If you take a look at Robin O'Neill's portfolio all you want to do is get outside and hop on your bike, put on your skis or simply go for a long run. Her images don't just capture moments outside, they are truly honoring them! But the Image Quest 2019 Finalist (Category: Energy) not only captures unique outdoor adventures, she's also focusing on the human perspective behind every image. Read our interview to find out more about Robin's projects, her inspiration and her advice!
Could you tell us a little bit about your the beginngs of your carreer as an outdoor photographer? How did it all start?
During the summer of my third year at university, I decided to do some international non-profit work to mix things up. I spent my time on a project in South America, documenting the world around me on my dad’s 35mm film camera that I taught myself to use en route. There was no turning back from there - I was hooked on both travel and documentary photography.
How do you choose what projects you like to shoot?
I am drawn to projects that involve self-propelled access by ski, bike, or foot; assignments that involve collaboration with like-minded impassioned people, and that contribute positively to the world. Sometimes I select these projects and sometimes I’m fortunate enough that they select me. I have built a body of work that shows my style and what I am passionate about, which has helped build momentum in attracting projects that I’m passionate about.
Any projects that you would describe as "close to your heart"?
There are the projects that are simply meant to create an advertising campaign, which I do enjoy, but the projects that are closest to my heart involve a philanthropic aspect. These are the ones that develop meaningful connections, cultural exchanges, and a good challenging adventure.
Most recently, I was approached by an Arc’teryx sponsored ultra runner wanting to do a story in Nepal. So I began to dig deeper into how we could plan an adventure that would also make a contribution to the area we would explore. I landed on an NGO called the Mira Rai Initiative. This is a group that sponsors five young Nepalese girls every year to train as trail runners, teach them English, and give them training to become guides. This is something I could get behind and incorporate into our project. Not only do I get to trek and trail run while shooting for a company I love, I could also give a young female guide the opportunity for leadership training and exposure.
Why did you choose to submit your image to Red Bull Illume?
To be honest, I had never considered entering an image to the Red Bull Illume contest - an intimidating competition, packed with testosterone, and talent. But luckily and to my surprise I was messaged directly by Red Bull Illume saying that they liked my work, and would I consider entering the competition this year. This invitation stripped away the intimidation of entering, and I submitted to the esteemed event with no thoughts I would ever make it past the first round.