Your upbringing was… unorthodox.
I was raised in the wild places of the world, traveling with my family from a young age. I was exposed to the amazing power of perspective and its impact on how we see the world around us. I started shooting photos in high school when my mom gave me her old Nikon 35mm for a family trip to Peru. I studied dark room photography in high school, which really drew me into the magic of making an image in the physical and the metaphysical sense, while my work on the high school newspaper sparked an interest in storytelling. I got my first digital camera, a Nikon D80, as a graduation present, and throughout college I just started shooting as much as I could. Taking photos became one of my favorite pastimes, mostly exploring the deserts and mountains of Utah where I was in school.
Your first big photo project?
In 2012 I received the Young Explorers Grant from National Geographic to work on a project in Nepal for 3 months, and when I returned home from that project, it was the first time I really focused my intent on trying to take this passion I had cultivated for so long and turn it into something that could take me deeper into the realm of visual and narrative storytelling. It all seems like a blur since that decision, and I still love shooting as much as ever, and it continues to be an amazing privilege to do something I love so truly and call it my work.
What’s your style?
I like to think that I take my analytical narrative eye to every shoot I do – even action sports, which might be a bit different than some photographers who might just be looking for singular incredible moments.
What’s your inspiration?
Using my storytelling platforms to tell stories that impact some change beyond just inspiration is also quickly becoming one of my big motivators to keep creating.
Tell us about your trip to Japan.
My first trip to Japan came about through a friend of mine and film maker Nick Wagoner, one of the founders of Sweetgrass Productions. He wrangled a three week trip with eight of us friends to tour around Hokkaido, on the North Island, in a van, skiing as much powder as we could manage. It was one of most amazing trips of my life for sure, and a hell of way to be introduced to the country. I have since been back several times, and definitely hope to head back this next winter.
Did you research heavily and have specific shooting plans, or just go wherever the snow took you?
Both times I have traveled to Japan to ski I went with friends who knew amazing spots already and took me under their wings in a sense which was an amazing gift. I am sure I would have had a blast without a local inside hookup, but it was amazing getting led straight to the secret stashes.
Tell us about your favorite spots (and favorite shots) from Japan.
Favorite shots were probably taken during our time staying at the base of Mt Yotei and skiing its massive flanks – sunrise on that epic volcano is still breathtaking in memory. But really, anywhere in the backcountry – it's just such a magical environment there with the birch trees and bamboo shoots poking up through the snow. I also got to shoot some in Tokyo and Kyoto which was a treat and contrast to the snowier parts of our trip.
What makes Japan a unique place to photograph?
For me Japan is an amazing place to shoot just because it is so unique across the board. You could take ski pictures or travel photos in a lot of different places, and it would be harder to differentiate your images from one place to the next, but Japan's culture and landscapes are so wonderfully unique, that as a foreigner and someone who loves to capture the whole picture of a place, it was really an amazing treat.
Japan is known for both its attention to detail and aesthetic beauty – did you find this easy to take advantage of?
Japan is all about the detail, and it is apparent almost everywhere you look. It’s not especially easy to capture well, but it is very prevalent and very inspiring as an artist.
Was it crowded?
Did that present a photographic challenge? Some of the resorts were crowded, and most certainly the cities – but the backcountry was usually empty.
See the full gallery on Max's website.
Images © Max Lowe / Red Bull Illume