Different Direction's lensman has plenty of tales to tell.
[Above] Theo looking very excited about dropping in. Photo: Lukas Ellensohn.
Theo Acworth first met a few members of the Different Direction crew around five years ago at a Welsh Festival, and now lives in Austria riding, exploring, shooting photos and filming with the gang. He's consistently made eye-catching and just generally sick photos and also produces some really rad zines and personal projects which you can view on his website. We can't wait to see what he's able to produce with moving image. His attitude toward snowboarding are super on point and he is always excited to tell a tale of his adventures. We got in touch with Theo (for the first in a new series of interviews with the up and coming photographers and filmers that get us stoked) to talk about his personal projects, his gear, ways to keep warm and his sources of inspiration outside the bubble that is Instagram. We also convinced him to pick his favourite photos and tell some tales of how they came together - scroll on down to see his banging selects. Thanks, Theo!
Tell me about your Nintendo Camera project. That's such a great idea, and who doesn't love Nintendo!
I’m really really stoked on this one. To randomly stumble across a way to shoot and print photographs that I didn’t know existed is just rad for me, the fact that it’s 0.1 megapixels is even better. It’s a nightmare to use but I love it! It just exists in the weird kinda grey area of early digital photography where there was so much development in such a short space of time that lots of things got forgotten. I meant to shoot loads in Japan with it last year but the thermal paper that came with my printer was too old (about 20 years too old) and didn’t really work so I only shot a couple of pictures on the trip. I think part of the reason I didn’t shoot much with it was because the whole crew watched me excitedly try and then completely fail to make my first print in Osaka airport and they all thought it was a waste of time! I actually shot my first snowboard action photos on it last week, lots of trial and error but I actually got a couple of shots! I’m trying to build a body of work with it this year so watch this space for more.
You released a couple of zines and mini books, did you print them yourself and did that help you progress your photography?
Oh for sure, it makes the whole thing way more of a process. It definitely developed my appreciation of paper too, there is some real nice paper out there! Some of the books I printed myself and others I had the pages printed and then bound them myself either with staples or bits of string. If you’re printing yourself it can be a real arse, you’d think it would be easy to get two sides of an image to line up right but think again! Making books or even just putting a series of photographs together digitally definitely opens your eyes to how much more you can do with photography. You’re in complete control of how someone experiences your photographs. Every design choice from size, layout, paper thickness, printing and binding style will influence the work differently. You might think you’ve got everything figured out and then you see it in print and absolutely hate it. Basically, it’s really fun and anyone can do it with a printer and some string!
What gear do you mainly use for snowboard photography?
A fairly standard bag usually. Canon digital body, fisheye, zoom lens, maybe a 50mm. Then if I’m feeling strong I’ll add my Bronica in there and I always slip my 35mm into a pocket. The Game Boy has also been joining me too which usually gets me a few odd looks!
What sources of photography do you follow apart from Instagram? What other sides of photography are you interested in?
I was lucky enough to study photography and that exposed me to what I guess I could describe as the ‘history of photography’. Not like ‘this happened on that date’ sort of history but more like ‘what’ photography is in a cultural sense, how it can be used and how it has developed (ha) over time. I hope I don’t sound like a pompous idiot but studying it really helped me develop how I think about my photographs, more so than I could ever have imagined before I started my degree. I was stoked I did it. I’m pretty bad at keeping on top of what’s going on in the world of photography but sites like itsnicethat are a good way to see new things which have actually had a lot of time and thought put into them (often years) rather than pretty Instagram photos that you only look at for a second and then forget.
I’m just stoked on photography really. Books, prints, random things like Game Boy cameras! Personally, I like stuff that’s simple and playful, often conceptual work. Like seeing how far you can run away from your camera on a ten-second timer, that sort of thing. Sounds dumb I know but doing that stuff makes me laugh. It makes the boring exciting again. Simple is best, for me anyway.
What do you think will change about snowboard photography in the next few years? What will never change?
Well from what I seem to hear no one likes snowboarding anymore but from where I’m sitting everyone is still stoked and those who are down are down for life. Pretty sure that will never change. In terms of photography who knows what will happen. It seems to be harder and harder to get things printed by other people so I guess people will just start doing it themselves DIY style! Or we’ll all just have to shoot domes because Donald Trump stole all the snow.
Who are the best/ worst riders to shoot photos with?
The best riders to shoot with are the ones who have no self-imposed expectations and are just stoked to be riding their snowboards on anything even when they crash into trees or land upside down. The worst are the ones who never seem to be happy despite the fact that they’re snowboarding.
What's the best way to stay warm? What do you do when you're waiting for riders?
I’m rarely cold actually, only when I have to stand in the shade for a long time and watch other people in the sun, which luckily doesn’t happen too often. I guess 686 and Deeluxe make good gear! Usually I usually just stand very still and think deep (ish) thoughts. Or now I can just play Super Mario Land!
Behind the Lens
Crew: Alex Fischer, Marco Feichtner, Sebi Geiger and Sebi Madlener. Not a mega pow day but a pretty good one.
Gear: Canon 5D w/ 70-200mm.
We found this pretty wide and open pow field in Kaunertal and I dropped down to shoot it from the bottom looking up. Despite the fact that it was a pow day I was struggling to get good shots of Sebi which was stressing me out a bit, it was his first day back after dislocating his shoulder in Japan about a month previously so I wanted to make the most of our time with him. Luckily he just leant back and surfed down the hill, resulting in a shot that I’m absolutely stoked with. This was hands down my favourite photo from last winter. To me it simply shows the feeling of snowboarding. Looking at this photo makes me want to be him, just surfing lazy turns down a hill. Nothing better. I showed this to a friend of mine who but doesn’t snowboard but is a very loose surfer, he told me that this was the first snowboard photo he’d ever seen that made him want to try it out. I took that as a compliment of the highest level.
Location: St Christoph.
Crew: DD crew and friends.
Conditions: Spring slush.
Gear: Canon 5D w/ 15mm Fisheye.
Last spring we got a bunch of guys together to build and ride a hip at a classic Arlberg spot. I shot a few different angles and of course had to get the fisheye out because everyone was blasting and I just love my fisheye… I originally shot this landscape so you can see the takeoff, but I just thought this crop suited the shape Luki was making. This one isn’t really about the trick anyway so to me it doesn’t matter that you can’t quite tell what’s going on in terms of the jump.
What I love about this is the fact that if you were standing next to me watching Luki hit this hip you would see exactly this moment but you wouldn’t register it. Take a picture at just the right moment and you get this random bit of visual comedy that makes me laugh every time I see it. Completely unexpected and unpredictable but absolutely delightful. One of my favourite things about photography and also snowboarding.
Crew: Alex Fischer, Marco Feichtner, Sebi Geiger and Sebi Madlener.
Conditions: Not a mega pow day but a pretty good one.
Gear: Canon 5D w/ 70-200mm.
I was behind the others on the run down to the cars at the end of the day and I saw Alex and Marco out ahead on the road below me and thought everything looked pretty rad and wild. I tried to wrangle the camera out of the bag in time to shoot them but they were too fast for me. Luckily the Sebis were a little way behind them so I got my chance again and got this shot. I love feeling like I’m going somewhere on a snowboard, even when I’m creeping down the edge of a tarmac road that wants to destroy both my board and me.
Location: Asahidake, Japan.
Conditions: Powder everywhere.
Crew: DD Crew.
Gear: Canon 5D w/ 70-200mm.
We had been driving past this dam for about 5 days while shooting in Japan and went back to hit it on a weekend as we figured we would get less hassle from security. We only shot one run from this angle, we didn’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves as Sebi Madlener and myself had walked out onto the middle of the dam wall and were very visible from the main building there. We were completely undisturbed though and slayed this all day just doing turns and blasting ollies. Even us camera guys got to hit it. This is another one of those shots that makes me want to ride straight away. All inclusive and simple snowboarding is the best. One day I’d like to print this really big.
Location: Asahidake, Japan
Crew: Different Direction
Gear: Canon 5D w/ 40mm
This was taken at the end of a day during a heavy week when we were shooting in Japan. We’ve had a few days where we’ve been pretty much finished and ready to go home (sometimes on the way home) but then find a new spot that looks fun and just start riding and shooting again. Even when your mind and body are in ‘done’ mode if we see something good then energy levels come right back up and we keep going because snowboarding is fucking fun. It’s pretty rad to be able to say that I’m happy to keep doing my job until it gets too dark to see.
Location: Day 1 in Japan
Crew: Different Direction
Gear: Canon 5D w/40mm lens
This was taken on our first day riding in Japan. We just hiked this little hillside next to a car park and proceeded to go powder diving all afternoon. We were just having fun playing around and seeing what we could get on camera. It was pretty much dark when I shot this, it’s noisy as fuck and out of focus but I love it. For me, this photo conveys something very simple yet fundamentally important to me about snowboarding. It shows someone experiencing complete happiness. Despite the fact you might be half blind and freezing cold, snowboarding should make you happy. It should make you so fucking happy you want to scream. If it doesn’t then you’re doing something seriously wrong, or are just overthinking it.
See more of Theo's work and keep up with the Different Direction Crew below: