What makes the difference by Philipp Schuster for Red Bull Photography
release April 14th 2016 on www.redbullphotography.com/news/
There are those rare key moments in life that change everything. Those situations that make us see things clearer and without distraction, that help to choose the next steps with an unusual certainty. I experienced one of those instants of clarity during a shoot with photographer Rutger Pauw around ten years ago – it was my first photo shoot as a Red Bull skateboarder.
I was young and inexperienced and to be honest, I had a hard time believing that a non skateboarder could produce a proper skate action shot. At that time I was already serious about shooting photos, but it was a common thing that the skaters would want to keep the images to themselves. On the one hand this helped to bring the general skills of freezing complex skateboard action to a new level of perfection, but on the other hand there were only a few exchanges with other photography fields. It was this point that made skate photography somewhat flat and the broader public had difficulties to understand its real essence.
What happened that day is that for the fist time I was confronted with a very special type of passionate professional. Back then I didn’t even know Rutgers portfolio, but he got me hyped for this shoot just by interacting, asking questions and building up trust. I had the feeling that Rutger was very curious about my sport and my pretty specific world and wanted to dive deep into my personality. Of course this made me curious about Rutger and his work too: I started firing questions about technical details every time we checked an image and we ended up discussing every scene and every picture like two crazy nerds.
This shoot was characterized by refreshing team work: Rutger wasn’t afraid of admitting his uncertainty about some tricks, but at the same time he proposed ideas and concepts that fired my imagination to try something new.
On a professional level being good in what you do is a basic requirement, but it’s the ability to fine-tune certain parameters to carve out the potential of both worlds and combine them to create something special that really counts. Action shots are teamwork: there is no photo without an athlete and no photo without a photographer. This personal relationship can be a very delicate matter – it is the crucial factor that makes the difference between success and disappointment. Social skills like empathy, trust and enthusiasm are the key – the better we understand each other, the better we’ll be able to translate the subtle signature from both worlds into one visual concept that distinguishes an outstanding shot.
That day with Rutger changed my general approach in my role as a skateboarder and a photographer. His impartiality and humbleness impressed me: he broke down my shell and turned my tunnel vision into a 360° view. Up until now I often think back to that day and see it as a reference point concerning the symbioses between athlete and photographer, or photographer and athlete, depending in what role I slip into.
We contacted Rutger who had the below to say about Philipp's piece:
"After nearly ten years and countless shoots later, I still remember our first Vienna adventure very well. Sometimes you meet ‘athletes’ that have a drive to get everything right. Not just their tricks or style, but also the way they are portrayed to the outside world. There is a fine line between right or wrong, and I’ve always found it’s the photographers job to mainly listen to the expert on the subject, in this case Phillipp.
He knew what he wanted, so all I needed to do was add my photography style to it, and time flew by; 16 hours later we finally called it a day. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?"