*Okay, maybe not EVER. Let's just say in the last decade...and make that 13 photos..ten was impossible.
I have worked at Outside for almost nine years as the creative director. What's a creative director? (You and my mom wonder.) It means I work in the art department on page layout and design, communicating with designers and photographers and wearing out my mouse. But sometimes I get to go outside and work with some of the most talented athletes and photographers on the planet. And this is the part of my job I love the most.
My interview for this gig was on September 10, 2001 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I woke up the next morning back in my apartment in New York City only to witness the twin towers and all the people in them come crashing down to the ground along with all my naive optimism about the world and our relative safety in it. Something about that unthinkable tragedy made me go for it. Life is short I thought. Shorter than I had originally thought, maybe. I feel like the people we shoot think that way too. They really go for it, grabbing life by the short hairs.
For most people, being photographed is a torturous kind of event. You only get a good picture if some amount of guard is let down. That's very hard to do with a crowd of gawkers and a big black camera staring at you while people fuss with your clothes and wipe the glare off your forehead and ask you to look into the sun. But these men and women gave and gave and that’s how we all got and got. There was a lot of trust involved. A lot of going for it.
Both the photographers and the athletes found here became the the best in their fields by finding something in life that they were good and passionate enough about to do over and over again. Sometimes, bringing the two together can result in a disastrous clash of egos that results in bad photos, but we'll save those for another blog. Because more importantly, bringing the two together can create magical pictures.
What makes these photographs great to me is walls-down honesty mixed with physical strength, which in my book equals drop-dead sexy. It wasn’t easy to pick out 13 because so many great photographers have shot for us and so many elite athletes have appeared in our pages, but these pictures represent the best of both worlds, the most inspiring people we have had the good fortune to shoot paired with the most genius photographers I have had the huge honor of working with.
13. Dean Potter, shot by Andy Anderson: I love the chalk in this picture and the angel wings in the rock behind him and, of course, the stare that lets you into his soul for a little lookie-loo.
12. Malia Jones, shot by Jeff Lipsky:This shot wasn’t going to happen at all at first. It was the end of along--but great--day of shooting beautiful set ups along a Malibu beachwith various bikinis. Malia + Malibu + nice day--how could you miss?Jeff had called the shoot over, and the sun had pretty much set so itseemed “we had it in the can,” but as everyone was packing up,something told Jeff there was one more shot to be had. I think thispicture turned out to be so vulnerable and lovely because of that warmfeeling you have at the end of a fun day.
11. Lance Armstrong, shot by Anton Corbijn:I could look at this picture for hours and hours. There's so much init, yet it’s really simple. Most of the juice comes from Lance’sposture and his stare (and his pants, a little). I wasn’t on thisshoot, which is good because this picture never would've happened ifthere were people like me gawking. This is the kind of look you getfrom being one on one and having total trust and faith in thephotographer. That’s something Anton won from Lance, and he deservesit. He’s a total blow-your-head-off genius in my book, but props go toLance, too, for his generosity. He really gives us something every time(except that a lot of time, the average shoot length is 15 minutes.Yikes!).
10. Kelly Slater, shot by Jake Chessum:Kelly is so good looking it's almost impossible to take a bad photo of him. He’s really scary to shoot, because if the pictures don't come out amazing, it's all on you. It wouldn’t seem fair for him tobe such an amazing surfer and a really interesting guy to spend the daywith, but he is. He’s turned me on to several mind-altering books aboutlife and love and nutrition. He's so likeable and down to earththat our shoots with him are always really fun. His eyes really do looklike this, so I was glad Jake could capture that. It’s almost too muchwhen he looks right at you. I had to look at the ground for most of the shoot.
9. Kyle Strait, shot by Frank Ockenfels 3: In 2005, when we shot Kyle on this crazy massive group shoot for a Redbull/Outside book called Faces,he was hands down my favorite. His bangs saved us from hisI-am-going-to-beat-you-senseless stare. Without them, we’d probablyhave turned into one of the drummers from Spinal Tap. Poof.
8. Kris Freeman, shot by Marc Hom:Not only was this the very first set up with Kris but it was the veryfirst click out of Marc’s camera. After seeing this, I said, “OK,that’s perfect. We can all go home now.” And we could have!
7. Sara Carlson, shot by James White:The only clothes the stylist had for this shoot were jog bras andgarden variety women’s climbing gear (NOT fun). In the gorgeous settingof Joshua Tree the togs stood out like snickers in a swimming pool so Ishooed away all the assistants and crew and James asked Sara if shewould take her clothes off to make a stronger photograph. Brave girl!We didn’t shoot one single frame with clothes in it, and I thought Iwould get canned because I was pretty new at the job. The photossummoned a LOT of church-lady negative attention, but I didn’t care.And I kept my job.
6. Jenn Shelton, shot by Andy Batt:This photo makes me want to run and run and run, and then go to Jenn’shouse afterward to hang out. It was also Andy’s first shoot for us, andhe did impress!
5. Danny Fuller, shot by Robert Maxwell:Only Robert can bring this look out in people. It’s the “don’tf*&ck with me” look that continues to haunt you long after you seeit.
4. Andy Roddick, shot by Marc Hom: This was all Marc’s idea. He’s crazy good like that.
3. Lance Armstrong, shot by Robert Maxwell: The beauty of this photo is that it's 50-percent Lance and 50-percent Robert. I can see both of their genes in it equally.
2. Araceli Segarra, shot by Robert Maxwell:This was a nail-biter for me. I was sure I’d get asked to pack myoffice when I came back with this film, but the shoot felt so excitingthat I could NOT not roll with it. Araceli was this perfect modern day“Eve” emerging from the garden (which was really just Griffith park inL.A.). I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think this is the first time adress has appeared in Outside. The mix of her bad-ass strongarms and this delicate silk slip of a dress was so satisfying to mebecause it sang strong and sexy and woman all at once.
1. Laird Hamilton and daughter Reece, shot by Peggy Sirota:I ended up missing this shoot after missing my plane. When I calledPeggy, she said she didn’t really need me anyway, and she was right. Ithink Peggy makes the prettiest, most flattering, and fun picturesever. When I saw this one, it made me so excited to have a babysomeday. It’s such a celebration of children and life, but alsohilarious that Laird would throw Reece a little bit higher than mostparents would be comfortable with--living LARGE, as he would say.
--Special thanks to the magical photo editors who helped pull these off: Rob Haggart, Lesley Meyer, and Amy Feitelberg