Guillaume Le Guillou ist Bergsport-Fotograf mit Sitz in La Grave, Frankreich. Guillaume besitzt einen für deutsche Landsmänner eher schwierig auszusprechenden Namen. Seine Freunde nennen ihn daher auch “GuiGui”. GuiGui (gesprochen: Gigi) nimmt euch mit auf eine phantastische bildgewaltige Reise in seine Wahlheimat, das Skifahrermekka La Grave. Der sympathischen Ex-Architekt gibt uns einen Einblick in seine Arbeit, sein tägliches Leben und ein paar Tipps für angenehende Skifotografen.
Hi, my name is Guillaume Le Guillou, my friends call me “GuiGui”. I’m a big mountain photographer based in La Grave, Hautes Alpes, France. It is a bit special to live close to such a big mountain.
Powder+: Guillaume, skiing and moving through the mountains is risky. Especially in freeriding and mountaneering there are dangers to be aware of. How do you and your riders deal with these objective hazards?
Guillaume Le Gouillou: There are countless threats to consider, to keep our risk at an optimum.
– training (rope stuff, crevasse rescue technique, avalanche rescue training…)
– knowledge of the snowpack and getting informations directly from the snowpatrolers
– knowledge of each other: I mostly shoot with the same team, a few la grave locals actually: It’s easier to think about big lines.
– ride a lot so that I can be fit enough.
– never push a rider to do something that he doesn’t feel.
Powder+: Does it affect your shooting?
GuiGui: Of course! It’s a part of it. I must admit that I’m a bit scared, because I know we’re going to ride close to the edge. But on the other hand we are ready for it and that’s what we live for: searching for powder in the most “progressive” place and first tracks! I cross my fingers but until now I never had to call the rescue: This means that we (the riders and me) have taken the right decisions at the right time.
Le Pan de Rideau, one of the most famous lines around, La Grave, May 2013. It was snowing a bit all the month in the valley, Up in the mountain it was dumping really hard. I guess only few riders were ready to ride this incredible amount of snow in the high mountain. but the weather windows were quite unpredictable, and I haven’t seen a track. This dream line is why we live in la grave…
Powder+: The cemetery in La Grave is one of the most famous in the world of mountaineering and skiing. How do you manage that fine line between adrenaline and death?
GuiGui: It’s like Yin & Yang: There is no shadow without light. Adrenaline and death exist not as opposite but as a part of a bigger thing. We know this can happen, but we do our best to stay alive! In fact, all over the season we get ready for a few big days in late march/ april. We don’t ride the “you fall, you die line” every run and every day. We wait for the right days with the right conditions. But also, standards are rising. Xavier De Le Rue and Sam Anthamatten with Tero Repo, Travis Rice with Scott Serfas and many others are pushing the limits nowadays. And we have to follow. That’s all about photography.
It’s all about route finding in those chunks of ice, and at this game Aurelien is one of the best I know.
I remember perfectly this day: it was a saturday of school vacation and usually we stay at home to avoid people. But it was a great idea to go to Les 2 Alpes poaching our neighbours. It’s not usual to find a line like this without tracks at 3pm. It was also a new line that Jean Louis showed me. A few years ago it was me that showed him some lines. Things change.
It was my biggest mission of last year: 1800 vertical meters by splitboarding. About 8 hours of work. I arrived late and Jean Louis was nearly ready, the wind was blowing a bit. I packed my backpack quickly and get in place for the shot. I think we’ve ridden this line in less then 10 minutes with stopping only a few times for shooting.
A line that I shoot each year. And this time, I was pretty happy to find this new angle! My favourite ski photo of last year for sure.
Powder+: There are few people deciding to switch from a safe job and life in Paris to a skibum-style mountain life in a 800-inhabitants village with one gondola and no groomers around. Are there times when you regret your decision of living the other life? Can you imagine any life event that would take you back to the normal route of a 9-to-5 office job?
GuiGui: No regret for sure! Going back to a “normal life”, no thank you! I’m happy with my life, don’t know if it will last, but I’ll do my best to stay in the same direction. When you like powder, La Grave is pretty unique: Many lines by just gravity or a small skin up. Easy access with a magic lift and it’s not that crowded. The people living here make life even more suitable to me.
Powder+: Your images are unique in the world of freeskiing. What is your advice for aspiring freeride photographers and filmers?
GuiGui: It’s pretty hard to give ONE advice as “extreme sports” photography is a complex world. So here is a top-3 list:
– Never lie to yourself about what you’re doing.
– Grow your passion for (any kind of) photography.
– Keep it fun!
Aurelien and Jean Louis dropping from 3600m to the road at 1200m. First track in Chirouse: That’s the gold we live for.
One of the only weather windows last year to ride the north face of La Meije. Can’t wait to go back there.
At some point you have to trust the rider when he says: “I’m gonna ride there.”
Powder+: La Grave is your home resort and you know every corner and stone. What suprises you in the mountains and what makes you smile?
GuiGui: For me there is nothing like a highfive at the bottom of a magic powder run! La Grave is always different, the snow, the light, the people. Nearly every season at the beginning I wonder what i can do that is a bit new and different. And every year we find new places, new angles. La Grave is world famous for big mountain riding and every year people come from all over the world to ski here. It’s pretty unique to meet people with the same state of mind and share the love for powder.
It was a stormy day and we were riding with some good friends, sometimes it’s more about spending some good times in the mountain than just try to get some bangers… but when you have the camera in the bag it’s not easy to resist.
That’s the place for the late season on the lift. Aurelien finds his way between the ice.
Arriving at the pass on a stormy day. There is not a lot of people ready to open the traverse. That’s the price you have to pay to have the privilege to ride 1st track.
Only few guys are able to do this, and I’m really happy to be there to capture the progression of the sport.
Thanks to my friends and partners and especialy to my girlfriend Anne. Huge respect to F-stop gear and DXO optics for the support.
Take care and ride safe. PEACE!
Alle Bilder und Text: Guillaume Le Guillou