Story Untold: “It’s Not Easy to Survive on Passion”

Brittany Mumma has a thirst for adventure. A photographer, associate producer, and professional skier based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Alaska native has travelled across the world in search of stories to tell, from the slopes of Nepal to the couloirs of Greenland. Along the way, she has worked with some of the most prominent names in the outdoors, including Kit DesLauriers and Jimmy Chin.

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A self-professed skier since her earliest years, Mumma grew up in Eagle River, a “quaint little town” on the outskirts of Anchorage.

“I was out there every weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, as long as I can ever remember being on the hill,” the 30-year-old producer says. Winters were reserved for skiing; summers were spent running–a sport she was good enough at to earn a track and field scholarship at Boston College.

For someone who makes her living behind the lens, though, Mumma’s beginning was anything but conventional. While at Boston College, she double-majored in finance and marketing, intent on a career in professional sports marketing–a path that led to an internship with the Boston Red Sox. As her graduation approached, however, her thoughts began to wander far away from the Eastern seaboard.

“I started having all this internal struggle and turmoil, and I couldn’t really figure it out,” she says, “but I knew I missed skiing, and I knew I missed the mountains.”

“I started having all this internal struggle and turmoil, and I couldn’t really figure it out.” – Brittany Mumma

Four days later, Mumma made the move to Wyoming without knowing a soul in her adopted hometown.

That she ended up behind a camera at all is a more remarkable story. Thanks to her Alaskan roots and a chance discovery on Twitter, she was given an offer by the veteran filmmaker Dirk Collins, a fellow Alaska native himself: would she want to intern with him?

“I realized that I had an opportunity to not only ski every day, but also work in a world that would open the doors to travel and trying to make the world a better place through media,” says Mumma. “But I didn’t know anything about production, or cameras, or photographs, and I had to completely start from the beginning.”

Collins handed her a crop-sensor camera with a 50mm lens and told her to practise. In time, she began coordinating shoots and rose from intern to partner and producer.

“I didn’t know anything about production, or cameras, or photographs, and I had to completely start from the beginning.” – Brittany Mumma

“Working in this industry is a hustle. It’s a daily hustle,” says Mumma. “We work a lot of times in really remote locations, and so everybody [ends up] doing ten people’s jobs. You often have all sorts of different tasks, and everybody is helping each other out. Those are my favourite kinds of productions and shoots.”

Last fall, Mumma visited Nepal for a month-long shoot that took her to 18,000 feet, and later into the depths of the jungle.

“Every time you’d pick up your camera, there’d be so many flies that you’d put the camera up to your face, and there’d be flies crawling in my ears, and up my nose, and trying to get in my mouth,” she laughs. “You’d have millions on you in seconds.”

On another trip, she flew to Greenland with Chin and DesLauriers to put together the mini-film Avani Nuna.

“It’s kind of like the eighth continent,” she says. “The landscape is so dramatic — just huge couloirs and mountains jetting out of the ocean.”

It’s not always easy work, says Mumma. In 2016, she flew to Nairobi to document the country’s ivory burn, a demonstration against poaching.

“Being on the road a lot is really hard. It’s hard on your body; it’s hard on your relationships; it’s hard on your mind; it’s hard on everything.” – Brittany Mumma

“They burned 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and something like 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn,” she says. “It wasn’t until I got back to the hotel and started looking through my photos that I realized what I had just been a part of, and I cried my eyes out.”

Still, for the Alaska-raised photographer and athlete, it’s the chance to give a voice to the causes she’s passionate about that keeps her going:

“You’ll get those messages every now and then that make you realize, ‘okay, it’s worth it.’ Even if one person is like, ‘hey, that changed my outlook,’ or ‘that helped me in some way,’ it definitely means something.”

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