After breaking into the industry about a decade ago, Whistler’s Erin Hogue would constantly get asked the same question: What does it feel like to be the only woman in action-sports photography?
“That’s a question that really frustrates me, because I’m not the only woman doing this, especially now. But even at that time, there were less female photographers because there was way less support for women,” she says. “So it was important for me to show and encourage more women to get out there and show them there are women out here doing this, even if it seems like there’s not.”
It’s part of the reason the 36-year-old National Geographic adventure photographer and X Games medallist is so keen to inspire other photographers, especially emerging women. In partnership with Sony and fellow photographer (and snowboarding icon) Robin Van Gyn, Hogue has launched a five-part video series, Photo Adventures, which takes viewers behind the scenes of her epic backcountry shoots while she mentors emerging female photographers.
The first episode, released Jan. 17, sees Hogue, Van Gyn and artist Jessa Gilbert (whose colourful murals can be found around Whistler) showing the ropes to burgeoning photogs Irie Smith, 20, and Estelle Pensiero, 18, on an expedition to the Valhalla Mountain Ranges.
“It was one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve had to this day,” says Whistler local and environmentalist Smith. “It was incredible. I had a heck of a lot of questions and they were very gracious about answering as many as they could, especially Erin. I fired away a lot of questions about how she started her career, what she’s been doing since. I heard a lot about her different adventures, which were insane. They were super generous with their time and answers.”
Along with learning the tricks of the trade from a technical standpoint—like where to station yourself for the perfect mountain action shot—the five days in the backcountry proved an invaluable bonding experience.
“I don’t know the last time I hung out and went on a trip with a [then] 17- and a 19-year-old. Just that young energy and thought process and enthusiasm was amazing,” Hogue says. “It brought a lot of life to the trip. Everyone got along really well. The girls learned so much and you could really see them grow from the very first day to the fourth day.”
The series’ remaining four episodes feature a strong Whistler contingent, including Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien; filmmaker and snowboarder Leanne Pelosi, who mentors sisters Juliette and Amalia “Billy” Pelchat of local women’s skateboarding crew, The Real Wild Kittens; and snowboarder, filmmaker and Protect Our Winters ambassador Marie-France Roy, who speaks with Smith in an episode about environmental activism.
Truth be told, as someone with plenty of experience being pigeonholed as a woman photographer, Hogue was initially reluctant to play up that aspect of the video series—but she also understands the inherent value in women seeing other women building each other up.
“That was something that bothered me a lot when I first started: there was so much emphasis on the fact I was a female as opposed to my work overall. You would never be like, ‘Oh, it’s a male photographer! Look!’” she says. “So when I did put these out, I originally just wanted … to put it out as a, ‘here’s a behind-the-scenes with a photographer … and then my hidden agenda is that it hopefully inspired more women to get out there.”
Episode 1 of Photo Adventures, “Snowed In,” can be viewed at youtube/9zgU_8sGaAs.