Polish photographer Marcin Kin is the first tell you: he isn’t an artist, he’s a craftsman. What’s impressive to us is the breadth of what his photography covers – from Moto GP to high alpine climbing in the Himalayas. Read on to find out why he doesn’t have a niche… and doesn’t want one.
Tell us about your very first camera.
My first camera was Fuji Finepix 4800 when I was about 14 or 15 years old – it was one of the first digital cameras. My father is quite a tech geek, and he bought this really, really expensive camera. It was only available in Germany and I think he had to drive 100km to get it. When I was trying to shoot sport, such as halfpipe skiing, it was so slow, that I would press the button when the guy went into the halfpipe in order to catch the guy in the air. I think it took about three seconds to take a picture! But I have a few nice pictures from that. It was just so crazy that I could take a picture then go home and deliver it to people that night. Later, in photography school, I learned to work with film.
What’s your favorite image you’ve ever taken?
One favorite image? There’s a lot of them… but one that I am really proud of is this shot from my first big expedition to Shishapangma. I really had a certain shot in mind and it took a lot of effort to get to the spot, but then when I did, everything lined up perfectly. This is near Chinese Base Camp, about 30km from the regular base camp of Shishipangma at about 5000m altitude. It’s a long way from any real city. It was me, Andrzej Bargiel, his brother Gregor and Darek Zaluski; a filmmaker who is renowned as a Himalayan climber in Poland. For me, it’s the ultimate journey picture; big mountains in the background, lots of room on top to breathe, and the yaks which are not such well-known animals - and of course Andrew, who simply looks like he is on a real adventure.
You shoot a lot of different subjects – how do you make it work?
You have to know the subject you’re shooting. Even shooting skiers and snowboarders is different. The hardest part is making a real emotional contact with the people you’re shooting. Often the athletes or drivers are thinking in the context of their sport, not photography – so it’s a big battle between my ideas and their ideas. But sometimes it’s good to listen to them!
What’s your everyday carry set up?
I usually have two Canon 1DX bodies with a 24 - 70 f2.8 and the 70 - 200 f2.8. With that combination, I can usually do a whole job with no problem. Then I keep a couple of fixed focal length lenses in my backpack. I try and avoid super wide angles. At the beginning, I did a lot of skating and snowboarding, and it was really popular to go super wide and get super close. The more experience I have, the more I try and avoid shooting wide – it’s not like what the human eye sees. It’s unnatural. But I do really like to go close to the action!
Close. I’ve yet to get hit by a car, but I was once hit by a motorcycle in front of over 1,000 spectators. I pretended it didn’t hurt; it did, but no broken bones or significant injuries. Skiers and snowboarders? More times than I can count.
How do you bring variety to your photography?
I try to clear my mind and try not to imitate someone else’s work. Last year, I did MotoGP for the first time. So I go to Google to see how it looks and what works, but I’m never looking for the work of the best photographer in each sport because I want to leave myself room to be creative. I don’t necessarily want to be influenced by their work.
Are you an artist, or a technician?
I’m not an artist. For me an artist is a person who creates something totally new, from nothing. I am a craftsman of photography. If you want me to shoot a wedding, I do a wedding! If you want me to shoot an expedition, I’ll do it. I’m well prepared with my cameras and lenses for anything - and I keep myself in shape to go almost anywhere.
What do you shoot most often?
It’s seasonal. During one part of the year it’s cross-country rallies and motorcycle stuff. In the other part of the year it’s free ride skiing and mountain climbing. Then, it’s expeditions.
What life lessons have you learned from photography?
Wait. Wait it out to the end. So many times I’ve watched other photographers give up and go home too early. Don’t do that.
Images © Marcin Kin