I thought who better than skiing photography greats, Chris O'Connell and Jay Michelfelder.

They were kind enough to do an interview for me, and I must say I was surprised with each of their answers, diverse for what I was expecting...scroll it.

Chris O'Connell

Who are you?

Chris OíConnell

What is your job description?

First is to have fun, second is to take pictures.

What do you do in your typical day of work?

On the road, I 2ake up early, usually before dawn. Prep my camera gear, eat some breakfast, and head out to the hills.

Either get in a helicopter, snowmobile, lift or hike for a couple hours. Dig a kicker or scout terrain. Do my shoots and get off the mountain by 5 or 6.

Go down, eat a quick dinner and download and sort photos till 10pm and then go to bed.

When I am in my office, itís a little different; I still get up at 530, go to the gym, surf and then eat. I get to the office by 9 and work till around 8. Go home, eat, read and go to sleep.

How long have you been a photographer, and what kind of schooling did you go through?

10 years. I went through the school of life, no proper school.

Does a professional school help develop style in art?

Maybe, but I wouldnít know. I would say it is not 100 percent necessary and many people that attend photo schools are afraid to break the rules.

I like to develop my style by trial and error and accidents; those are my favorite things....

Has your past affected your present style in your art?

I have had a crazy non-stop life of travel and a lot of partying, things like that tend to make you very open minded.

I am willing to try any new thing that I can with photography.

Does your personal life affect your style in your work?

Sure it does, a good or bad day can affect how you work. If you have things on your mind, sometimes itís hard to be creative. My personal life is my work, itís all intertwined.

So maybe when I take my best pictures I am having my best personal days ever.

What is your preferred style of photography to practice?

Anything. I like to document things, so I guess you would say photojournalism. I also like shooting pictures for clients because we conceptualize on ideas and bring them to life.

What's your advice to develop a unique style in art?

Donít try to follow too many people, or pick one person who influences you and expand on his work

Did you have any inspirations to develop your style in your work? What were they?

Other photographers, artists, and life inspire me. I like Sante DíOrazio, Cartier Bresson, Mario Testino

Do you consider the "audience" when you shoot? How much do they affect your work?

If the audience is my client, then yes, I am forced to. I do consider what magazines I am shooting for or advertising and how the picture will lay out.

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about style in art?

Style is really kind of a funny thing. If you really have style, you arenít even aware of it most likely. Style is something that radiates from within. Itís hard to force and itís something that takes years and years to develop. I personally donít think that I have style or my photos are very interesting at all. I often times want to shoot other things or pursue completely different aspects of photography.

So I do actually, take some time off and shoot completely different things in the summer time and fall and try to have some fun with it.

Photographers must continually re invent themselves and change styles to adapt to new environments and keep themselves in the game. If you only have one style and never change, you are going to be old news in 3 years, so itís best to be continually evolving.

Jay Michelfelder

Who are you?

Jay Michelfelder

What is your job description?

Photo editor and staff photographer for freeskier and ski time magazines

What do you do in your typical day of work?

Depends on the time of year. In the winter a typical day can include getting up to shoot at sunrise and then staying out all day in the backcountry shooting. Or maybe going out to shoot handrails at 10pm and staying out till 4 in the morning. My day can also include spending 8 to 16 hours on a plane, or maybe sitting in a hotel waiting for the weather to clear so we can go shoot. No day is ever the same as the one before.

The rest of the year I sit in an office and edit my own photos, as well as edit submissions from other photographers. I scan, color correct and sharpen photos that go in the magazine and just generally deal with office junk that takes up a lot of time.

How long have you been a photographer, and what kind of schooling did you go through?

About 6 years- I started just before I turned 18. I have BA in photography from Sacramento state.

Does a professional school help develop style in art?

It gives you a chance to experiment. You have all the tools you need at your disposal, but you don't have to worry about selling work. So yes, it gives you a chance to develop a style. I was freelancing ski and snowboard photography outside of school all though college, so school gave me a chance to focus on something besides action sports photography- mostly fine art photography. The fine art projects I did in school pushed my boundaries and had a huge influence on my style in ski and skate photography.

Has your past affected your present style in your art?

Yes. I started out shooting skateboarding (not skiing), and skateboard photography has had a bigger affect that anything else on my ski photography.

Does your personal life affect your style in your work?

Not with ski photography, but probably with the work I do for galleries, etc. on the side.

What is your preferred style of photography to practice?

Skateboarding or portraiture- with a medium format hasselblad camera and black and white film.

What's your advice to develop a unique style in art?

Look at what other people are doing and then do something different. Try and make your style unique so that you differentiate your work from everyone else's in your field. Itís OK to get ideas from other people's work (look at really famous, classic work), but push to create something different and better than what you borrowed your idea from. There are A LOT of photographers out there, so always try to set your work apart.

Did you have any inspirations to develop your style in your work? What were they?

I wanted to shoot ski photos that looked like skateboard photos. Thatís what's gotten me where I am today. Nobody else in skiing was using artificial light like skateboard photographers did. I made a conscious effort to shoot all my ski photos the same way I would if it were skateboarding. It made my work stands out from other ski photographers and got my work noticed very quickly.

Do you consider the "audience" when you shoot? How much do they affect your work?

No. I shoot how I want to, trusting that the audience will appreciate my view.

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about style in art?

Iíll reiterate: find your own style that sets your work apart. You can look at what people have done in the past- especially their style, and build off it. But work exceptionally hard to create something different that is uniquely your own. Once you have developed your own style, you won't need to borrow from others.


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