On this day, 10 years ago, the winner award ceremony for the very first Red Bull Illume contest was held in Aspen, Colorado. At the time, action and adventure sports photography was typically found in niche publications and rarely gained the momentum to reach the masses. It was hard to tell whether the emerging art form could hold its own on the global stage of photography, but there was only one way to find out.
With over 7,000 submitted images in the first contest alone, Red Bull Illume quickly surged in popularity. Having returned every three years since, the most recent edition saw almost 35,000 submissions from 5,642 photographers in 120 different countries. Over the last decade, the competition has exhibited the finalist’s images at 21 tour stops in cultural hubs across Europe, the UK, the USA and Canada. The response has been amazing.
There is a famous saying that goes; 'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?' Its something that most adventure photographers can relate to. Their documention of these unique moments is the very thing that validates them. After all, who else would witness a skier's first descent of an untouched mountain, or capture a BMX crew on a 4am mission to downtown New York?
The talent behind the lens is often as important as the athletes in front of it. To capture a great action shot, the photographer must truly understand the sport itself. They must know the composition, perspective, timing and form for every conceivable stunt. Often, they must take risks and put their photography before their comfort. Most importantly, they support the athletes every step of the way. The photographer motivates them when they’re scared, consoles them when they’re hurt and shares the thrill of victory when the battle is won. They really are the unsung heroes of action and adventure sports.
The aim of Red Bull Illume is to give light to those who document the extraordinary. Without them, there would be no way to expose the incredible subcultures that thrive in the hidden corners of our world. Ulrich Grill, founder of Red Bull Illume says: ‘There is a whole lot more to life than wealth and possessions. It’s the experiences we have that matter most; and that’s exactly what Red Bull Illume sets out to do. By showcasing these beautiful moments and promoting our engagement with the great outdoors, we can create a like-minded community of individuals who share a hunger for adventure.’
As an anonymously judged contest with a global audience, anyone can participate and anyone can win. Lorenz Holder, two-time winner of Red Bull Illume says: “The contest gave me the confidence to believe in my work and it was a great platform to demonstrate my take on action sports photography. It had a major impact on my photography career. My photos were seen by a huge number of people and I received interview requests and job offers from all around the world. I’m really happy that there is a photo competition like Red Bull Illume.”
For its vision, Red Bull Illume has gained widespread success and is honored to support and promote talented photographers around the world. It is of course those with the cameras who bring action and adventure sports to life. In the future, the hope is for Red Bull Illume to become one of the most globally recognised photography contests. It has been an incredible 10 years and in some ways, an adventure of its own. Here’s to many more!
Want to have a look through Red Bull Illume history? Check out our Gallery!