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Laura Austin

decent exposure: BEN BIRK

28 December 2009, 04.04 | Posted in Decent Exposure | 1 comment »

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It’s normally the people in front of the camera that are in the spotlight, so I decided to start a series of interviews with the people behind the lens.  I’m kicking it off with Ben Birk. I first met Birk when he came to Stowe, VT to work as the photo editor of East Coast Snowboard Magazine in 2007. He was a wild kid straight out of Pennsylvania. Birk is very opinionated and isn’t afraid to say whatever comes to mind… which makes being around him very entertaining. But when it comes to photography he buckles down and makes things happen, I’ve been seeing more and more of his photos make their way into the bigger magazines. Keep your eye out for this one.

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The man himself, Ben Birk. Photo: Jonas Michilot

Place you call home:

Summer- Harrisburg, PA  Winter- Tahoe, CA

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Rider- Nick Poohachoff

Did you become a snowboard photographer because you wanted to be a pro rider but weren’t good enough?

Kinda.  When I was young kid I used to believe in god.  I was riding a little factor x ramp that my friends had and was trying frontside 180 off it.  I could not stick them for my life.  I prayed to god that If I landed the next one I tried that I should be a pro snowboarder.  I went down and ate shit hard.  Hiked up again and prayed if I should be involved in snowboarding somehow that I would land the next try.  I went down and stomped a fs 1.

So your whole career was based off of landing a frontside 180?

That was just a funny story that kind of what made me realize I suck at tricks.  I had always had some interest in photography and once I was in 11th grade and eligible for photo class I signed right up.  The class was during the winter and I was riding every night so why not shoot some photos of snowboarding for my class.

Photo with the best story behind it:

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This is a place on the east coast called Cousin Eddies.  It’s really unique and requires three hours of hiking through an abandoned coal mine that is not open to the public.  I had never hiked so far and had to push really hard to make it the last mile.  Each rider took their turn down but the last rider down caused an avalanche and was buried up to his shoulders at the base of the slope.  We did not have beacons and were so lucky he was not totally buried.  This photo just represents my first backcountry experience, hiking, avalanche, and adventure.  It’s one of my favorites even though it’s now three years old.

Some say print is dying… do you agree?

I don’t know, I was raised during the time of the internet and dying editorial freedom.  Is it dying or just changing?  Changing for the worse editorially I think we can agree upon.  As for print vs online I know I personally LOVE holding magazines and books.  I would never read a magazine online.  I like to look, feel and smell it.

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Rider- Luke Haddock

Black & White or color?

Both.  I don’t like to limit myself.

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What’s your favorite thing to shoot?

People.

The most played out thing in photography right now-

Going to school to be a “Photographer.”

Why do you say that?

The whole “I’m a photographer” hipster, flickr, myspace, bullshit.  I just hate how it’s like everyone wants to be a photographer, fashion designer, rapper, music producer, rock band, MTV SUPER STAR.  I mean VH1 had a reality TV show/contest about being a photographer called “The Shot”.  It’s all just gotten really lame.  Plus why do you have to go to school to learn an art.  Fuck that.  Go to school to learn how to run a business so your not broke when you are 40.

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Rider- Will Bateman

Favorite photographer outside of snowboarding:

Diane Arbus

Do you think that people either have a good eye or they don’t…. or can someone learn how to become a good photographer?

Anyone can take a good photograph just apply some rules.  All I ever use is rule of thirds. lol

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What kind of projects are you working on now?

Winter – Hike and shoot powder is #1.  Shoot Hasselblad is #2

Summer – There’re some cults that live around my town.  I want to photograph them.  One is a sex cult and the other I know nothing about.  I really hope they are something that scares people.  Some devil worshipers would be great!  I can only hope.

Do you think they will be alright with you shooting photos of them or are you going undercover? Do you plan on joining in?

It will not be an undercover operation.  As long as they are not racist or violent I plan on befriending the group and becoming accepted by them.  I will not be judging them but there to take portraits and photos of their life.  I am fascinated by people who are shunned or separate from “normal” society.  If i agree with what the group is about then maybe I will join.  I have to find out what they are first.

Natural Sunlight or Flashes?

Thats like saying film or digital.  Both have their times of use.  You have to decide whats best for the situation.  You can’t limit yourself.

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Rider- Justin Mullen

What’s next?

Continuing to find a way to live my life as free as possible.

Check out more of Birk’s work at www.benbirkphoto.com

1 comment
  1. [...] Laura Austin interviewed me for Rad Collector. Take a minute to read the interview here. [...]

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