In Ryan Regehr’s humble opinion, Paul Morrison is “the godfather of mountain photography.”
Morrison’s decorated career spans 45 years, and he’s been one of Whistler Blackcomb’s lead photographers since the beginning. Sea to Sky locals and visitors alike have grown up marveling at his work in all kinds of publications, though they may not know his name. The Ontario native has since passed the torch to his son Ian, who is an accomplished skier, mountain biker and photographer in his own right.
Now, the two are getting their own time in the spotlight by way of Co-Workers, a new film co-directed by Regehr and Jeff Thomas. The movie is screening as part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) Fall Series, with in-person premieres Nov. 14 to 19 and an online version running until Dec. 10.
Co-Workers will be a fitting tribute to a pair of men whose contributions to Whistler’s mountain community are immense and difficult to quantify.
“Paul's career should have more light shone on it, and I think [the VIMFF] is a cool venue for that,” Regehr opined. “Sometimes photographers, especially with the way COVID happened, kind of fade into the background and Paul’s retirement wasn't really [heralded]. He just stopped shooting as much as he used to and retired, which is what he wanted to do, but I just feel like a man with that kind of career needed more of a send-off.”
Co-Workers represents a segment of a longer film called Fixed Grip that Regehr and Thomas made for Whistler Blackcomb. In Fixed Grip, the aim was to tell stories of Sea to Sky residents and how their lives shape—and are shaped by—the biomes and environments around them. Paul’s name naturally entered the conversation, for he’s been a key mentor in Regehr and Thomas’ lives.
It’s not every day that a man pursues his father’s career with gusto and talent in equal measure, but Paul’s relationship with Ian made their story even more worthwhile.
After five years of discussion and deliberation, the right opportunity to tell said story presented itself.
“There’s obviously artistry in Paul’s photos. He does them incredibly well and he cares about the community too,” said Regehr. “When I was starting out, he reached out to me and he’s helped me with tons of stuff. A long list of photographers look up to Paul as a bit of an inspiration. He’s always tried to help the up-and-comer.
“Paul and Ian have worked together since Ian was 13. Ian will basically tell you where he's going to turn and where you should point your camera, because he's done it so many times and can do it so well. Ian looks at the mountain so differently than other skiers do—whereas a lot of skiers are looking for the most rad turn, and he's looking at how [to frame the photo].”
Seeing the story
The weather hasn’t always been ideal for winter filmmaking this year. Regehr, Thomas and the Morrisons aimed to showcase top-flight powder skiing in Co-Workers, and a dearth of snow made them work to accomplish that goal. The project’s story, meanwhile, coalesced virtually in one night—both directors had a dinner party with many of their subjects, and Paul ended up offering a myriad of interesting tangents and anecdotes from his life.
Regehr thanks Thomas with helping it all come together.
“Jeff sees stories in a different way, and he can see them well before me a lot of the time,” said Regehr. “We bounce off of each other really well, and it makes working a lot more fun. Sometimes, [editing] by myself can be a little bit boring for me, so it's nice to have someone to lean over and be like: ‘hey, this is cool, this is not cool.’ [The film] definitely wouldn’t have happened without him.”
Thomas, who likes to stay busy, has directed two movies for this year’s VIMFF fall lineup. 23.4 Degrees is the other: a project featuring former X Games slopestyle champion Anna Segal and her journey through the changing seasons.
Regehr graduated from film school at the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT) and has lived in Whistler since 2011. His resume includes contracts with the likes of Red Bull, Nintendo, GMC and Whistler Blackcomb, as well as experience at Crankworx, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) and the World Freestyle Motocross Championships.
Also on tap from Sea to Sky talents this month at the VIMFF are Slides on the Mountain, Shaped by Wild, Hankin Evolution, People Like Us, Racing for the Next 7 and Ready or Not.
Find out more about the festival and its offerings at https://vimff.org/