Putting in the mileage
December 12, 2012
Local photographer named Ski Journalist of the Year for 2012
Victor resident, Jonathan Selkowiz was recently named the 2012 Ski Journalist of the Year by the International Ski Federation. He’s pictured here photographing the 2006 Olympics. Courtesy photo by Jed Jacobsohn
Outfitted with his skis, a few pieces of winter gear and a Riko 35mm SLR his parents got him for college graduation, Jonathan Selkowitz journeyed from his native Berkshire Mountains so many decades ago unaware that this journey toward his new home was the beginning of a career he could have never imagined.
Recently named the 2012 Ski Journalist of the Year by the International Ski Federation, Selkowitz, or Selko to those who know him best, is passionate about Teton winters, a clean line down the side of an untouched mountain, and of course, the art of composing that perfect picture.
A ski coach who once flipped burgers at the Cadillac seven days a week just to make rent, Selko’s slow evolution as a ski journalist could not have developed without the relationships in his life that have pushed, encouraged and elevated his career.
“I started making pictures because I was encouraged by a friend,” Selko said on Tuesday sitting at the breakfast bar at the Sundog Café in Victor. “I never considered photography as a career,” he said as he paused to acknowledge a Joe Walsh track turning in the restaurant. “I love Joe Walsh.”
In a profession often built on the size of your gigabyte and fueled by unrelenting ego, Selko offers a refreshing, unassuming foil to today’s mass-produced market. Remembering those who lifted him up each small step at a time, Selko smiled as he recalled the likes of DJ Bassett who slid him a free box of slides at the Jackson Hole Custom Color Lab, David Swift, who took him on as a budding shooter teaching him the art of composition and beauty of a well lit assignment and Garth Dowling, the former photo editor at the Jackson Hole News
(when it was the News
and not the News and Guide
) who offered him his first press credentials.
“When I started working for Dave (Swift), I thought, wow, photography is cool. We shot weddings, fashion. I can’t tell you how great Dave is. He opened my eyes that photography could be a possible job,” Selko said.
And it was the late, great Doug Coombs who told Selko to “get the mileage.” “Nothing replaces practice,”
Selko said of Coombs golden nugget of advice. “Just do it a lot. That’s why I didn’t mind shooting weddings. At the time, that was my mileage. And it was paid target practice,” he added laughing.
And practice he did, showing up at Alpine skiing events, shooting the students in his ski school at Teton Village, clicking through assignments, and seeking out an editor’s critique. In 1993 the Alpine World Cup was in Park City. He thought, I’m a ski coach, I’m a photographer, and I’m going down there. After shooting the assignment mostly from outside of the fenced in ski hill, Selko realized he had to get credentials.
Dowling supplied him with the press access, but for anyone who has jockeyed for the best position at an assignment, a piece of paper was not going to automatically open doors. As he continued to put in the mileage, Selko slept in his car at the Vail Resort to avoid paying for lodging and parking. He showed up at the pressroom before an Alpine event before any other journalist (and hey, the donuts and coffee were free on a first come, first serve basis).
“Between runs, I got to meet other photographers,” Selko said of the early days shooting ski events. “When they all realized I wasn’t a threat to anyone, it was like I was at a photo workshop every time I went up the hill.”
Selko would go on to shoot the Olympics in Nagano, Salt Lake City and Torino. His work has appeared in national publications such as ESPN Magazine, Newsweek to Rolling Stone and Powder Magazine.
“The reason I stayed with it for so long is because of my connections and friendships with people through the years,” he said. “Two hundred and seventy days on the road, it’s these connections that make it worthwhile.”
And as the snow slowly fell from the sky that morning, Selko looked up at the Tetons along Main Street in Victor, and it was still clear; the woods may be snowy, dark and deep, but he had promises to keep, and miles to go before he would sleep.
“It was a great honor, it was a rush,” Selko said of the award earned. “This was an award based on my career. Holy shit, I have a career to look back on.”