It was quite unexpected to be honest. With photo competitions you never know what’s going to happen. You’re in the audience and they show the finalists and say: “And the winner is.” When that happened the second time I was blown away.
Was it important that the shots were ‘editorial’?
It is for me! A lot of stuff is created over a period of time with a lot of forethought and planning. That’s to take nothing away from the photographs but that’s just not my way. To have three photos that were taken in real life situations in that mix was pretty satisfying.
Why is editorial different?
The primary thing with editorial is the integrity of the image. It has to be truthful. If someone sees it they have to believe 100% what was in that scene. That involves not setting up the photograph, not creating something that’s untrue, not manipulating it in Photoshop. It’s common place these days to use Photoshop to make your photos outstanding but it’s not so much photography as ‘photoshopography’. Editorial has to be telling a story with an image. It needs to drag you in and make you want to find out what’s going on.
So it’s quite ironic then that you won the Enhance category?
That’s totally not lost on me! That particular venue was kinda cool and abstract but always had the the platform sticking out, which created a distraction. The platform’s necessary but when I was looking at the Red Bull Illume [Enhance] category, this photo jumped into my mind – maybe I could rip the platform out? In all honesty, I didn’t expect it to be a finalist. It was something I did in Photoshop in two minutes: take the platform out, increase the contrast a little bit and send in.
What does Red Bull Illume mean for you?
From a sports and adventure perspective it’s a big deal. The quality of the photos submitted – everything’s of a really high standard. You can see it’s a worthwhile thing, showcasing fantastic work from all around the planet.
Two of your images show what can go wrong in action sports. Is that important?
A lot of content tends to be somewhat sterilised. If you get people doing extreme sports you get injury and sometimes extreme injury. It goes with the territory. I don’t think these sports should be painted as something where everything always goes fantastically: people leaping off buildings, backflipping on motorbikes, careering off waterfalls and everyone’s got a big smile on their face. It can go bad sometimes. As an editorial photographer you want to document all aspects, not just focus on the shiny stuff.
And the guys bounced back?
Josh was fairly determined to rehabilitate and he did; he was was back in a kayak one year later. Nicholi took a hell of a spill but was fine. He got up pretty quickly afterwards, continued his run, went down and finished. He had a bit of a cut on his face but is clearly quite a resilient kid.
What’s next in action sport photography?
The trend for action is to try anything that’s new and hope you can do something different to everyone else.
Should photographers be worried?
Photographers have been worried for years – so many colleagues have lost work. It’s not valued in the same way as used to be. Publications don’t care about the quality as much as they used to. They want the content and they want to have it cheaply. If you can get something from the guy on the street and stick his name under it, everyone’s happy except for the photographers who make a living from it. Photography’s not a trade where you have a certificate saying, ‘I did four years’. Now everyone has a camera that can shoot sharp and well exposed photographs. I’ve been lucky to work with Red Bull who value photography and see the value of photography. It’s one of the few companies that let you go out and do your job.
What are you working on?
Ultimately a holiday!