How Photographer Ernesto Sumarkho Captures Ethereal Realism in NatureHow Photographer Ernesto Sumarkho Captures Ethereal Realism in Nature

How Photographer Ernesto Sumarkho Captures Ethereal Realism in Nature

Informed by a powerful connection to nature and the surreal qualities of his homeland, Ernesto Sumarkho uses photography to capture the profound essence of the natural world.

Photographer and art director Ernesto Sumarkho takes inspiration from the real and the imagined to produce timeless images that explore the intrinsic connection between nature and humankind.

Born and raised in Venezuela, Ernesto Sumarkho’s conceptual photography is indebted to childhood memories of the planet’s most biodiverse country. Now living in Australia, his move into the creative industry happened first as a filmmaker and then as an agency-based art director working on high-end advertising campaigns.
“For a long time with photography, I was just an admirer that was happy to sit in the audience and just enjoy people’s work,” says Ernesto, adding how photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Christopher Anderson influenced his later projects.

An “act of memory”

Around three years ago, Ernesto felt inspired to take a more hands-on approach. At first, his photography was “more about an act of memory” as he documented his international travels, albeit with an artistic gaze. Yet slowly, Ernesto’s work took a more conceptual path as he looked to immortalise the beauty of nature and explore how humankind fits within it.
“I heard this saying once: take 10,000 images, and maybe then you’ll have a body of work. I feel like that is so true, so I just kept shooting and testing ideas.”

Ernesto Sumarkho

An early series, Biophilia, draws on Ernesto's intense feelings when surrounded by nature. This metamorphosis of the environment and people delved into his interests in mythology and magical realism, a style of otherworldly art and literature with strong Latin American roots, which Ernesto says mirrors the absurdity of everyday life in Venezuela.

Photography to heal

His next project, Emilia, took an even more personal perspective. Reunited with his mother in the Arizona desert after three years apart, they paid tribute to Ernesto’s grandmother, who had passed away during the pandemic. Unable to attend the funeral or grieve as a family, they brought along a garment that reflected her reputation for immaculate fashion.
“I told my mum to throw it up because I wanted to do it in collaboration with her,” says Ernesto. “She threw it up one last time, and that was the shot. It was like a posthumous thing we did for her…where I could create a homage to her and continue her story.”
Most recently, Ernesto travelled to Jordan, where he arrived without any expectations for the art he might create. During a six-day hiking trip in the Wadi Rum desert, he shot a new set of images that capture the weary daydreams he experienced as he wandered through the landscape short on water and fatigued from the heat.
“They were all genuine settings, but they jumped out at me as surreal,” recalls Ernesto.
“You only have so many moments in life that have this dust, this magic that feels stranger than fiction. I was trying to photograph that quality in the landscape, in different moments I witnessed.”

Ernesto Sumarkho

The road that lies ahead

Now working as a freelancer, Ernesto consciously makes time for his personal projects that renew his creative energy and spill over into his work for agencies. This allows him to focus on producing images that speak to the elemental serenity of nature through timeless images that rise above today’s social, cultural and political milieu.
“You strip all of that away and you’re left with a person, the biosphere and the emotional experience of how you feel when you’re in nature,” says Ernesto. “When all of that dissolves, you’re reminded of your place on Earth.”
To view Ernesto Sumarkho’s work, head to his Instagram. You can also read more about surreal art here or take a look at photographic interpretations of nature here on Urth Magazine.