Adrenaline kicks in ice and snow
BY NADINE PELZER
The ability to tell stories through images is a rare gift. A gift that Mark Fisher is lucky enough to possess. With great passion and dedication, he captures human emotions on a background of alpine landscapes. As a result, he produces breathtaking images of extreme situations in a nature mostly untouched by men. He shares with us the fascinating life he lives.
Mark, your work takes you to the world’s most beautiful and remote areas. How did you get your current job?
I followed my dreams of both photography and mountains and merged them into a successful career. I have passionately pursued both interests since my school days and I was always committed to making them work. I got my current job by working extremely hard, by taking a lot of risks, and by believing in myself and that I could make it happen. It’s a tough and uncertain road. I feel very lucky and fortunate to be in the position I now am.
When did you realise that this is exactly what you want to do?
I realised early on that I loved photography and that I also loved adventure and the outdoors. I realised that I wanted to make a career out of doing what I loved. The hard part is making the work part work.
Which place has impressed, intrigued, or changed you the most?
In 2013, my good friend, the late Andy Tyson, invited me to join his expedition to Myanmar to attempt a first ascent of Gamlang Razi in northern Myanmar, along the border with China, in the Himalaya. We were the first western team in northern Myanmar since 1994 and only the second expedition ever to have been able to travel to that part of the world. This expedition was approximately six weeks, and we travelled close to 300 miles on foot, through some of the harshest and most remote jungle and mountainous terrain in the world. We stayed with villagers who have effectively lived in isolation from the outside forever and have never met or interacted with a westerner. It was incredibly beautiful, incredibly remote, and I feel deeply grateful for having been given that opportunity. We ultimately made the successful first ascent of Gamlang Razi, the disputed highest peak in Southeast Asia. In the end, climbing the peak wasn’t important at all and indeed, it was the easiest part of the expedition. The most memorable and life-changing elements were the journey to and from the peak, the people we met and interacted with, what I learned about myself through this hardship, that endured and impacted me the most.
All your shots radiate a particular elegance, calm, and beauty, though to get them you embark in mortal danger regularly. How is that?
The skiers I’m photographing certainly deal with a lot more risk than I do. I certainly have to contend with avalanches, steep skiing, etc. but rarely is it “mortal” danger. I try to create images that transcend the actual sport I’m capturing, in this case skiing. If I can create one image that captures a timeless moment, a pause amidst the storm if you will, then I’ve succeeded. Not all my shots achieve this vision, but it is always my goal.
Many of your pictures were shot in “heli-angle”, meaning you hang from an airborne helicopter and take the shots in freefall. You only got seconds for each shot. What do you feel at this moment?
Photographing from a helicopter is one of the best and most amazing experiences ever. It’s incredible, and there is nothing else that really compares. I do only get seconds for each image and all decisions ultimately have to be made “on the fly” as the action is happening. There is no rehearsing and no second chance for the image. I can visualise what I think will happen prior to the actual skiing, but ultimately there is no way to truly plan.
You spend a lot of time in nature and your work is heavily dependent on the weather as well. Were there moments when you felt pushed to your limits?
The previous trip to Myanmar was one of the few times I’ve truly felt pushed by the weather. I’ve spent a lot of time suffering in less than ideal conditions during my career as a photographer and also as an alpinist. I’m pretty comfortable pushing myself during long days in the mountains in bad weather. I hate getting up early in the morning, but once I’m up, I love watching the sunrise from the mountains and the clearing of the storm. The art of suffering is essential. Working in the mountains requires a lot of patience as well.
Which places do you still need to travel to in this world?
There are a lot of places I still want to travel. I love travelling. For me, it’s not really any one particular place, it’s the people with whom I travel and the people I meet where I’m travelling. These days, my most important decision is who, not where. I have yet to go to a place I didn’t like.
What is at the top of your bucket list?
On top of my bucket list is taking my kids to these places I’ve been and still want to go. That’s the most amazing – sharing experiences with them. I’m also currently working on my private pilot’s license and dream of flying into remote mountain airstrips.
New York’s Brooklyn Museum shows the exhibition “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present” until January, and one of the successful images exhibited is yours. How does that feel?
It’s a great honor to be part of that exhibition. The entire show is incredible and will be on tour through 2019.
Are you living your dream?
Each day I try and suck the marrow out of life in all that I do. That’s how I live my dream – to live for the present and to live with intent.
Mark Fisher is an internationally recognised, award-winning photographer, director and filmmaker. He has collaborated with some of the industry’s top brands such as The North Face, Patagonia, Mercedes Benz and Nike, and has received several awards for his work. In 2011, he founded his own production company, Fisher Creative.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q4 2016. Picture credit © Mark Fisher (Sage Cattabriga-Alosa skiing near Petersburg, Alaska)