elite ambassador and photographer: christian pondella
posted: May 30, 2014
Open up Instagram, your browser, or an actual magazine. Everywhere you look people are grinning back at you from somewhere awesome, with skis or a surfboard (or a drink) in hand, living their bucket lists. And Christian Pondella, one of our elite ambassadors, is right there with them…except you rarely see Christian. Because he’s holding the camera instead of posing for it.
A rare moment for Christian in front of the camera
He began his career inadvertently one day while on a ski hill, where he ended up chatting with the photo editor of renowned ski magazine, Powder. “He gave me some great advice, then some skier and writer friends and I ended up taking a trip to the local mountains, shooting it, and submitting it, and it ended up being featured in the magazine.”
At the time he didn’t take himself—or his art—too seriously. “I was 22-years-old and just enjoying life, shooting photos with my friends while we were climbing, and hanging out the dark room making prints of all the stuff we were up to.” These days, he shoots skiers, climbers, athletes and adventurers of all sorts, in all seasons, all over the world.
Christian’s workspace, a veritable candy store for extreme athletes
Based in Mammoth, California, he travels year-round on assignment for well-known brands and magazines. By default, photographers live outside the spotlight, so when you see Christian’s shots–someone in deep backcountry powder, or hanging three storeys up a frozen waterfall—it’s easy to forget that he’s right there outside the frame, keeping pace with the athletes, except he’s lugging around 10 kilos more equipment than other climbers. “It’s important to ski a lot if I’m going on photoshoots and hanging out with a bunch of professional skiers. I’ve got to be able to keep up with them,” he says.
Sounds awesome, but how do you train for that? Christian would say he doesn’t train on a regular schedule; for him it’s more about doing the things he loves, for fun. “I’m not a fan of the gym—especially where I live, there’s just so much to do outside. I climb, ski and cycle a lot when I have free time. That’s why I live in Mammoth. I’ve got all the resources right here.”
Christian and friends, blending the lines of work and play
His lifestyle has changed somewhat since his son Blaise, now two-years-old, was born, but definitely not for the worse. “I don’t have the free time to just go climbing for four or five hours during the day like I used to, but I still ski a lot,” he says. “Fatherhood is so fulfilling, everyday is something new. Especially at his age, they learn so much. He says and does things that just catch you by surprise and it’s like, ‘Where did you learn that?’ They are little sponges of information.”
Taking Blaise out skiing this year for his first time has been the highlight of fatherhood for Christian. “He loved it. We’ll ask him in the morning, ‘What do you want to do today?’ He’ll say, ‘Ski and hike.’” Blaise appears to be taking his sports as seriously as his father. At just 20 months old, the little boy made it down five runs on a 27-metre hill, from the top to the bottom, all on his own.
“It was probably a little early for him to be doing it, but he did it and we were amazed,” Christian says. “Self confidence and self esteem, I think that’s what a lot of people lack, and what keeps them from achieving their goals.” He continues, “My parents, from a very early age, always instilled confidence in me, which I think is the single greatest attribute any individual can have.”
Follow seven days in Christian’s life as a photographer, at home and on the road on our Instagram and Twitter feeds all this week.
Alicia-Rae is a writer, adventurer and our international blog coordinator. You’ll never catch her without her pen, notepad and camera in tow. She’s a DIY aficionado, and believes the best, and most beautiful, things in life are homemade. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.