Feature Interview with South Korea's, Monthly Photography Magazine: June 2016 MP: Please introduce yourself and your creative identity. Tony: My name is Tony Czech. I’m a husband, father and adventure lifestyle photographer. My creative identity falls somewhere between artist, traveler and athlete. MP: When was the first time to shoot extreme sports and how was that? Tony: My career really began on the other side of the lens. Long before the idea of becoming a photographer ever crossed my mind, I was working with photographers as an athlete. Everyone that I worked with was passionate about their career, traveling and adventure. Those things all resonated with me so I picked up a camera and started shooting my own adventures. The transition to the other side of the lens as a career wasn’t something I’d really planned on. I was working at an advertising agency and the creative team was struggling to come up with a campaign idea for the North Face. I had an idea, shot it and showed the team the next day. They loved it and decided to build the entire campaign around my image. Then they hired a well known photographer in the industry and paid him a lot of money to finish the campaign. That was all the motivation I needed to walk away from my steady job and become a full-time photographer. When I found myself shooting my first big campaign, I was even more nervous than I would have been as an athlete. I knew the inherent dangers of the sport and I felt a sense of responsibility for the safety of the athletes but I also experienced the pressure of getting really good imagery under tight deadlines in extreme conditions. To this day, I still put the safety of the athletes before the shot. Risking someones life isn’t worth an advertisement or a story or anything. Shooting adventure and action sports will always be dangerous but I’ve come to terms with it and I think the energy of that risk keeps me on my game. MP: What is the creative process behind your works? (How do you find models and place to shoot? And so on...) Tony: There are two sides to that question. My creative side and the technical side. For creative, it’s loosely structured around inspiration. I love finding projects that allow me to immerse myself with what’s in front of the camera and get lost in the moment of shooting. That’s when I feel like I’m pushing myself and advancing creatively. I’m always collaborating on ideas for new projects with athletes, friends and brands. For the actual process of getting the shot, I’m way more structured. I really try to line up and lock down all of the variables to a project. Shooting action sports has a lot of variables with the biggest being the environment so I’ll spend hours if not days looking at forecasts and weather trends before choosing a location. Once I have a location, I try to find the right athlete to help me get the shot. I rarely, if ever, use models. If someone isn’t comfortable in the environment, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or experienced they are, it’s obvious they’re just posing. They don’t carry themselves as athletes, they don’t know the intricacies of the sport and that always translates into a fake image at the end of the day. From there, I start drilling down into the smaller details such as time of day for best light, travel logistics, gear, etc. Even then, sometimes the waves don’t come in because the storm didn't happen and we scrap the entire surf shoot and turn it into a skateboarding campaign. You have to be nimble and ready for anything. MP: What was the motivation of Kayaking Chiapas? Please explain about the work. Kayaking Chiapas looks cool, but it seems dangerous. Tony: All action sports have an inherent danger associate with them but with time and experience, the risk vs. reward level becomes more calculated and predicable so we’re able to judge how hard we want to push. Chiapas was the first location following Rafa Oritz as he prepared to kayak Niagara Falls for the film Chasing Niagara. The big unknown factor on this project was the location. The river was located in the heart of Zapatista Rebel Territory in Mexico. I’d heard stories about people being held hostage there and even worse but it was a story I wanted to shoot. After some careful negotiation we were granted limited access to film in the area. But even so, the tensions was thick and I didn’t overstay my welcome. MP: In your view, What is the attraction point of Kayaking? Tony: Everyone approaches the sport from a slightly different perspective. Some people just want to spend time outside with friends for a weekend while paddling easy rivers. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who get addicted to pushing their personal boundaries, this was me for a long time. Kayaking puts you in this place where all you’re focusing on is what’s in front of you, nothing else in the world matters or even crosses your mind. You have to be fully present. It’s my favorite place to be because it’s clarity, focus and adrenaline all at the same time. I imaging it’s better than any drug out there. Ultimately, I think we all end up on the river because we have a passion for the outdoors and a love for life. I guess it’s really just one way to celebrate and live life. MP: What is the most important elements of photography to make nice sports pictures? When do you shoot what do you consider most? Tony: The most important element is a unique perspective. It can't be taught and it’s the thing that makes you stop and look at an image. I always look for the storytelling elements too. If an image doesn’t tell a story it’s just another photo. Anyone can take a pretty picture but crafting a story in a single frame is an art form that few people can do and do well. I always try to shoot an image with depth an simplicity. Kind of like the great writers. They paint a clear picture without saying too much or giving too much away. I’m far from mastering this and I think very few photographers ever do master this but its part of what keeps me motivated to keep learning. MP: Do you enjoy extreme sports yourself? Tony: Yes, I love sports. Sports and the outdoors keep me balanced and inspired in life. If I’m not outside doing what I love my creative well dries up quickly. Most of my best work is the result of just being outside skiing, climbing or exploring. It’s hard for me to sit behind a computer and feel inspired to go shoot something but if I’m already outside and on the side of a mountain or in the ocean all I want to do is shoot. MP: What gear do you use to take extreme sports picture? And what was the reason to choose it? Tony: I’ve been a long time Canon shooter. As of recently, I’ve been shooting Prime lenses a lot and really loving the Zeiss Otus & Milvus lenses, they are a lot harder to shoot action sports because of the lack of auto focus but when you nail a shot it’s just so much cleaner than a zoom lens. For video, my go-to camera is the RED Dragon, it’s really hard to beat the image quality and durability of the camera for action sports. With that said I really see myself shooting smaller more powerful cameras in the future. When I’m out on an expedition or just working to keep up with athletes, backpack weight is everything and less is more. MP: What do you wish to communicate with your photographs? Tony: I’m still in a growth stage as a creative, I know where I want to be but I’m not there yet. I want to shoot images that help tell powerful stories, open close-minds and share my passion for the outdoors. I want my work to eventually say something that has a positive and lasting impact. However, I know that’s a lofty dream and achieving those things takes a lifetime dedicate to the craft. MP: Do you have any photographers or artists who admire? Tony: I really admire the older generation of photographers who dedicated their life to the art of photography, the ones who shot because they had something they needed to say and they were out there doing what they loved long before the advent of the internet, social media or likes. When you look back over old photo archives you can feel the depth and wisdom oozing out of the images. Today that seems rare. Maybe my generation of photographers, myself included, will figure that out with age. MP: What is your goal as a photographer? Thank you so much for your precious time~~ Tony: My goal is to never become content with my work, stay curious, stay passionate and always keep evolving. Thank you for interviewing me, it’s been an honor.