Lights, camera, action
Displaying power through her creativity and lust for life, adventure photographer Krystle Wright has paved her own successful career path, proving that when it comes to achieving your goals, not even the sky’s the limit.
Despite her outwardly calm nature, Krystle Wright fidgets in her seat as if she’s itching to get her hands on a camera and seek out some action, although I doubt she’d find it here if she did. Having seen her incredible photography, the contrast of seeing her seated in Profile’s boardroom is almost laughable.
While the self-confessed nomad may be in what most of us would consider an everyday setting, it couldn’t be further removed from her usual ‘office’ – a constantly changing, often high altitude backdrop that alternates between breathtaking mountain ranges and canyons, vast oceans and endless stretches of sky. But this by no means curbs her enthusiasm, her passion for her craft clear as she chats to me about her amazing career as an adventure photographer.
Krystle always knew she wanted to work outdoors and says it was actually her mum’s suggestion to combine that desire with her creativity through photography. Admitting that at first she was skeptical she would be able to make a living out of it, it’s a risk she’s glad she took.
“I started picking up all these photography magazines and I remember seeing the work of Adam Pretty (a professional sports photographer) and just instantly knowing, ‘That’s what I want to do’,” she says.
And initially that’s exactly what she did, uprooting her life in Eudlo after finishing university to work in Sydney as a contributing sports photographer for Agence-France Presse and The Sunday Telegraph, where she worked one to two shifts a week. But it was during the time between those jobs that Krystle discovered her true passion, when curiosity drew her to visually document the more extreme sports taking place in the region.
Over her four years in Sydney, she went from using her downtime to photograph surfers, to building a strong network of mountain bikers, kite-surfers and mountain climbers by regularly attending competitions and exhibitions. Despite having the contacts, Krystle knew that in order to make the leap and become a fulltime adventure photographer, she would have to go overseas.
With adventure, there is definitely a market for it, just not so much here in Australia,” she explains.
But what really fuelled her decision to take control of her life was an accident that nearly ended it. In 2011 Krystle was heavily injured in a paragliding crash in Pakistan, which left her unconscious for five minutes and suffering from broken bones, tissue damage and severe bruising after she collided with boulders upon take-off.
“After that trip I came back and was like, ‘I don’t want to be in a relationship’. I left Sydney and I quit my job. And what really spurred it on from there was that I had a phone call from an old lecturer at university, and she said, ‘I’ve got this friend I need to put you in touch with’, and so I talked to this guy and he said, ‘Do you want to work in Antarctica?’.”
At 25 years of age, Krystle packed up her belongings and moved them into a shipping container on her grandparent’s property, before spending a season photographing wildlife and scenery in Antarctica.
“After that, I was coming back to Australia and I stopped off in New Zealand to see my sister, and I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Why am I going back to Australia? What’s waiting there for me?’. So I started booking these trips. I just thought, ‘It’s now or never, I’ve got to see if I can make this work’.”
It was hard getting work in the beginning, and Krystle says in those early days of having to find clients, she struggled. But her immense talent and hard work paid off, and soon it was the clients who were coming to her.
“For some reason I think I carry this blind confidence that everything’s going to work out, especially when it’s what I’ve been taught – that it’s patience, persistence, to keep knocking on every door possible,” she says.
From hiking alone and unarmed through blizzards and polar bear territory at Baffin Island to scout the best location to capture base-jumpers in action, to flying at 7000 feet in a tandem paraglider over Pakistan, Krystle isn’t afraid to go out of her way to get the perfect shot.
“It comes down to knowledge of the sport. It always helps to understand what is going to happen,” she says. “There is always a safe angle to take – if all else fails, it’s easy to find something that will just work. But ideally I’ll see something that inspires me and I’ll take that risk and hopefully create something different and unique.”
But she insists her job itself isn’t as dangerous as it may appear.
“It’s not so much whether it’s too risky, it’s more about whether I have the experience and knowledge to find a way to make it work,” she says. “It’s finding that balance of whether you’re just being worried because it’s natural to fear, versus that feeling that something is wrong.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t get it wrong, but the injuries she has had over the years – a broken ankle, missing teeth, damaged knees – are all lessons in the power of Mother Nature.
They weren’t extreme, they were just stupidity,” she laughs.
Another downside is loneliness, and while she loves the travel, Krystle confesses that her often-solo work can be hard to deal with, especially when she has no one to share some of her most amazing experiences with. But she wouldn’t change it for the world and by taking her life and career into her own hands, Krystle has become a well known name in the industry, contracted to do work for a plethora of publications as well as Red Bull and Canon Australia.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunities and doors being opened for me thanks to my work,” she says.
“I just want to live an extraordinary life.”
That she is.