As one of the adventure world's boldest and most creative photographers, Krystle Wright knows a thing or two about how taking a risk can pay off.
Krystle Wright is the living definition of having a dream job. While others are switching on computers, filling in budget spreadsheets and sitting in mind-numbing meetings, she’s dangling out of helicopters, hanging cliffside in harnesses and peering down from the edge of a ski slope – all while balancing a camera. Adventure photography wasn’t always the plan though. After finishing high school on the Sunshine Coast, she was at a loss at what to study, and took a gamble on a photography course after a suggestion from her mother.
“At first I was like, well how the hell do you make a living as a photographer?” she said, talking to Outdoor over the phone from one of her ‘bases’ in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“But I didn’t really have any other options going for me...I figured why not?”
To say it was the right move is an understatement. She established her name shooting adventure sports in Sydney for The Sunday Telegraph and AFP, but bigger things were around the corner.
A serious accident in Pakistan while paragliding on a shoot was the “catalyst” for Krystle to make some changes in her life.
‘I recognised I was not happy in Sydney anymore and I wasn’t happy working for the paper...” she said.
“There was no opportunity until I had this phone call out of the blue through friends and they were like, ‘hey do you want to come and work in Antarctica?’”
It was the escape and the push she needed.
“From there it was like – alright this is now or never, I’m going to see if I can make this work as an adventure photographer.”
As you may have guessed, she did make it work, but it wasn’t something that had to be forced.
“I simply just followed the path,” she said.
“I didn’t think too much about the long term goal. I mean, for sure I’m a very driven person...once it started to click into place, I just knew I wanted to pursue this.”
To get an idea of just how driven she is, check out the short film The Mysteries directed by Skip Armstrong. It takes a look at the lengths Krystle went to capture a birds eye view shot of BASE jumpers, an image that came to her in a dream, and one that took four and a half years of failed attempts to achieve. Where many others would have given up, Krystle’s determination to share her vision pushed her to keep going.
“Ultimately rather than being a photographer...I want to become a great storyteller.”
This also extends to her making her own films.
“Photography will always be my first love, but as an artist, I believe it’s important to take on new challenges, and for me, that happens to be taking on film projects,” she said.
Her four minute short film Where the Wild Things Play caused a stir this year, being selected as a finalist for the renowned 2017 Banff Mountain Film Competition. It’s equal parts kick arse and tongue in cheek, and takes a look at the ever present question of where the women are in the outdoor adventure field. The answer? Carving it up of course. It’s set to the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket by 1990s band Cake, and even includes a shot of a white Chrysler LeBaron, a cheeky nod to the song’s lyrics.
“The project took far longer than it should’ve as I never really planned out shoots or locations,” Krystle said.
“I was also weaving it among other projects and it took over a year to finally get enough shots and complete the editing and music negotiations.”
When quizzed on her favourite thrill-seeking women, Krystle fires off names at a rapid pace.
“There are many female athletes who are crushing it...I could list names all day,” she said.
“So to those who think there aren’t many female athletes, they are poorly informed of the great diversity we have out there ripping it up in the back country.”
ON THE FRONTLINE
You can count her among those women “ripping it up” too. She easily lists her favourite adventure sports, and laughs about her inability to travel light “because I am always wanting to play somewhere”.
“I love to free dive, I love to ski, I love to climb and I want to finally pick up solo paragliding next year,” she said.
“I love to participate in the sports that I’m in because that’s why I do it. I think it’s really important to have that connection with the sport because ultimately, one needs to understand the sport to shoot it. And then know how to keep safe.”
Knowing how to keep safe means knowing how to work with fear – something Krystle says is “a massive part of her life” and something she is not immune to.
“When I’m standing on the edge of a cliff or I’m at the top of a very steep ski run oh for sure, my heart is racing!” she said.
“I know that fear is a great thing... because if I don’t have that fear and I’m complacent then that is a very dangerous place to be.”
Participating in various sports herself, Krystle is also passionate about protecting the outdoor environments that are so popular.
“Here in the states and I’m sure in parts of Australia too, there’s a lot more traffic in certain places...particularly when it offers a social media opportunity,” she said.
“I mean, a classic example would be Yosemite... I feel like to get off the beaten path, it really isn’t that hard, it takes tenacity and initiative... I know there’s a lot of national parks that talk about how we can handle more traffic, how can we control this?
“I think these are great discussions to have... I wish more people would create that connection to nature.”
THE NEXT ADVENTURE
As we speak, Krystle is preparing to head to Portland, Oregon, then on to Brazil, back to the USA desert, and then to Antarctica. It’s a transient lifestyle she leads, and one that means she doesn’t really have a “home”.
“I have bases (Salt Lake City, Utah and Queensland’s Sunshine Coast) because that’s where my stuff is, but I haven’t paid rent in six years, ever since I left Sydney,” she said.
“People are envious of my lifestyle … but there are realities that people don’t consider.
“It’s very hard for me to find my own space … I’m constantly working just to make sure I have income. Having the luxury of flexibility comes with pros and cons.”
But the pros list is long, and although she’s produced some breathtaking work during her career, Krystle says she’s always adding to her bucket list.
“I list a location, then I think of another one, and then I have a list of 20 places to go,” she laughed.
“I will admit that I am being a little tight lipped just because I have a few projects coming up.”
Wherever she goes next, it’s certain she’ll capture the magic in her own unique way.
“I guess some of my favourite shots are the ones that seem the most simplified, because to catch the moments that seem simple, these are some of the hardest to search for,” she said.
“I love the moments where I have no control over them.”
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