.
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