Photographer Re Wikstrom and Her Action Heroes
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival wrapped up recently in Whistler, BC, in the usual nine-day riot of partying, skiing, and celebrating the newest, most talented, and most dedicated innovators, athletes, and individuals in the ski industry. The Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown is among the most highly anticipated events of the festival, with 6 coveted final spots for pro photographers to show off the enviable world they see through their lenses.
This year, the audience was treated to the work of Re Wikstrom—the first female finalist ever in the showdown, selected via the anonymous submission process from amongst the almost 50 hopeful entries, including the most well-established names in the business.
Wikstrom maintains a focus on big mountain skiing but shoots whatever else her athletes dream up; her subjects ski-base, slay big lines, huck cliffs, jib, mountain bike, hula-hoop with whiskey bottles, and whatever else that goes with the skiing lifestyle. Oh, and she shoots almost exclusively with female athletes.
Photo: Rachael Burks in Alta, UT backcountry
This week, Wikstrom took some time to chat about how she got her start, what it is like to spend the winter on the road, ending up with about a week to prepare a slideshow for one of the biggest honors in ski photography-and what her work means to others.
The WSSF show went by in a blur- I have no idea where the time went. It seemed to be really well received-there was a lot of cheering. MTV Canada interviewed me, and a few magazines, and I had other requests for TV show interviews. It was amazing. To have my work chosen without being on ski movie shoots, or quite as much travel and exotic shots from all over the world as the other finalists yet was huge.
I don’t know if everyone picked up that it was all women in the action shots of my show.
My high school photo teacher convinced me to go to school for photography. I’d been skiing since I was 3. I got a Powder Magazine subscription when I was 12, and the photos really resonated with me. I thought, ‘Man, that would be an awesome, amazing job!” So I knew I only wanted to shoot ski photography.
When I moved to Utah after interning at Powder and Bike during my last year at RIT, I had my doubts about making a living from ski photography. But I thought, well you don’t know unless you try. It was dumping everyday, and just wanted to ski and shoot photos. I turned down a job at the Olive Garden because they wanted one day shift from me. Eventually I got a job at Backcountry.com, where I now work in the creative department.
It was always all about ski photos. I didn’t start out planning to focus on women, and first and foremost a photo needs to be a good ski photo. But I didn’t like the way women were portrayed and thought they needed a better voice. My whole theory is not rah-rah, in your face girl power. I’m just trying to go out there and do something.
High school girls have contacted me to do class reports on photographers, and they chose me. How rad is that? I hope I’m making a difference, and that my work can help inspire women to push past their limits, and live beyond what social norms dictate. There’s so many awful images put out there; that’s all some women think they have to aspire to.
Pro guy skiers approach me and want me to shoot photos of them…which is a great compliment.
Photo: Molly Baker skiing in the Alta/Snowbird backcountry
How did I prepare for the Pro Photographer Showdown? Well, first I got really nervous, which helps a lot…..[pause]. I was traveling a lot this winter so I couldn’t really prepare in advance. I spent about a hundred bucks downloading potential music tracks from iTunes. Then, all of a sudden I realized I only had about a week to learn professional film editing software, choose the music, drink a lot of coffee, not sleep, and work at Backcountry.com during the day. But-- I did the whole thing myself, so I am pretty proud of that.
I don’t know what [the Showdown] means for my future. It was a huge boost to my confidence to be selected, and it has allowed me to reflect more deeply on my work…but you’ve got to keep putting yourself out there.
Photos (from top): Re Wikstrom; Rachael Burks in the Alta, Utah backcountry; Molly Baker in the Alta/Snowbird backcountry.