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Story Untold: “You Never Know When Your Chance is There”

Story Untold with Issey Nakajima-Farran

Issey Nakajima-Farran has more than a few stories to tell. Such things tend to happen when one spends a career chasing a soccer ball around the globe. From the time he was three, the 34-year-old winger for Pacific FC has moved to Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Denmark, Australia, Cyprus, Spain, and Malaysia. To hear Nakajima-Farran tell it, he’s ready to make Vancouver Island a longer stay.

“I really want to make this my last stop,” the Calgary-born Japanese-Canadian says. “I fell in love with this island — I’ve been telling everyone that asks me.”

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Born to a Japanese mother and English-Zimbabwean father, Nakajima-Farran moved with his family to Tokyo at the age of three, where he fell in love with soccer watching Verdy Kawasaki and his favourite player, Kazuyoshi “Kazu” Miura.

“I really want to make this my last stop. I fell in love with this island — I’ve been telling everyone that asks me.” – Issey Nakajima-Farran

“Back then, it was the biggest club in J.League. All the national players were playing at that team,” says Nakajima-Farran.

The first Japanese player to earn the Asian Footballer of the Year award, Kazu became the sport’s biggest star in Japan, winning four consecutive league titles.

“He’s still playing, which is incredible,” says Nakajima-Farran. “The guy’s like fifty-something in J.League. He only plays like fifteen minutes, but he does a couple stepovers, and basically all of Japan just loves it.”

At ten, Nakajima-Farran and his family moved to England. His parents sold the move as an opportunity to develop as a soccer player, and the Calgary native joined Crystal Palace’s youth team.

“The training at Crystal Palace took us an hour and twenty minutes, hour and a half, just to get to training, and [my dad] would be the one driving me three, four times a week,” says Nakajima-Farran.

At 16, he was faced with a choice: stay on at Crystal Palace and drop out of school to train in hopes of making the pro team, or return to Japan to play and further his studies. He left for Tokyo, where the reception from his new coach was frosty.

“He always said to me, ‘Foreigner, go home.’It always got to me, because it was such a racist comment, and they never saw me as a true Japanese,” says Nakajima-Farran. “It gave me all the motivation I needed to play now … because it was all about me proving him wrong. It’s always been because of that.”

“He always said to me, ‘Foreigner, go home.’ … It gave me all the motivation I needed to play now … because it was all about me proving him wrong.” – Issey Nakajima-Farran

In 2004, he debuted for Albirex Niigata’s Singaporean club and scored 26 goals in 45 appearances. The next year, he earned a spot on Singapore’s Under-23 national team, where he scored twice against Japan. The performances were good enough to land Nakajima-Farran in Denmark for his next stint, where he helped Vejle BK to a championship and promotion to the Superliga.

At 22, Nakajima-Farran made his debut for Team Canada against Hungary.

“[My parents] took my bedsheets, spray-painted a Canadian flag, and I think they were the only Canadian fans in Hungary,” he laughs.

Since then, the Calgary native has earned 40 caps for Canada, playing against the likes of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. (“I remember James [Rodriguez] was standing in front of me, so I tugged his shirt, and he gave me a look,” Nakajima-Farran laughs.) Along the way, Nakajima-Farran played alongside current Pacific FC teammate Marcel de Jong, as well as co-owners Josh Simpson and Rob Friend.

After Denmark, Nakajima-Farran left for Australia, where he helped Brisbane Roar FC to a record-setting 36-game unbeaten streak and the A-League Championship. He also survived a close call or two with a kangaroo.

“[My parents] took my bedsheets, spray-painted a Canadian flag, and I think they were the only Canadian fans in Hungary.” – Issey Nakajima-Farran

“I didn’t realize how dangerous they were, so I stopped and got out of the car — literally two metres away, trying to take a photo,” says Nakajima-Farran. “This kangaroo was bigger than me … [My teammates] were like, ‘You’re an idiot. These things will slice you open.’”

Later, he played in Cyprus, before brief runs with Toronto FC and Montreal Impact. It was Friend, says Nakajima-Farran, who approached him about the idea of joining Pacific FC after his latest stint in Malaysia.

“Rob reached out to me last year … and I thought it was a great concept of having our own league,” he says. “That’s what we’ve always wanted as Canadian players.”

At 34, Nakajima-Farran is the oldest player on a Canadian Premier League roster, but he’s excited for the season ahead — and for the game he’s still got left in him.

“Any five-percent tip that I can give [younger players], if I can help them just a sliver to be a better player, it’s nice to be appreciated in that tiny way,” he says. “I still feel too good to quit. I love the game too much to say goodbye to it … I want to keep that going for a few more years.


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Story Untold: “As Long As There Is Racism In Canada, I Want This Project to Keep Going”

Story Untold with Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith is the Victoria-based photographer behind the Profiling Black Excellence project. Photo credit: Nathan Smith.

Nathan Smith is used to being profiled. A Jamaican-Canadian photographer from Victoria, British Columbia, he figured he’d harness the racism he’s experienced as a person of colour in Canada and put it on full display. So began his latest creative work, Profiling Black Excellence, a photo project exploring the experiences of racial profiling felt by people of colour in Victoria and Vancouver.

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“I’ve had one gentleman refer to me as a ‘thing’ to somebody else right in front of me, as if I wasn’t standing there. I’ve had people touching my hair without asking, people saying the n-word around me,” says the 27-year-old. “In a lot of cases, whenever you have folks sharing these experiences — people of colour sharing these experiences — very frequently, they’re met with, ‘Well, I’m sure that this was just an isolated incident; it was a one-time thing,’ or ‘Are you really sure that it was about race?’ But as a person of colour, when it is about race, you can tell.”

For Smith, the idea for the photo project came from an incident in late December of 2017, when he was walking home from a night out with friends.

“I’ve had one gentleman refer to me as a ‘thing’ to somebody else right in front of me, as if I wasn’t standing there. I’ve had people touching my hair without asking, people saying the n-word around me.” – Nathan Smith

“There was a couple in front of me, and they had actually stepped off from the side road and went into my pathway,” he says. “For the entire time that I was behind them, they would continuously turn around and look at me, and then walk faster — to the point where they ended up jaywalking across two main streets in downtown Victoria.”

Unnerved by the incident, he went home and set up his camera for a series of self-portraits — “to kinda just show myself that I’m not a scary person; I’m not anyone to be afraid of,” he says. Smith planned to share the photos on Instagram, but paused for a moment when a thought came: “I wonder how many other people that has happened to.

Smith made a habit of asking other people of colour when he ran into them on the street: had they experienced the same things before? It didn’t take long for an answer. The first time, it was when a fellow young man named Parker stopped to pet his dogs outside.

“His response was, ‘My man, of course.’ And that’s kind of how it started,” says Smith.

A landscape photographer by nature, he began taking portraits of the people he met, selecting quotes from their conversations to share online.

“The main thing I was trying to do was just relay that the people in the project are real people, and they’re regular people,” he says. “They have feelings, they have emotions, and they just want to live.”

For Smith, the portraits provided the perfect medium: a way to tap into his subjects’ humanity and put their stories into the spotlight.

“The main thing I was trying to do was just relay that the people in the project are real people, and they’re regular people. They have feelings, they have emotions, and they just want to live.” – Nathan Smith

“It’s very hard to distance yourself from it when you’re looking at them,” he says.

Eventually, Smith started approaching galleries in Victoria about putting together an exhibition. The first few didn’t respond, but before long, he met Alison Trembath at the Fortune Gallery.

“I said, ‘What about February for Black History Month?’ And she was like, ‘You know what? I love it. Let’s do it.’ So we booked it right then and there,” Smith recalls.

The gallery exhibition has come to a close, but Smith is determined to keep the project going online — and perhaps pursue another gallery space in the next year:

“As long as there is racism in Canada, I want this project to keep going.”


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Story Untold: “Climbing Is in Such a Different Place Now”

Story Untold with Shelma Jun

Shelma Jun is changing the sport of climbing. Photo by Irene Yee.

Shelma Jun is, by most metrics, an unlikely face for the sport of climbing. A late arrival to the scene — she didn’t begin until her mid-twenties — she lives in New York City, about as far-removed a place from Yosemite and Joshua Tree as they come. Which is kind of the point. A Korean-American born in Seoul, the Brooklyn-based climber is leading the way as an advocate for changing the way we view the outdoors: making sure, among other things, women and people of colour are given a greater voice.

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The creator of Flash Foxy — an online platform to “celebrate women climbing with women” — Jun co-founded the Women’s Climbing Festival in 2016 and was listed by Outside magazine as one of the 40 women who have made the biggest impact in the outdoor industry.

A remarkable feat, given climbing was a backup plan.

A longtime Californian, Jun’s family arrived in Fullerton when she was five. A middle child, she grew up involved in competitive swimming and water polo.

“My family was always really into the outdoors, and if you’ve ever seen photos of Korea, it’s an incredibly lush, mountainous region … so that was kind of already seeded into my childhood,” she says.

As she grew older, she learned surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding — the latter of which led to her switch into climbing. At UCLA, she arranged her class schedules to run Tuesday through Thursday so she could make trips to Mammoth Mountain.

“The climbing community in New York City is incredibly specialI think you get a diversity that you might not find in other places.” – Shelma Jun

“The very first day of snowboarding season, I broke my arm in half … and I was told not to do anything where I could fall onto my shoulder for at least two years,” Jun says. “A girlfriend of mine invited me to go to the climbing gym. She was like, ‘Hey, if you want to do top-rope at the climbing gym, if you do fall, you only fall one or two inches of rope stretch.’”

When Jun made the move to New York in 2011, she decided to get into the sport.

“It seemed like a perfect time to explore something,” she says. “The climbing community in New York City is incredibly specialI think you get a diversity that you might not find in other places.”

In time, Jun made a group of women climbing friends and began planning weekend trips to The Gunks (short for Shawangunk Ridge), or afternoon sessions at Brooklyn Boulders. She started documenting the trips on Instagram, and the attention grew. Flash Foxy was born.

“Women kept writing us and asking if I knew ways for them to meet other women … wanting to connect, wanting to get out, wanting to learn a new way of climbing … and I kind of looked around and tried to see if there was anything I could direct them to, and there wasn’t really anything like that at that time,” she says.

“I think we can change [the sport] to be a better reflection of all of us that now exist in climbing.” – Shelma Jun

Two years after creating Flash Foxy, Jun planned the first Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop, California.

“I thought it was going to be maybe 20 or 30 of us hanging out in the desert, and we got a huge response from it,” she says. “And it became really clear that it was going to be something much larger than I had anticipated.”

The event sold out. The following year, tickets sold out in less than a minute — a response that speaks to what Jun continues to advocate for.

“The demographic of climbing is changing rapidly, and I don’t think we as women, or as people of colour, or as queer folks… if we want to be climbers but don’t feel like that identity that exists now fits us, that we have to just make it fit,” she says. “I think we can change that to be a better reflection of all of us that now exist in climbing.


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Flakes

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Johnson Street in winter. Photo: Martin Bauman.

“Could be snow, could be dandruff.”

She looked at me from the corner of her eye, a wry smile forming at her lips. I was on the #7 bus headed downtown for my first glimpse of winter in Victoria — never mind if the season started in December for the rest of the country.

She shuffled in her seat. A heavy breath; a long life. In truth, she wasn’t my first choice of seatmate. She smelled the way socks do when you’ve been out walking in the rain. But I knew she’d sit next to me. Sometimes you can just tell.

The bus rumbled past Oak Bay Village, down Foul Bay Road and the cluster of apartment buildings advertising vacancies — a sight even rarer than snowfall in this city. FOR RENT: BACHELOR read one sign.

“Look there. A bachelor’s putting himself up for rent,” she wisecracked.

“A bold strategy,” I replied.

She chuckled. A wintry day; a new friend.

“Last time we got snow like this, it was barely enough to fill the cracks in the sidewalk,” she told me. I didn’t mention that I’d moved here in part to escape from winter, to leave the dreary chill of dark February days behind. Funny, now, that I was glad for the snow. Only so far you can go before the things you’ve left catch up with you.

We passed by a schoolyard where kids played in the snow. Plastic sleds, snow forts, half-finished snowmen. Seemed like everyone was caught up in the excitement. A blur of activity on a cold afternoon.

“When was the last time you made a snowman?” I asked her. She must’ve been in her early seventies.

She thought for a moment and smiled, eyes creasing at the corners.

“I remember teaching my daughter how to make a snow angel,” she said. “I told her to fall back and let the snowbank catch her, but she didn’t believe me. She had this big look on her face when she finally tried.”

I tried to remember my own first snow angel and drew a blank. The memories blend together after a while.

When I was young, I remember toboggan trips to Westmount Golf Course and Waterloo Park. The hills look hardly thrilling now but seemed much bigger then. I remember GT Snow Racers and jumps fashioned from parking lot snowbanks down the street. A few nasty falls led to tears — though if they were my brother’s or my own, I forget.

I remember snow soccer games at Empire Public School. Some recesses, we swapped the ball for an ice chunk, and goal posts for winter boots. Looking back, I don’t know why, or how we managed to keep track of the thing. Some games are best left unquestioned, I suppose.

I remember snowballs tossed on long walks home from middle school. Each hydro pole became a target, and when that grew boring, I’d aim for my friends. They got pretty tired of that, as I recall. A few still don’t trust me near a snowbank. The others don’t know me well enough.

I remember winter wars in high school, when we’d head to Westmount Public School to tackle each other in the snow. T-MAX hoodies. Teenage boys. Testosterone. I remember the fear of God being caught behind enemy lines without an escape path or the flag. I still hold a grudge from being tackled too hard into the playground. That was over twelve years ago now.

I remember stolen dinner trays from the Medway-Sydenham cafeteria. First year at Western University. Makeshift sleds flung down UC Hill. I remember the bonfire we held back at the dorm: hand sanitizer poured on a night stand and lit with a cigarette lighter. I forget whose idea it was.

So many memories, I forget too easily. A heavy breath; a life well-lived. I looked back at my friend on the bus.

“How did she like the snow?”

“She loved it. Then I told her to push her brother in.”

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Story Untold: “Accept the Struggle”

Story Untold with Simon Whitfield

A four-time Olympian and member of the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, Simon Whitfield won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in the triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Games. Photo from simonwhitfield.com.

Simon Whitfield is in a good place. It’s a Tuesday night, and the four-time Olympian has finished his weekly soccer outing in Victoria, British Columbia — a men’s league where the competition is a far cry from the rigours of racing against the world’s best triathletes.

“I can’t just run the entire time; I get sore now,” Whitfield jokes. “I’m out there making truces [with the opposing team].”

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At the end of the night, he unwinds with a beer at a host’s apartment and reflects on what has led him to this point: a spot in the Canada Sports Hall of Fame, a pair of Olympic medals, a budding rivalry with the Gorge boys of the Vancouver Island Soccer League.

Make no mistake: at 43, the Kingston, Ontario native is still an athlete. 19 years after winning the first-ever Olympic gold in the triathlon at the Sydney Games, and seven years after his last hurrah at the London Olympics, Whitfield still swims, still cycles, still runs. Add paddleboarding into the mix, and one gets the impression he could still outperform athletes twenty years his junior. But these days, the drive is different.

For as long as Whitfield has lived, there has been sport. Growing up down the road from Queen’s University, he’d head to nearby Tindall Field, or — more often the case — around the corner to Couper Street for makeshift games of road hockey, where centre ice was marked by a pothole and he and his friends took turns pretending to be Wayne Gretzky.

“It was one block long,” Whitfield jokes. “C-o-p-p-e-r at one end, and C-o-u-p-e-r at the other end. It’s like the French Canadians and English Canadians couldn’t decide.”

At twelve, he competed in his first triathlon, a Kids of Steel event organized at Sharbot Lake. (“I did it in a pair of boxer shorts,” Whitfield recalls.) By the race’s end, he was hooked.

“I just loved the outdoor atmosphere of it,” he says. “It was a festival of sport where you did this thing, this excursion.”

“I was itching to push ahead with this thing I loved to do, and there was no containing me then.” – Simon Whitfield

Before long, Whitfield was in the pool at 5:15 a.m. on training days. At 16, he moved across the world to attend Knox Grammar School in Australia and continue his training.

“I was itching to push ahead with this thing I loved to do, and there was no containing me then,” he says.

A year after his arrival in Wahroonga, on the northern fringes of Sydney, Whitfield learned that Australia would be hosting the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the triathlon would make its debut as an Olympic sport. The stars had begun to align. Flash forward to 2000, and the triathlon would begin and end at the Sydney Opera House, the very same place he had once graduated from boarding school. Was there any doubt of what would happen?

“It was magic. A fairytale,” says Whitfield.

At 25 years old, he won the race and became a Canadian hero. When the Games ended, he carried the country’s flag into the closing ceremonies.

“I will say, the only thing I wondered at the time was, ‘will I get goosebumps again?’ Because I had this pinnacle experience … like, ‘wow, that just happened.’ And then I wondered, like, ‘how do you recreate all that circumstance?’”

“I had this pinnacle experience … like, ‘wow, that just happened.’ And then I wondered, like, ‘how do you recreate all that circumstance?’” – Simon Whitfield

It would take eight years to reach the Olympic podium again, this time earning a silver medal in Beijing. Finally, he was asked to carry the flag once more, this time at the opening ceremonies in London. After his fourth Olympics, Whitfield retired from competition.

“I just wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices required. Plain as that,” he says. “There was a time in my life when I thrived on sacrifice. Truly. I thought everything I did was based around … was I sacrificing and giving more than other people were, to fortify myself for the next moment I had to compete.”

“I paid for it with relationships,” says Whitfield. “When I look back, in the end, it’s the people.”

Nowadays, the father of two has a different focus: namely, those closest to him. There’s still the love for sport, but the temptation to relive past glory? Not in the slightest.

“I work towards contentment,” he says. “I accept the struggle as part of it. And it’s actually where the good stuff is.”


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Story Untold: “Antarctica Is Harder Than You Can Possibly Imagine”

daniel_burton_at_the_south_pole

Mere days into his quest to become the first person to reach the South Pole entirely by bicycle, Daniel Burton realized he had a problem. Facing gale-force winds and whiteout conditions on the southern continent, he realized it was taking far too long to cover the distance needed to reach the finish line. The plan had been to cycle over 750 miles in less than two months, climbing over 9,000 feet to reach the South Pole. The reality was different.

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“I was getting, some days, as little as three or four miles a day,” Burton recalls. At that pace, he would never make it.

A bicycle shop owner from Eagle Mountain, Utah, Burton was just two days shy of his fiftieth birthday when he set out from Antarctica’s Hercules Inlet in search of achieving a world first. His story to get there is a remarkable one itself: a former computer programmer, he took up cycling in his forties after a routine blood test led to a health scare.

“They test my blood pressure, and it’s like, ‘Hold it, that can’t be right. Sit here and relax for a minute, and we’ll try it again.’ And then, ‘No, that still can’t be right.’ And then finally, ‘Nope, you’ve got high blood pressure,’” says Burton. “I panicked, and I thought I was going to die.”

“[Mountain biking] basically saved my life: it fixed my cholesterol numbers; it fixed my blood pressure and weight issues.” – Daniel Burton

A group of colleagues were into mountain biking, so Burton decided he’d join them. Soon enough, he was riding every day — eventually competing in the LoToJa Classic, a gruelling 200-mile race through the mountains from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“My wife says I’m like Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows: I get things, and I just get obsessed and kind of overdo it,” Burton laughs. “For me, it wasn’t about trying to win a race or anything … it’s about trying to see, can I actually do this? Is this something I can overcome and accomplish?”

That he ended up in Antarctica is perhaps the fault of Eric Larsen. A polar adventurer from Wisconsin — and the first to complete expeditions to the North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest in a single year — Larsen tried in 2012 to become the first person to bike to the South Pole, too. It caught Burton’s attention.

“Before [Eric] did it, there really wasn’t a bike that was capable of doing it. There was another guy who had tried to build a bike to do Antarctic stuff, but I don’t think it really worked that well. But just about the time that Eric did it, fatbikes really started taking off, and they started to have bikes that had five-inch wide tires,” says Burton. “As I started looking into it more and more, it just became an obsession. It overwhelmed me, and there was just no way I couldn’t do it.”

Before long, he started planning an attempt for the following year. In December of 2013, Burton started his 51-day trek.

“I had a lot of people tell me I shouldn’t do it,” says Burton, “a lot of people thinking that when they said goodbye to me in November when I left, that that would be the last time they would see me.”

“I had a lot of people tell me I shouldn’t do it, a lot of people thinking that when they said goodbye to me in November when I left, that that would be the last time they would see me.” – Daniel Burton

The plan was for Burton to make the journey solo. Along the way, he would have three stashes of food stowed ahead of him to refuel. The rest was up to him: minus 20-degree weather, snowstorms, and crevasses that could swallow him in a blink.

After the early wake-up call, Burton was able to boost his pace up to 15 miles a day — enough to complete the trek. First, though, he would have to deal with the winds.

“The problem with any expedition to the South Pole is that the South Pole is at 9,300 feet of elevation, so it’s pretty high,” Burton says. “And obviously, it’s very cold at the South Pole, and cold air is much heavier than warm air. And so what happens is that cold air at the South Pole falls from the South Pole down towards the coast. It’s called katabatic winds. So that means, basically, you have this katabatic wind that you’re fighting against almost all the time. The only time that you’d get relief from that was if you had a good storm out at the ocean that would push its way in.”

Along the way, Burton battled with sastrugi — wave-like ridges formed by the Antarctic wind. When the winds weren’t a problem, the whiteout conditions were.

“You can’t see anything,” says Burton. “It’s been described as like being on the inside of a ping pong ball.”

To reach the South Pole, Burton would put in 13-hour days on the bicycle — sometimes starting as early as midnight. With the amount he was sweating, he couldn’t afford to stop for long, or else he would risk hypothermia.

“You have this katabatic wind that you’re fighting against almost all the time. The only time that you’d get relief from that was if you had a good storm out at the ocean that would push its way in.” – Daniel Burton

“In order to keep from freezing to death, I basically had to keep that effort up all day long,” he says.

Eventually, on January 21, 2014, Burton saw the end drawing near.

“I saw three dots on the horizon. And at first, it was like, ‘are these just more sastrugi out there, or is that the South Pole?” he says. “When I saw that, I knew I was almost done. And that is probably the most awesome, wonderful thing I have seen in my whole life.”

Five years after completing the record-setting trek, Burton can look back and laugh about it.

“Antarctica is just harder than you can possibly imagine,” he says.

“Ranulph Fiennes, he said, ‘those that ask the question [of why to do such an expedition] will never understand the answer, and those that understand the answer will never ask the question,’” Burton laughs. “That’s probably the greatest answer for why.”


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

6Q7A6016 @ DirkCollins-2.jpg

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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