When the lights came on, one photographer shone brighter than the rest: Blake Jorgenson.
The seven-year Whistler local captured the top spot at this years Pro Photographer Search. The two-night contest Monday and Tuesday of this week pitted photographers in a showdown format. Each had 12 minutes to set their best slides to music. The presentations were judged by five field experts. However, the Best of Show award was decided in an open criteria format, which meant no high or low scores, just overall impressions.
Jorgenson was also a finalist at last year's competition, and says he kept that criteria in mind.
"I think this year I just put together a better show. I didnt just throw together a bunch of slides," says Jorgenson.
The panel and many in the audience agreed that Jorgensons dramatic music set in sync with the changing slides was an effective tool in showcasing his richly textured images.
"When you look at six different people showing 200 photos, thats a lot of images to look at," says judge Mark Doolittle, photo editor for Skiing Magazine. "(Jorgenson) had a combination of things: a good variety of sports, he used different types of film and filters, his use of light was great, he photographed at the right times of day. And he just got out there. Thats a big part of it too. He was shooting on the glaciers and from helicopters. He worked for it."
And at the age of 25, Jorgensons work is already beginning to pay off. Many of the exotic locations captured in his show Bella Coola, Switzerland, Turkey, Alaska were largely made possible by site shoots for such industry leaders as Head, Tyrolia, Oakley, Marizochi, Fox, Mountain Bike and Powder Magazine, as well as a host of other international publications. Not bad for a painter turned photographer, self-taught with a $60 second-hand camera.
The win on Tuesday night means Jorgenson will go on to compete against professional heavy hitters in the World Pro Photographer Showdown, which was held April 19 (after Pique went to press). Quickly becoming known as "the Sundance Film Festival of still photos," this years competition drew the talents of Jeff Divine, Mark Gallup, Joe McBride and J. Grant Brittain.
Divine has been shooting surfing for over 30 years. He started shooting in his hometown of La Jolla, California in the late 60s and soon became a regular contributor to Surfer magazine. Divines work has been published world wide, editorially and commercially, including for clients such as American Express, Patagonia, Continental Airlines, Coca Cola, Quiksilver and Roxy. Divine has recently published a coffee table book chronicling his 30 years of surf photography with stories about his many adventures.
Gallup draws on his Irish and Plains Indian Cree heritage for inspiration. From the genes up, Gallup was destined to be a nomad who could tell good stories about his trips. His adventures with his father's Polaroid as a kid have grown into a professional career as a travel, lifestyle and action sports photographer. His extensive list of clients includes Nike, Helly Hansen and Rossignol, as well as emerging companies who recognize the power of linking Gallups vision to their wares. Many magazines, including Transworld Snowboarding, Snowboard Canada, Bike, Powder and Snow Surf also seek him out for their projects.
Through unique perspectives and points of view, McBride's goal is to immerse and involve the audience in the moment being captured. McBride shoots action and lifestyle related to all sports, including: skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, surfing, running, golf, tennis, windsurfing, scuba, skateboarding and mountain biking. His clients include Microsoft, Pepsi and Disney. His images have also been published in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Skiing, Surfing, Golf, Parachutist, Powder and Ski.
At the age of 25, Brittain borrowed his roommate's camera to shoot his skating buddies at the Del Mar Skateboard Ranch where he worked and skated. He had no idea how the camera worked, he just matched the needle and shot. Brittain changed his major from art and immersed himself in photography. In 1983, Brittain was approached to contribute to a brand new skate magazine. The 40 page premiere issue of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine wasn't great, but 17 years later, it has become the leader in the industry.
Doolittle said it would be tough to predict how Jorgenson will fare against the more experienced photographers. Once again, there are no set rules or standards for judging.
"His stuff is just as good as anyones out there, it all depends on how it makes the judges feel on that particular night," says Doolittle.
"Oh, I have no idea how Ill do. It doesnt really matter," Jorgenson comments humbly. "The shows not for me, its for the people watching."