Becca Skinner is at the top of her game as an adventure photographer, conservationist and and National Geographic Explorer travelling the world. Niece of legendary climbers, and growing up in a family with deep roots for adventure which made a living a life of adventure outdoors seem the norm.
We speak with Becca from her farmstead in Bozeman, Montana where during the last year of limited travel she has been setting down roots.
What was it that first inspired you to get into adventure photography?
Really it’s conservation and adventure photography, as for me they are so closely intertwined.
I grew up in a family where my grandparents had a hunting and survival outfitters in Wyoming and then I have a series of professional athletes as family members, so it was pretty typical to me growing up to see people going on expeditions or travelling to other countries to go climbing, or skiing. Really that was my childhood, I grew up with photos of them as posters and inspiration so I always wanted to do something off the beaten path.
Quite an unusual childhood?
I don’t think I realised it was odd or out of the ordinary until I was about 13 and then I thought it was very uncool. But I came back around.
What was your first trip or photography project that inspired the marrying of conservation and photography?
When I was in my very early 20’s I was awarded a grant from National Geographic, through they’re Early Career Grant and it’s really meant to support someones first field outing. A colleague and myself had proposed a trip to Sumatra to document how they had recovered 7 years passed the tsunami. I was studying social work in college at the time so it felt like a natural use of photography to tell stories but also have this very intense social work where listening, empathy, asking questions were all so required to create an image.
It was a lot of pressure but a great opportunity and I felt that really forged my interest in story telling in general, especially through photography. Which has now branched into more conservation work, but thats what got me there.
What has been your most challenging or rewarding project to date?
The most challenging was an expedition for National Geographic for their television branch, we were trying to film coastal wolves off the coast of Vancouver and we lived in a tent for a month, just that and a wildlife blind every day. All day, every day sitting and waiting for something to come by.
How many days was it before you got the shot?
Well right after I left, the videographer I was with stayed and he captured the wolves, but I never got to see them. Which was incredibly disheartening, but really its part of putting time into the field.
It’s been now a year since I’ve flown which I haven’t done since I was 17 and so it felt tough at first to be in one place but now actually the most rewarding work is the work we’re doing on our property right now. Getting to document it and work on it every day wasn’t something I imagined I’d get to do. That feels like a long term project, we have nearly an acre of permaculture food forest so it’s a lot of love, labour and sweat trying to imagine what that could look like and what we can transform that into.
What do you think surprises people most about your work?
I’m a pretty careful shooter, I’m pretty selective and I know quickly when I’m not inspired so I think that carefulness isn’t something people are used to. It’s hard to force creativity when you feel like you’re squeezing it through a tube to produce on the other side, so I think thats surprising to a lot of people.
What would be your top 5 pieces of kit you would take anywhere with you?
- At least two layers at all times, a base layer and then a thin down layer. But it probably ends up as 3 or 4 pieces.
- A buff or neck gator.
- Snacks – I’m a snack-y person.
- My dog would be another piece of equipment I would take everywhere with me. She comes travelling with me and I wouldn’t be without her.
What does ‘live wild’ mean to you?
For me it means living so close to the land that your seeing yourself as an equal part of it. There’s not a power dynamic of being better or separate to nature.
Living in Montana we see elk, and bison, bald eagles those are part of our daily landscape. Getting to be so intrinsically tied to that daily reminder that we’re all just enjoying the same spot really feels true to me.
Images from @beccaskinner