Catching up with the Winners: Fred Mortagne Following the recent celebration of Red Bull Illume’s 10th anniversary, it was time to find out what the winners have been up to. Fred Mortagne, aka French Fred, was the winner of the very first contest back in 2007. 02/16/2017 © Christian Pondella It’s been 10 years since you won the first ever Red Bull Illume. How have things been since and what are some memorable projects you have worked on? I never stopped working and shooting passionately, so it’s always been good. I just released my first major publication, which is so far the highlight of my photographic career. Can you tell us a bit about your publication ‘Attraper Au Vol’ ? It compiles 15 years of work, although it is not a massive book. We went through a very selective editing process. It was published by Um Yeah Arts, the entity of Thomas Campbell who I love to work with. As of now, the book is already sold out. It has been a huge success and I’m glad it can be found in great bookstores, not just through the skateboarding network. I guess we have to print a second edition! You can still find the remaining copies in some stores, as well as on eu.elementbrand.com for example. What do you think makes Red Bull Illume special, or different from other contests? Its diversity and its modernity; focusing strictly on the new school extreme sports, while television for example still mostly cares about the classic stuff. I like the format of the contest, with all these different categories that highlight various aspects of the sports such as “Playground” which is about the location. This of course for me has always been an important category. For many years, in skateboarding for example, the focus was strictly on the action and nothing else. It was a big surprise to win in 2007 with a picture that was the opposite of the current standards. Do you think Red Bull Illume helped you to get your work out there? In life, I learned that sometimes things come much later on; sometimes even years after you do an exhibition. It’s wrong to have instant expectations. So to my good surprise, when Leica became a partner of Red Bull Illume in 2013, a collaboration was started with them that has been very enjoyable and productive. Although winning the competition didn’t lead to any direct jobs, it eventually brought something very important to my career. What tips would you give to beginners who are planning to enter Red Bull Illume? Maybe I can just say that when I first entered, I thought I didn’t stand a chance, so it doesn’t matter what expectations you have. There have now been 4 Red Bull Illume contests. What do you think is the winning formula? If I would know, I would have won 4 times! But I’m glad that I made it to the finals twice, and to the semi-finals twice. Looking at the 4 winning images, it seems that they all brought something that you are not used to seeing within these sports, something that is not the standard, a little surprising, a little refreshing. They were unformatted expressions of individuals who want to bring something new and dare to step outside of the norm. What has changed in adventure and action sports photography in the last 10 years? I think it became a little less formatted. People have started to experiment more and are not following any so-called rules. I always say that there shouldn’t be any rules to follow except those that you create for yourself. This is the best way to create your own unique style and will help you to stand out from the rest. Any advice for up and coming adventure/action sports photographers that you could share? As I also always say, anyone can become a photographer… and in the age of social networks, this is totally obvious. No one has specific genes to become a great photographer. Indeed we become photographer by chance, coincidence, and also often because we are passionate about something. We all have the potential. Then it’s about developing a unique view on life to bring something interesting. I like to make little photo competitions on Instagram to create some energy around photography, just like Illume is doing on a much larger scale! Where do you see action and adventure sports photography going in the next 10 years? Every athlete will shoot themselves without any outside help other than technology. All the devices are here already. Is it the end of professional photographers? Surely not, but we will have to adapt and work with it. It will require us to have a much more conceptual approach rather than focusing on just capturing the action. This is what I have been doing and it is stronger than ever right now. What plans and projects do you have lined up for the future? I will keep on doing stuff to do with the book for a while and shoot for my personal projects. Working on the book gave me a lot of ideas for stuff to shoot, within and outside of skateboarding. Also, as I am an advocate for Element Skateboards, I will keep on shooting for them and their great Element Perspective programs which beautifully showcase photography. Check out more of French Fred's work by checking out his website and give him a follow on Instagram.