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Shooting from another angle

Finalist for the Pro Photographer Showdown captures majesty of the mountains with a fresh perspective

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What: Pro Photographer Showdown

Where: Telus Conference Centre

When: Thursday, April 17, 8 p.m.

While many shutterbugs have their cameras trained towards the skies, hoping to capture a skier throwing down a 1080, at least one photographer takes a different approach when shooting on the slopes.

Kari Medig is one of five finalists competing in the 11 th annual Pro Photographer Showdown at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (TWSSF).

Medig was born and raised backcountry skiing in the Kootenays, and was introduced to photography at an early age.

“I kind of have always had cameras around, because my parents were amateur photographers, so I always had access to a darkroom and all that stuff,” he explained.

But photography wasn’t initially an occupational goal for Medig. He was actually well on his way to a embarking on a career in biochemistry when he realized he couldn’t spend his life in a lab, so he picked up his camera.

Now, he is based out of Vancouver, where he splits his time shooting in the mountains and freelancing for local newspapers. It’s the latter work that has given Medig a different perspective on shooting action sports, and led him to approach every shoot looking for an underlying news angle.

“I think my strength is definitely more of a photojournalistic style,” said Medig. “I do shoot a fair bit of ski action and sports action, but I’m definitely a lot more interested in the kind of ‘slice of life’ aspect of it — the little stories on the side interest me a lot.”

Medig is sticking with his strength, capturing cultural angles in his photographs, whether they are from trips overseas or back home in the Kootenays.

“I really admire the guys who shoot a lot of action and whatnot, I just think there’s a whole huge story,” Medig explained. “I mean, most of us don’t huck the big cliffs and do a lot of that stuff, so I think that it’s really important to see that, but people who just enjoy skiing or just enjoy being in the mountains, and I think there are little stories there that are often untold.”

He’s also still a backcountry skier at heart; most of his shots are self-propelled, not lift-assisted, and he tends to steer away from the bigger, more popular hills, opting for smaller, obscure destinations. He’s actually only ever been skiing in Whistler once.

But when a filmmaker friend mentioned the TWSSF’s photo competition, Medig decided to put together a three-minute application presentation.

Lisa Richardson, communications director for the festival, says organizers received a lot of really strong submissions this year, and are starting to hear of photographers who are using the Pro Photographer Showdown as a career goal, work for a few years to compile a portfolio to enter.

A selection panel eventually narrowed the submissions down to five finalists — Whistler’s Blake Jorgenson and Dan Carr, Jancsi Hadik of Switzerland, Frode Sandbech of Norway, and Medig.

“Part of the selection criteria was really to look for photos that weren’t just great images, but would string together with music to tell a story,” Richardson explained. “So the idea really is with your nine minute show, not just to show the best work of your career, but to transport people to an entirely different place.”

Audience members will embark on a journey with each of the five artists.

The event sells-out every year, and this year is no exception. Richardson isn’t sure why the event is so popular, but says she suspects it is because Whistlerites can really appreciate these depictions of mountain culture on another level.

“I think generally the people who are attracted to living here are people who have a highly honed sense of the aesthetic,” said Richardson. “We’re drawn here because certain things stop us in our tracks, so we’re willing to make certain compromises in order to be surrounded by that kind of grandeur on a daily basis.”

The show has transformed immensely since it first emerged 11 years ago, when Eric Berger and Jack Turner presented photos from a snowboard trip they made to Iran.

“People loved it, people were totally into it, so that kind of, I guess, announced to the festival organizers that there was an appetite for a cultural side to the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival,” said Richardson.

This year, while the grand prize winner will walk away with bragging rights and the $10,000 grand prize, the other four will each receive $1,500 in prize money to recognize the hard work that went into their submissions.

“It is a lot of effort,” said Richardson. “It’s not just slap a bunch of good photos together and play them.”

Now, Medig’s nine-minute multimedia presentation, featuring cultural, action and scenic shots, is set to music and is ready to go for the big event. He hopes people will be able to relate to the human side of his work, not just be wowed by intense action shots.

“At the end of the day, we’re going down a hill on two boards, we’re not trying to change the world, right?” said Medig. “It’s really fun, I love it, but I think we just need to see the flip side of it.”

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