Photographer Alex Strohl was born to a life of adventure. As a child, he traveled around Europe and North Africa with his father, an engineer whose unequivocal vehicle of choice was a Land Rover Defender. These days he calls Montana home, though he spends much of his time on the road seeking remote places and interesting people to document. Alex recalls the Land Rover vehicles that inspired his unconventional lifestyle and tells us how he plans to continue the family tradition.
We understand that your father was a big influence on you as a child. Tell us about some of your early memories of him.
Alex and his father hiking in Spain, 1995
As a child and to this date, I’ve looked up to my father. His stories and experiences informed a lot of what I am passionate about today. Working as a forest engineer throughout Southern Europe and North Africa, my father was constantly working in diverse and challenging terrain. Whenever he found himself in these unforgiving places, he trusted one vehicle to get him from A to B; he trusted a Land Rover vehicle.
His first Land Rover vehicle was a Franco-era Land Rover Santana (now Defender 110) produced only in Spain, which he took to work in and around Cairo, the Egyptian city famous for rich history and notoriously brutal traffic. Then, he drove another Santana, this time a convertible, which navigated the Pyrenees mountains, a chain forming the natural border between Spain and France. Next, his Land Rover Defender survived nearly a decade of rugged adventures before being swept down a river with him and a client inside. They were rescued eventually by a local farmer and his tractor.
By the time I was in elementary school, we lived in the mountainous Sierra de Guadarrama, on the outskirts of Madrid. Dad trusted a 1994 Range Rover for just about everything. I was young, impressionable and already in love with the mountains. Driving along the ever-dusty dirt roads near our home remain some of my fondest and earliest memories.
We hear you have your own Land Rover vehicles to take on your own adventures now….
When it came time to buy my own vehicle, it wasn’t a difficult choice. In early 2015, Land Rover announced it was discontinuing the Defender, one of the most iconic and recognizable vehicles ever made. We didn’t wait more than two weeks before getting our own. It took many phone calls to find one as most of them were sold.
The aesthetic of the Defender is what drew me to it initially: simple and rugged. It drives how it looks and that roughness resembles the access it creates – the work it can accomplish. I love the fact that it makes no statement about your life situation. Whether you are a stock trader living in Manhattan or a sheep farmer off the coast of Scotland, this car will suit you.
Driving the Defender is a metaphor for what I love about travel. It’s built to get you to places that are outside of your comfort zone. The Defender may not be the most luxurious of the Land Rover lineup, but you appreciate the roughness most when you arrive.
Tell us about a journey that took you out of your comfort zone.
A stop overlooking a fjord in Norway
Last summer my partner Andrea and I took our Defender 110 on its maiden voyage through Europe for a project called ‘Alternative Living.’ The goal was to explore some of the most remote settlements throughout the Alps and as far north as the Lofoten Islands in Norway.
We lived out of the car for three months on the project, took long forgotten back roads and found some of the most incredible and isolated locations in Europe. Having the Defender allowed us opportunities to visit places we couldn’t have with another vehicle. One of the goals of the project was to really connect with the people and places we encountered. It was more important to absorb all we could from the specific locations than it was to see everything. Having a rig that could take us off the beaten track was indispensable. In fact, the trip was so fulfilling that we turned it into a book.
What about your most recent stateside venture?
Driving the Discovery Sport at home in Montana
While the Defender stayed parked in Europe, we set up roots in Whitefish, Montana and got our second Land Rover vehicle early this summer. The Discovery Sport is a sleeker, more economical, luxurious version of its larger sibling, but don’t let looks fool you. Beneath the surface is a 4x4 that more than holds its own.
Over the second half of 2016, we put well over 20,000 miles on the Discovery Sport, from driving north to Alaska and south to the deserts of Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Over that time, we were faced with an incredible diversity of conditions: from glacial river crossings to decommissioned forest service roads, endless sand dunes and treacherous alpine crossings. Because we were going to clock many miles, we wanted it to be comfortable on the road. We also needed to be capable off-road. We swapped the stock all-season tires for a set of All Terrains, and we were ready. At first we weren’t sure how the car would do on aggressive trails, like the ones rated 4/5 in 4x4 guide books, placarded with signs like “high-clearance 4x4 only,” “short wheel base obligatory.” But, after so many tricky moments, like crossing a river or going over wet, rocky uphill sections, the Land Rover vehicle always crossed the finish line. Every single time.
How do you plan to continue the family tradition?
The stories my father told me as a child made me want to have my own. To explore the world like he did, to make my life an adventure. In the future I want to share similar stories with my own kids – about remote fishing villages in Norway, of farms nestled high up in the Slovenian Alps and ghost towns tucked at the end of long, winding Alaskan fjords. To show them old photos, memories and hopefully inspire them the way my father did for me.
THE ADVENTUROUS AND VERSATILE COMPACT SUV
THE EXTRAORDINARY EVERY DAY
Discovery Sport combines sleek, aerodynamic silhouette with legendary Land Rover capability and a flexible interior for a great-looking vehicle that does so much more.EXPLORE DESIGN
ALL TERRAIN PROGRESS CONTROL
With Land Rover at its heart, the Discovery Sport is more than adept in some of the most challenging conditions.VIEW TECHNOLOGIES
FLEXIBLE SEATING, LEGROOM AND LOADSPACE
With an optional sliding second row that can offer similar legroom to Range Rover, and an optional third row, you can adapt the space to meet loading or seating needs.EXPLORE VERSATILITY