The Olav Stubberud Interview: RK1's Man Behind the Lens

Yalda Walter Yalda Walter
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Olav’s not holding back

Snowboarding may be a young-man’s sport when it comes to the riders, but something you certainly don’t see everyday is a 13-year old photographer – who just picked up snowboarding a few months prior – getting published in a magazine. But then again, if your kindergarten friends are named Stale Sandbech and Alek Ostreng, it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise…

While these two were making their way to becoming pro, Olav Stubberud was busy doing other things, but it wasn’t too long before they started dragging him to the slopes with them. But keeping up with these two wasn’t exactly a piece of cake, and that was when Olav first nicked his dad’s camera and started shooting them doing the tricks, instead of trying to nail them himself.

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It’s easy to see that teenage Olav, Stale and Alek are up to something

Fast-forward eight years and you have a 21-year old professional photographer who can already say he’s shot them all – snowboarding’s most successful, creative and prestigious athletes, plus celebrities like Snoop Lion and Steve-O. 

It was about time that we bugged him with our questions and we have to admit, it wasn’t an easy task to hunt him down. Olav might just be the busiest man on this planet, travelling everywhere you could possibly think of throughout the season.

You’re a pretty good snowboarder yourself, right?

I can ride pretty well I guess! I can’t do that many tricks, but I’ve been snowboarding for eight years now.

Did you ever think about going pro?

I kind of skipped the whole scene. A lot of photographers were pros or really good riders before they became photographers, but I started taking pictures so early that I didn’t quite have time to even think about competing.

Do you regret it?

It’s funny to think about, if I could have made it, since Stale and Alek did. If I kept on riding, maybe I would be on the same level as them? I don’t know, I will never know I guess. But I don’t regret it at all.

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Synchronised backflips in Keystone, like there’s no tomorrow: Brage Richenberg, Jonas Steen, Jørn Simen Aaboe

Is shooting snowboarding what you want to do for the rest of your life?

Hopefully. Never say never, but it’s definitely the one thing that pushes me and keeps on challenging me. It’s my way of life now and I have to deal with my choice. To be honest, it’s not the worse thing I could choose, I love it and I’ll hopefully do it until the day I die.

What’s the last photo you want to shoot before you say goodbye to the world?

A selfie with some gold chains, my best friends and family.

Talking about selfies – you like to do them in speedos cruising the world. How did that start?

I don’t know, I’m always having fun with it and I don’t like to overthink what I’m doing. I’m just going with it and I always enjoy expressing myself in weird ways. The whole speedo thing started with me having fun when I was in New York, dancing in my turtleneck, short trousers and my new silver hair. I just thought it was really, really funny at the beginning. If I think something is funny, I work myself around it and then I ended up dancing in the streets.

If I think something is funny, I work myself around it and then I ended up dancing in the streets.

Well, you’re definitely winning over Instagram with it. You have quite a large fan base – about 10k followers. Why do you think you’re that successful on there?

I think I’m just putting in more effort and time than regular people. I like the idea of having instant feedback. You can test out ideas or just regular photos and see for yourself what’s working visually. We’re more visual than we have ever been and more aware of pictures and videos. Everybody’s doing it, but when one guy comes around, in this case me, who’s doing something different and original, people enjoy it.

So you’re transferring feedback from Instagram into your work?

Yeah, I’m really fascinated by what’s happening, stuff like apps and the whole selfie-generation that we call ourselves. It’s a cool thing and I enjoy it for sure.

You don’t see it as ruining proper photography because basically anyone can take a shitty picture and then polish it with some filters?

My profession is, let’s not say being washed away, but it’s definitely changed over the past years because of the whole technology. It’s pretty easy to take a picture that looks good for the mainstream audience. It’s way harder to stick out in a crowd nowadays, but I don’t see it as being bad, just more of a challenge.

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Crew love is true love: Stale Sandbech, Olav Stubberud, Len Roald Jorgensen, Alek Ostreng

Can you give us a rough estimation on how many photos you shoot per year?

That would be a wild guess.

Try!

If I’m doing a shoot I might take around 500 to 1000 photos. Multiply that by maybe 150 to 200 so we have 150,000-200,000 photos a year. That’s with my regular camera, with my disposable cameras and my iPhone it’s probably even more…

So when you’re doing work, you’re only using a digital camera?

Yes, I do. I would like to shoot more film but I missed that generation, so I didn’t get the chance to do it that much, but I would love to mix it up.

What camera do you use when you shoot snowboarding?

Canon is not giving me a penny to say that, but I’m shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III. Usually I don’t answer that question but you can write it.

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Fredrik Perry’s frontside boardslide in Oslo

Thank you! What would you say was your best shot yet?

I have a couple of favourites but the one I won the 2011 picture of the year award with here in Norway maybe. It was an underwater shot of a rail with Fredrik Perry. It was like one of those shots you’ve thought about for years and then I just went for it. I don’t think it’s my best shot in every way, but it may be the coolest and more meaningful for my part.

I’d go to space and bring the RK1 crew to do a shoot there, maybe build a loop on moon or mars.

Did you teach yourself everything? How did you learn to take good shots?

I started really early and you don’t learn photography until high school. I had a couple of photographers in Norway that I looked up to and that pushed me. Stale’s brother Frode Sandbech is for sure one of the guys, who got me to keep on doing it. He wasn’t the guy who taught me that much about photography itself, but he was always there and shot these amazing photos when I was a small kid. Just to have someone, who can push you and give you input when you need it is probably the most important part. You can’t really study photography and you can’t really learn it any other way than by just doing it.

If you’d have unlimited budget, who would you shoot, where and what trick?

If I could go and blow the world’s budget, I’d go to space and bring the RK1 crew to do a shoot there, maybe build a loop on moon or mars.

That is fucking amazing, I hope that one day, you’ll get the budget to do that.

Hopefully I’ll get a cover out of that. I don’t have that many covers.

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One cover he did score: the Onboard Product Guide 2013/14 – Trym Nordgard and Stale Sandbech doing a casual handstand boardslide

Why do you think you didn’t score too many covers yet?

I really like shooting horizontal photos. It’s not an excuse, but about 85% of what I shoot is horizontal. I don’t nag and I’m not concerned about it. I just never had that many covers compared to other people who have been doing what I do as long as I did. But I probably had more photos published than others.

It was pretty hard to get a hold of you, because you’re constantly on the move. Does that bug you sometimes?

I’m really glad that I can be with my friends, travel all around the world and get paid for it. It’s a really surreal thing. I’m one of the one per cent who can do that. The travelling gets exhausting sometimes for sure, but it’s just a part of it and I still really enjoy meeting new people and seeing different places. I can’t complain that I’m travelling too much, that would upset a lot of people. I’m really satisfied with the way things are in my life and I will keep on pushing my work and myself to my limits.

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RK1 edits happen synchronised: Stale Sandbech and Oivind Andersen soon to switch Breck for Mars?

You can keep up with Olav’s adventures by following him on Instagram here.

Check out Olav’s video work with RK1 here 

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Miniview: Elias Elhardt