Violeta Beral / Katie McDonnell

Images of women in active action tricks, in grand visual settings like this one, is not very common. Focus is definitely on athletic ability here, not on gender stereotypes.


Violeta Beral

Violeta Beral was born in Madrid in 1982, where her love for magazines made her drop out of architecture studies, and instead study photo and video in Madrid as well as carry on with a Graphic Design degree in London, where she currently lives. She landed a job with Factory Media, one of the biggest action sports publishers in the industry:  A dream come true for Violeta, combining print, media and action sports.
Violeta has always been an active person, so sitting down in the office was a real killer, even though she really enjoyed the work she was doing.  She became a climbing instructor instead and the next step was becoming a professional abseiler, which is still Violetas dayjob.
"Apart from my work, I try to find the time and energy to go skating, climbing, cycling, playing, and of course- taking pictures. I started inline skating when I was 17 years old. Everything I did revolved around that; friends, holidays, life: 24/7.  I soon discovered other action sports, and I got completely trapped with it. Not being able to practice them enough (at least to get any good) because of time, resources, etc, I try to photograph them all instead. That gives me the same feelings of satisfaction and amusement."
When and why did you get in to photography?
"One day I was in Madrid skating with my friends. Ryan Schude, a photographer for the American magazine The Daily Bread (one of the few at the time) was visiting Spain. He asked us if he could come and take pics at one of our sessions, and we said yes. It was then when I made the connection between photography and magazines, and realized that was what I wanted to do."
What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
"I have always loved sports, ever since I was very little. I started skating in school. I got a bit better, and I started skating street, jumping stairs, going fast. It was the feeling of pushing the limits and discovering what I was really capable of that hooked me.  I saw the X-Games on TV, and It opened my eyes! The amount of things you could do with a pair of skates! Straight away I wanted to get a pair of inlines and everything just kicked off. 
At the moment I'm trying to find the time to do a bit of skating, climbing, riding bikes (all kinds), and bit of parkour… I wish I had time for more activities though!"
What’s your worst/best/most intense moment related to action sports?
"The worst is when I get an injury, The best when you learn a new trick, when you travel, meet new friends, adventures, places, creativity… Most intense may be when you overcome a fear."
What/Who is you favorite initiative, project, professional, leader, athlete or brand in the action sports sphere?
"Anyone who is passionate will keep me motivated!"
What do you think of the lack of role models for girls and women in male dominated areas?
"Throughout my whole life I’ve often found myself being one of the few girls in all the things I've been interested in: from my hobbies to my work. It's always intimidating to take the first step, and even more so if it is in a predominantly male environment. 
When you see other girls doing it, it’s inspiring; you get more motivated and more encouraged. We need more female role models to give other girls more confidence to go and try it too."
How do you see women evolving in the action sports scene?
"I already see more women involved in action sports now, than I did 20 years ago. I hope this number keeps on growing, and hopefully faster.
The media simply needs to stop objectifying women and their bodies. There is a real issue with the way women feel about their figures and the way women are encouraged to have the perfect body through sports.  Women need to be to encouraged and empowered to do sports because it's what they like, and not just to be able to have a good body. We also need to get rid of stereotypes as in what is "for girls" and what is "for boys"."
What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
"That gender is not an issue in any way and that more people can live of what they love."
What is the number one preconception or prejudice people have about you?
"Sometimes I feel I have to prove that I can do something, just because I am a girl."
Do you have a feature or body part that you have been self-conscious about? Do you think low self-esteem in girls and stereotypes in media are connected?
"I try to accept my body as it is. Yes, I think stereotypes in media are far away from reality, but some people doesn’t seem to realize this."
Is there a difference in how women and men are portrayed in the action sports industry?
"In short I would say that most of the pictures of men are ‘men doing cool stuff’, and the pictures of women are ‘cool women doing stuff’."
What would you say to people who want to get in to action sports, but think they might not fit in?
“Do it. Don’t waste any time, get over it and do it. Once you take that first step it will all come- but you have to take that first step."



Katie McDonnell, UK

A professional Freerunner, Katie has appeared in huge campaigns, such as the 2013 Peugeot Crossover Campaign, 2012 Gore-Tex campaign, Star of urban Sports channel ‘Flow’ and she’s considered by many to be the UK's Leading female Parkour athlete.
“At the moment my primary focus is freerunning and fitness training, which take up the majority of my time. In the past I have been a member of various sports teams and sports. But since embarking upon a career as a professional Freerunner I have made the decision to dedicate my time to that. ”     
What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
“I was a cheerleader at university and was going along to open gym sessions to work on my skills. The majority of people who went to these sessions were Freerunners and I thought that their training looked like a lot of fun, so I decided to try and copy what they were doing. I immediately fell in love with it and haven’t looked back since!”
What do you love about it?
“Freerunning allows me to feel free within my environment and has completely changed my perspective on what I can do within any given surrounding. Sometimes I enjoy just getting creative in a space which appeals to my artistic side whereas on other days I like to try to push my skill level boundaries by trying maximum jumps etc. Physically seeing my progression gives me a real sense of achievement.”
Did someone inspire you?
“The first person to really inspire and encourage me to start freerunning was James Kingston (that guy who hangs of cranes and stuff) – But it wasn’t until I saw videos of other girls training, namely     Luci Romberg and Sasha Sheva, that I realized I could actually achieve a lot more than I had     originally envisaged for myself: I just let myself believe that I’m capable of it, regardless of my     gender.
Violeta Beral: “This photo was taken in Brighton. It was organized to get some pictures for the See&Do project. This project focuses on women by hoping to normalize images of women being active, primarily through Parkour. We arrived to this sculpture by the beach. The first thing that came to my mind was a backflip, as a continuation of the sculpture, so I asked Kate if she could do one. Due to the angle and the surface of the wall, it wasn’t the easiest move to do – but she did it, no problem.”