Camilla Rutherford / Prue Beams

Seeing grand images like this one, of female BASE jumpers in action sports media is not very common.
The idea that women should not engage in dangerous, or even potentially lethal adventures, is a stigma that enforces the gender stereotypes of what is typically considered male vs female traits- taking risks, being curious, brave, athletic, independent and strong are characteristics that some individuals, regardless of gender, can take pride in having.


Camilla Rutherford, New Zealand

www.camillarutherford.co.nz

Camilla Rutherford grew up and went to school in Edinburgh, Scotland where she learnt to ski with 4 siblings. After spending 4 years at a top London Art School, Camilla realised she wasn’t cut out, in any shape or form, for a life in the city. The mountains were calling and she ran.
She wanted to ski, but it was summer time, but New Zealand could offer the best of both worlds.   She ran to a beautiful place discovered by accident; Wanaka. This started a very long love affair with the small town of Wanaka and subsequently the country, and now also her husband. Camilla took her camera with her for that season in Wanaka, and she hasn't stopped shooting photos of adventure sports since.
A high country merino sheep farm, is the place she calls home, also holding her office and serving as a base for her travels as needed on location for various photo assignments.
Camilla tries to have a healthy balance between commercial work for clients like Tourism NZ, Atomic, Icebreaker, Air NZ, and editorial work for magazines such as Outdoor, Bike, Australian Geographic, Dirt, Powder and of course her personal projects too.
"I guess you would call me an adventure photographer. Somebody who loves to go on adventures and take photos, be it skiing, biking, hiking; mainly just adventuring.”
 
When and why did you get in to photography?
"I really got into photography at Art Collage. I was studying Theatre Design at Central St Martins School of Art with a plan of going into production design for movies. I loved telling stories. Most of my research for my projects at art school would be filled with photography, all shot on film and developed in the dark rooms. I loved shooting photos around London and developing them myself. I didn't realise I wanted to be a photographer at this point thought. It wasn’t until I graduated in 2005 and bought myself my first digital SLR and headed to Wanaka to ski, that I started to take photos of my friends skiing. I really enjoyed combining two of my favourite things, storytelling and skiing! I soon realised that I was able to shoot photos of people doing cool things in the outdoors, while doing the sports I loved, and also earning money from doing it! Of course it took a lot of hard work, commitment and effort to start making money, but I'm having a hell of a fun time doing it! I get paid to go on adventures and tell a story."

 

What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
"There is something about people in landscapes that I love. I enjoy taking a nice landscape photo, who doesn't, but it's way more awesome when there is a person in that photo- a person enjoying that landscape, be it skiing, biking, hiking or just standing there, taking in the vista. Don’t you just want to be that person? I do. I am.
I love what humans can do with nature, and the more I get into adventuring the more action sports I love to shoot. Snow, dirt, water, mountains… Its all amazing to me."

 

What’s your worst/best/most intense moment related to action sports?
"The time I photographed the BASE jumpers on the Kaipo Wall was one of the most insane experiences of my life. Not only being up there with the jumpers who I had just met, hanging out on the edge of a 1.4km high cliff and crevasse filled glacier, but what happened after. There where 6 athletes in total; 6 of the nicest, most down to earth people I have ever met, who welcomed me to come along on the holiday of a lifetime and shoot photos, even though they didn't know me from a bar of soap. Since that trip, 3 of the 6 jumpers I've photographed BASE jumping have sadly passed away in jumping accidents. That's left me very sad of course.”

 

"Other female adventure sports photographers inspire me: Krystle Wright, Melody Sky, Jody MacDonald to name a few of my favorites!"

 

What do you think of the lack of role models for girls and women in male dominated areas?
"There are female role models in male dominated areas, it's just that there aren’t as many. It all comes down to money. Unfortunately many sports get money from the spectators, people who are interested in watching and spending money on merchandise. Take football vs skiing for example: Skiers will never get paid the same amount as the football players, for the sheer reason there is way more money in football, since more people watch it.
For girls it has been hard to provide that spectacle to the same level as the boys. Our physical make up doesn’t allow us to compete at the same level, not in all sports by any means of course, but in the more spectacularly visual sports it does. I believe female brains are wired slightly differently to mens, which I think plays a part. This is by no means to say that females don’t push themselves as hard as the boys, to the contrary, they push themselves harder. When a sport comes along like BASE jumping I love that the chicks can fly as hard as the boys. It doesn’t come down to brute strength, it comes down to the brain."

 

How do you see women evolving in the action sports scene?
"Money! Again, I think it's getting brands and competitions to give as much love and support to the girls as they do the boys. Perhaps if more brands took a chance and gave females as much support as the boys they might see more return for their money. After all, us girls "love to shop", eh?"

 

What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
"That females get the same prize money as boys. I think its absolutely LUDICROUS that they don’t. The argument; "But there are less to compete against, it's not fair the boys are up against 100 and the girls only 30!" Well, If girls got the same amount of support and prize money they may be more willing to participate. Where is the incentive for them if they don’t get what they are worth? As I said, they push themselves as hard, if not harder than the boys – Why should they get paid less?"

 

What is the number one preconception or prejudice people have about you?
"I’ve had a couple of classics lately. Actually, for the first time in a long time I have lost a job for being a female against a male photographer.
I quote: “We may need to trek a half hour or more into the spot where we wish to take the shots, and there could be some tricky terrain that I’d feel a bit uncomfortable forcing you into. sorry for making any presumptions on your physical capability. “
As you can imagine I was not impressed! So I replied, in a orderly fashion, that I was more than capable of hiking for half an hour, to which he replied: “The lads who are part of my crew were actually a bit disappointed when I told them we were getting a male photographer to get the shots, they were hoping for a bit of eye candy on the hill”
My blood boiled!
Another goodie is a comment on my instagram, for a photo of my gear (Canon 1dX): “That 7D looks pretty #heavy Katy Perry! #iamawomanhearmeroar”
So I guess this sums up the prejudices people have about me – That I'm not physically strong enough to do the job. I'd like to think I don’t lose out on too much work for being a female, but you never know, until people are as upfront and ‘honest’ as these two douche bags mentioned above."

 

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?
"Not really, but if anything, I would say my boobs. I have a larger set and I have to strap ’em in for sporting activities and wear higher cut tops so people can’t see them when I bike etc.  But I’m pretty sound, though it might be a different story if I shot surfing and had to hang out in a bikini all day. I'm truly grateful to my camera bag sponsor F-Stop Gear, as they are in the process of making a female camera pack, which will cater for the shape of a female body. All packs out there today are designed for men. It's going to be so nice to have a pack that fits!"

 

Is there a difference in how women and men are portrayed in the action sports industry?
" ‘Sex sells’.. Unfortunately another 'truth' that's less than ideal. Often in advertising, a photo of a sexy lady is used, ultimately in the more bogan sports like FMX, Moto X, Rally and sometimes even sports like mountain biking. Chicks that do surfing and beach sports generally are portrayed with banging bodies and not much on, so are the men- But I don’t see men wearing next to nothing draped over a car bonnet or straddling a Moto X bike…"

 

What would you say to people who want to get in to action sports, but think they might not fit in?
"Follow your dreams and go for it! If you really want it, it's there for the taking. There are plenty of chicks kicking ass out there, you might just have to dig a bit deeper!"
 

Prue Beams, New Zealand

linkedin.com/prue-beams

Prue Beams is a BASE jump athlete and business consultant from New Zealand
Location: Kaipo Wall, Fiordland, New Zealand
Camilla: “I became really interested in BASE jumping and wanted to shoot images of this fascinating sport. I met some local jumpers and got invited on a trip to shoot the largest vertical cliff in NZ, the Kaipo Wall, deep in Fiordland, a huge wilderness National Park in NZ. Its extremely remote and is only accessible by half an hr helicopter ride. I was pretty nervous as I was going to be hanging out on top of this wall with nothing to rope myself off to, with a crevasse filled glacier on one side and a 1.4km drop on the other! I was determined to shoot it though as it was such a great story. After the crew got dropped off, a about an hr was spent carefully sorting gear and getting ready on the exit point. I photographed the group walking around on top of this cliff, all happy in the knowledge they had their chutes on. Myself on the other hand had no safety line so chose my position carefully and didnt move around too much. It was pretty unnerving up there! I was only going to be able to get a good shot if I hung my head over the wall however, but the bottom seemed so far away it didnt seem so scary! In all of about 2 minuets I was alone, with my BASE friends all safely on the valley floor some 3km away. Another hour passed before I was scooped back up by the helicopter filled with ecstatic and adrenaline filled jumpers. I was so pleased to shoot Prue Beams, as she was the only female jumper. It gave me such a thrill to see a girl out there doing one of the worlds most dangerous sports along with the boys. The story and my photos were picked up by NZ Geographic Magazine.”