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Photo credit: Ian Corless

Jordi Saragossa: Through the lens

12-Jan-15

Last updated: 04-Mar-16

By Ian Corless

In this modern day era of trail, mountain and ultra running, the need for information via Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums has become essential for the growth of our sport.

Photography, now more than ever is essential in providing an immediate connection with an audience. Of course, as a photographer this not only something I know about but is also something that I am extremely passionate about.

For years I have travelled the world documenting the action and on many an occasion I have been joined by Catalan photographer, Jordi Saragossa.

Jordi is someone who I respect immensely. In his late 20’s, Jordi has progressed through the running photography ranks in the last 4-years and has been employed by Salomon Running to document stories of their athletes in action.

I caught up with Jordi; as the 2014 season closed to find out just what it is like to live a life ‘Through the Lens.’

Interview

IC: Jordi you have followed the Skyrunning circuit for the past couple of years working for Salomon Running. You have a reputation for almost being Kilian’s personal photographer… a privileged position! Tell me how you got started?

JS: I think this came from traditional family things. My father liked photography, my brother also and when I was born my father took many pictures of me. We always have a camera with us. No matter where we go. So it was a natural progression that I followed my father. I took many photos to learn my craft and then I went to the mountains and I found a passion. I was 17-years old and I started to think that maybe photography would make a good living? I studied photography and it was here that I took images of football, basketball and other sports. But it was always the same… a stadium; a team of people and it was not inspiring for me. I already knew Kilian and I asked if I could do a report of him; pre race, during the race and post race. So I went to UTMB in 2010 with the whole Salomon Team. UTMB was cancelled and we went to Trofeo Kima. It was a crazy time, as you know, you need a helicopter at Kima so it was difficult for me. But in 2011, Salomon asked me to work with them and I suppose the rest is history… I feel very fortunate.

IC: You had proved yourself to Salomon that you could take good images and that you knew what you were doing. Let’s go back to college. Did you go to a university that specialized in photography?

JS: I did a 3-year course. I did the general course and it was adequate.

IC: Photography today is very popular because of the growth of digital cameras. Everyone thinks, ‘I am a photographer!’ However, there is a great difference between taking a photograph and making a stunning photograph. Do you feel that you have learnt that skill or do you think that it is within and you have nurtured it?

JS: I believe you are born with it. We all have one quality. The reason to exist is to find out what your quality is. For Kilian it is to run, for me it is photography. If you find what your quality is then you can explore it. This is the most important thing. If you find it, it makes ones life a wonderful thing.

IC: I agree, every person has one quality however I think Kilian has more than one…

JS: Yes, he takes good photos too!

IC: And skier, climber and mountaineer.

JS: Yes, yes.

IC: Yes, Kilian is taking photos but we both agree they are not very good.

JS: Oh yes, they are so bad!

IC: Yes, terrible!

(Joint laughter)

IC: Your career has grown inline with Kilian and Salomon. Do you feel privileged to have been part of that process? You have had some great opportunities, for example the ‘family’ time with Salomon. Do you ever feel that you are an intruder (a voyeur)?

JS: No. I integrate with everyone and I feel relaxed. Just like my own real family, I am there and we all get on. This is the same in the Salomon family.

IC: It feels natural?

JS: Yes and the runners don’t see me as a photographer, they see me as a friend and that makes it so much easier.

IC: Lets talk about the photography side. Inevitably people will be interested in equipment even though we may not find it that interesting. What advice would you give to budding photographers; what key essential things do you think they need?

JS: For me, the most important thing is good waterproof and warm clothes. We spend so much time outside in the mountains. We can be cold, wet and uncomfortable. The photography equipment is obviously integral to what we do but there is so much good equipment available today that it all comes down to personal preferences and budget. I use Canon and I love to use a fixed lens at the moment… for example 35mm and 20mm lens. But really it is not important. What is important is what is behind the camera. You must enjoy the moment. We have a responsibility to transmit the moment to the people via images.

IC: Fixed lenses require confidence and experience. These days we see so many long zoom lenses, they can maybe make things too easy?

JS: This is not good because it stops the photographer thinking.

IC: Yes, I agree. A zoom lens lacks a commitment. Whereas a fixed length lens requires a commitment, a thought process and decision-making process to capture a great shot. I think for both of us, we have already decided on what the photograph will look like before we take it. We don’t wait for the moment; we almost try to influence it!

JS: Yes I agree. But I think we have both changed our decisions within minutes of the action happening and then we need to be experienced and use all our skills to capture the moment. This is a great adrenaline buzz. I did this at Limone for the VK. I changed my position just a minute before Kilian arrived, it added some stress but I got the shot.

IC: Yes, we often wait for 2-hours and then 5-minutes before the runners come we change our minds.

JS: Yes, it’s crazy.

IC: We normally only get one chance too!

JS: For sure, you can’t say, ‘Kilian, can you come back and do that again!’

IC: You have created a distinctive look with your images. We all create a style. How important is that for you and how much did you work to create that look?

JS: I have worked with Salomon for 4-years and I have changed my style as time has passed. My UTMB photos are very different to what I do now. My style is to use a fixed lens and be close to the action. This is about enjoying the moment. Once I have taken the images I apply certain edit styles in Photoshop later. So like you, we all have a look, a style that distinguishes us.

IC: So much of what we do is about the landscape so we shoot using wide lenses.

JS: Yes, we always place emphasis on the runner. We place the runner within the environment and that is so important.

IC: In 4-years with Salomon, obviously you have a strong relationship with Kilian but you have photographed all the Salomon runners. You have been to all the big races, so, can you give me 3 favourite moments?

JS: In my first race with Salomon, 2011, working with Kilian at UTMB. Three days before the race I had all my camera equipment stolen. I had to work with my father’s camera. It’s not the best camera and I remember Kilian was really strong. It was easy to take photos of him because he was looking so good. Every time I saw him, he would look at me and almost ask where I wanted him to run. So he would change direction and give me the best shot based on where I waved via hand signals. Incredible!

My favourite moments are often with Kilian as we are friends. I often stay with him; we are both Catalan so it is easy.

At Transvulcania this year we had a funny moment pre race. Breakfast is too early… One of the Salomon staff made coffee with the coffee machine. He hadn’t used it before. When I walked in I was asked to check the machine. He had made coffee with no coffee! We just had a glass jar with hot water and the coffee was all in the wrong place. Kilian arrived and of course we were pressed for time. We just laughed, what else could you do.

Third was Hardrock 100 this year. One week with Kilian and of course I ended up with altitude sickness. It was crazy. Everyday I was in the mountains. I took photographs while Kilian trained. I ended up in hospital after not feeling very well.

IC: So many great moments. 2014 is over and Kilian is Skyrunner World Series champion in VK, SKY and ULTRA. He has the record on Matterhorn, Denali, Aconcagua and he is a Skimo champion. I feel privileged to have documented the ‘Kilian years’ as a photographer. How do you feel to have been so close to this special moment in time?

JS: I always think on this. I am only 26-years old. I have had so many moments that I can look back on and think, ‘I was there. I was the photographer of Kilian. He was the best one.’ That makes me very proud. I have been so close to all these special moments. My time at Hardrock, on top of mountains, sharing trails is so very special. It is a real honour. It’s possible to spend a lifetime to find these moments; to have them is very special.

IC: With that in mind, nothing is permanent, nothing is guaranteed; we both have to work hard to ensure that we do our jobs well. Where do you see yourself in the future, do you think things will change for you?

JS: I don’t think too much to the future. I am here now, I know this is a good moment and I prefer to enjoy it. I don’t think 2-years ahead but I know that this will not be all my life. I love what I do but things will change. It’s the nature of things and I always want to do what I love. For example, Kilian is changing and he is searching for new things.

IC: I have often said that when we talk about Kilian that he is so much older than 27-years because he has done so much. He is still so young as you are. I asked before about favourite moments, what about races?

JS: Kima, Trofeo Kima is so special. I think it is very special for both of us?

IC: Oh yes, for sure.

JS: Kima is so exciting. Kima is technical, great views, we have the helicopter and it is just incredible. Hardrock too was great but for many different reasons. It was a new landscape, it had altitude and of course it was a new country for me. It was made extra special with Kilian’s performance. The third?

IC: Yes, a tough one. I could have predicted Kima and Hardrock.

JS: Zegama. Zegama has the history and the people.

IC: I still think back to your photos from Zegama in 2012. They were a great set of pictures. The weather was awful, conditions were terrible and you had those finish lines pictures of Joe Grant, Anton Krupicka and so on. There was something in those photographs I loved! I looked and thought… I don’t like Jordi Saragossa. (Laughter)

JS: Zegama was my 2nd race with Salomon. It was a great opportunity to prove myself and confirm that I could do the job they wanted!

IC: One thing is guaranteed, if you are not doing the work, then someone else will.

JS: Every race you need to be on top form. That is what is great about what we do. We must always produce the goods. I did this this year at Hardrock and Speedgoat; I think I moved up a level this year!

IC: You did Jordi, you always do a great job and I look forward to sharing those trails and capturing the emotions in 2015.

JS: See you in 2015!

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LINKS

Jordi Saragossa here.
Salomon Running here.
Kilian Jornet here.

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