Isabelle's

Perspective

Fresh POW, a grandfather's camera collection, lucille the 4runner, and more as we sit down with skier and photographer isabelle lamotte.

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Part I: The Warm Up

 

 

Introductions

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Stoke

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Loving Nature

 

 
 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? How do you feel your upbringing has shaped you into the person you are today?

I was raised in the Catskill Mountains of New York and educated in the Green Mountains of Vermont. When thinking of both of these places, the first things that come to mind are outdoor spaces - green and mountainous with a body of water nearby. Growing up I spent a lot of my time outside. By far, my biggest connection to the outdoor space came from skiing.

My parents like to say they introduced me to skiing before I was even born - that’s right, my pregnant mama was tearing up the slopes with me in her belly! I started actually skiing on my own when I was three years old, and by the time I graduated high school I was on snow five days a week.  Skiing is how my family spends most of our time together, which makes sense seeing as that’s how my parents met - at a ski camp when they were fourteen years old. The sport has shaped most of my life decisions. I started ski racing when I was twelve so that I could get more time on the hill, I went to college at the University of Vermont because I knew I could find good east coast skiing there, and after graduating I moved out west to play in even bigger mountains.

Can you trace your passion for the outdoors back to one particular moment or trip? If not, how did your passion come to be?

I can’t trace my passion for the outdoors back to one particular moment, but when I try to answer this question I think of one particular space - a certain cluster of rocks. My family lived in the same house from when I was four years old until I was twenty-one. On the edge of our yard, down a steep, metal staircase, flowed the Esopus Creek. This creek was a playground for my brother and me. We explored its banks and cooled off in its waters during hot summer days. To the right of the stairs, on the river’s edge was what we called The Big Rocks. It was here that I think I first learned to respect the power of nature. When we were younger my dad would have to lift us onto the rocks, but as we grew older we gained the height and strength to do it ourselves. No matter what age we were, the fallen tree crossing to the rocks was a reminder of the river’s power. After my parents moved, my brother and I got matching tattoos of these rocks - the place that taught us to respect the world around us.

What gets you stoked in life?

Being outside, living on the road, taking pictures, making films, having meaningful conversation, jumping in ice cold water on a hot summer day, getting face shots on a powder day, being with friends around a campfire, making a difference one way or another. Anything that makes the most of the time I have on this green & blue marble.

What do you enjoy about the outdoors and the natural world?

This is a long list. But to keep it short and sweet - I love the outdoors because it’s a space where I can 100% be myself. I am in my most raw and natural form when I am outside. There are no societal limitations or judgements. I hope that everyone can feel this when they spent time outside.

Describe your ideal day out in the wilderness. Who are you with and where?

My gut reaction is to say somewhere with trees & mountains but there is nothing quite like exploring new landscapes. As long as I’m outside I’m happy. And if I get to share the experience with a friend or two that’s an added bonus.

 

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Part II: Creating Art

 

 

Photography

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Understanding Art

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Inspiration

 

 
 

How did you get exposed to photography and videography? Did any particular role models influence you along the way?

I was first introduced to the art of photography when I was twelve years old. My grandfather passed away, and I inherited his collection of 35mm Olympus cameras. Taking photos started as a fun thing to do, but I quickly became obsessed with the eager waiting process that comes with film photography.  I got my first digital camera when I was fifteen and haven’t been able to put a camera down since. My senior year of high school I took a filmmaking class and since then have been simultaneously developing my photography and videography styles.

I am continuously inspired by artists that surround me and that I follow online. I have wanted to be a photographer since I was twelve, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I really started taking that career path seriously.

My biggest direct role models during that time, the folks that made me feel like I could make this dream a reality, were Maxwell Santeusanio, Tyler & Elliot Wilkinson-Ray, and my partner at the time, Micah Berman. Each of them played a role in helping me have confidence in my work & showing me that this was an attainable career path.

This winter I found another batch of inspiring folks: Lisa Slagle, Re Wikstrom, & Abby Cooper are all professionals in their fields. I took a photography workshop with all three of them. As a woman it was a really important experience for me to see other women succeeding in the field that I am working to break into.

A big thank you to every name listed above, you guys influenced me more than you may ever know.

What is art to you? How have past journeys influenced your experimentation with different styles?

Art comes in so many forms, I don’t think it’s possible to attach a definition to it. I think overall art is a deep form of self expression. Producing art and then releasing it for the world to see is one of the most vulnerable places a person can put themselves. For me it’s a release, a way I see the world, a means by which I tell my story. I believe that everything we do in life and every person we come into contact with influences our journey. Each photo I take adds to my ever-growing journey.

What is it like balancing a love of skiing with a love of photography? Are there ever moments when you’re shooting someone else where you wish you had your skis on with no camera in hand? How about the other way around?

Mostly it’s the other way around. Being the photographer I often get to be the first one down the hill (if that’s the angle I’m looking for) so I get to skirt some good snow on the side. When I’m most kicking myself is when I’m skiing sans camera and see a good shot.

How does where you live inspire your work?

Right now I’m living on the road out of my 2003 Toyota 4Runner named Lucille. She’s a total babe. This lifestyle allows me to see a lot of different places and spend good quality time taking photographs. Living in a car forces you to spend more time outside so I have been shooting more golden hour than ever before - the obsession with light is real.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m drawn to mountains so that is where I spend most of my time. The drama of their landscapes, no matter the season, inspires me most. But, being on the road has allowed me to experience other landscapes more intimately as well such as the desert and ocean.

What does telling the story of others through documentaries mean to you? 

My desire to make documentary films was a natural progression from photography - still images to moving images. I really enjoy showcasing real stories and engaging with a variety of people. When making a documentary, it’s really important to me that the characters in my films tell their own stories, use their own voices. I don’t want to tell their stories for them, that is not my place. Instead I want to create a platform for them to share their world with us. The human side of film work is what attracts me most. I love connecting with people, both personally and professionally.

What are some of the projects you’ve been working on recently? How about some of your past favorites?

Recently I’ve been focusing on taking photos for myself. I actually just started selling my prints which has been a goal of mine for awhile. I am also doing video editing work for a Utah-based organization right now which provides a more steady income while working remotely.

My favorite project of the past was a film that I worked on with Micah Berman titled Last Tracks. It’s the longest film I have made and combined three of my biggest passions in life - skiing, the fight against climate change, and filmmaking. We used skiing to talk about the big issue of climate change and bring it home to a very niche community to show them how this grand-scale change will affect them directly. Plus I got to shoot the project with a bunch of my friends, doesn’t get much better than that.

 

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Part III: Inspiring Change

 

 

Working towards gender equality

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Mountain Film

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Lessons Learned

 

 
 

You participated in Wheelhouse Workshops, a space that is helping to increase the influence of women in outdoor adventure media. As an adventure media creator, what were your takeaways from your experiences with fellow peers?

Wheelhouse was the first workshop of its kind that I’ve seen. Lisa Slagle from Wheelie Creative brought a group of a dozen women together to learn from two of the best photographers in the field. As a woman who has a lot of male role models when it comes to imagery, it was so important for me to see women in my trade standing in the shoes I’m working to wear. The workshop consisted of a full day of shooting at Snowbird, a full day of editing, and then a photo gallery where we showcased our favorite prints. Spending two full days with women who wanted nothing more than to hone their skills and push each other along the way was more than inspirational. I hope to see these workshops continue and that it leads to further diversification of the outdoor industry.

How can individuals within the outdoor industry help to better create awareness around this subject to open up the diversity of stories told within this realm?

Like the rest of society, the outdoor industry has a long way to go when it comes to equality. On the most basic level, we all need to build each other up and stop being surprised when a woman is good at something. So often I watch ski movies and my peers make comments along the lines of “wow, that girl rips!” We need to ask ourselves if we’d be saying that if we were watching a male on screen. And it’s not just gender equality we need to be striving toward. We need to create a platform where individuals from any background feel they can be active participants in the outdoor industry. Creating platforms for everyone to learn and develop skills is key to community growth. There’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than together, let’s normalize the notion that everyone who wishes to be outdoors belongs there.

Have there been any particularly difficult trips or projects that have taught you valuable lessons? How do you feel they’ve helped you grow while also showing off your talents?

I spent fall of 2017 working on Glen Canyon Rediscovered, a documentary that looked at the present state of Lake Powell and western water issues. I learned so much from being in that part of the country and got to work with some pretty incredible folks but one part of the trip definitely tested my limits. The short version of the story is that during our first leg I burned my foot while cooking dinner at camp on day 6 of a 9 day stint. I found out after we got back to town that I had second degree burns and had to go home to VT to heal up. I was devastated but it was a good reminder that life is hard to plan & when a challenge comes your way you have to reorganize and things will fall into place. It was more of a mental test than a test of my photography skills, but I definitely learned a lot about the uncertainties of expedition-based projects.

You recently spoke at Mountainfilm for Glen Canyon Rediscovered. What was that experience like, and how do you feel an event like that inspires people?

Being at Mountainfilm was a truly incredible experience. The collision of the outdoor and artistic community is a really special space. The whole place was buzzing with an inexplicable energy. I was able to see the work of folks I’ve looked up to for years. I think being among peers, and especially people who care deeply about this world, is the most inspirational place a person can be. I think having a space like that for people to share their work, keeps the work flowing. I know that I personally was inspired to find my next story and then the story after that. Art is vital and bringing artists together fuels growth on so many levels.

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Part IV: Finale Fire Round

 

 

Necessary Ramblings

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Isabelle's Kit

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Where to find her

 

 
 

Ocean or mountains?

Mountains, hands down

What is your favorite camera kit to shoot with?

Fujifilm X-T2 camera body

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens

Fujinon XF Telephoto 50‑140mm f/2.8 Lens

Hunter or gatherer?

Gatherer

Where are your favorite local places to shoot?

I was based out of Salt Lake this past winter and absolutely loved shooting skiing at Alta

Where is Your Goodland? Why?

I have always talked about the feeling I get in my chest when I feel inspired. It’s hard to explain it with words, but I can say that it feels as though my chest is expanding. I’d say that my Goodland is wherever/whenever I feel that sensation.

Where can we find more of your work?

You can find more of my work and buy prints on my website and my Instagram is @izmottephoto 

Thank you, Isabelle! We're stoked for more.

Thank you for making me think and reflect. See you outdoors somewhere real soon!