Sølve Sundsbø

Chasing mountains.

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In 1985, Sølve Sundsbø was a teenager working at a ski shop in Norway. The now-famous London-based fashion photographer and filmmaker, who has been published in Vogue and W Magazine, and produced an Emmy Award-winning video for The New York Times, spent most of his time at the store watching ski videos on VHS. One tape particularly caught the young man’s eye: heli-skiing in British Columbia. “I almost got the sack because I was mesmerized,” he says with a laugh over breakfast at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The footage sparked a lifelong love affair for Sundsbø—he has travelled to the most remote ski terrains in British Columbia and Alberta for the past 13 years, all the while documenting the landscapes with his camera. And now, some of those breathtaking shots have been transformed into a travel book collaboration, Fashion Eye British Columbia, with Louis Vuitton.

“They are from the Monashee, the Caribou, and from the Selkirk. Slightly different rocks from the Rockies, and better for skiing,” says Sundsbø, describing the mountain ranges found in the photo book, one of the latest in Louis Vuitton’s ongoing Fashion Eye series. He is in Vancouver for a book signing at the Louis Vuitton Fairmont boutique, where he met, much to his delight, many admirers—skiers, creatives—some even arriving with flowers. Fashion Eye British Columbia is a sleek collection of Sundsbø’s captured moments in a helicopter and on the ground: alpine mountains, snow caps, and pink sunrises above the clouds. “I wouldn’t have chosen a different paper,” he says of the saturated, glossy pages. “I love it.”

Louis Vuitton himself began his career by making trunks, and travel remains part of the French brand’s DNA to this day. The Fashion Eye books celebrate specific destinations—New York, Berlin, Paris—through the distinct lens of Louis Vuitton’s style. “They contacted me and said, ‘We do travel books, is there a place that you’ve travelled to that you have an affinity with?’” recalls Sundsbø. The choice was easy: beautiful British Columbia.

He is excited to showcase the province’s remote corners in photographs—even though it is not something he ever anticipated doing. “The thing is, none of the pictures were shot directly for the book. They were my holiday pictures,” Sundsbø admits. “I don’t go here for the photography, I go here for the skiing. But photography is the happy by-product.” That lends the images a beautifully relaxed flair and a distinct sense of freedom. “A lot of people reacted and said, ‘It looks like it could be a different planet,’ and in a way, it is,” he says. “We’re not meant to be standing on top of a mountaintop in January. We’re not meant to be there. I think my work is quite romantic, actually. It’s searching for something larger than myself in general.”

After moving to London from Norway in pursuit of a photography career, Sundsbø began working under the iconic Nick Knight, and eventually caught the attention of brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. “I always come back to natural elements, because I miss that in London,” he says. “Being from Norway, growing up in the countryside, and then living in one of the biggest cities in the world, I think you yearn for what you don’t have.” His fashion shoots are dramatic, colourful, textured, and angelic. It’s not unusual to find the subjects of his photos draped with shadows of a fern tree or covered with the twinkling reflection of water.

“A lot of these things people think are happening on the computer, but they’re happening in front of the camera,” he explains. A recent shoot with Kendall Jenner for Harper’s Bazaar captures the model being completely drenched, slowly, with buckets of water.

For Sundsbø, skiing offers a break from the hectic city life of London, and working on projects like Fashion Eye British Columbia has given him solace. “My daily work is fashion. So, it creates quite a healthy contrast to what I normally do,” he says, noting that though he has enjoyed capturing the famous faces of Kate Moss, Tilda Swinton, and Cara Delevingne, it’s creative endeavours like this one that are truly memorable. “You remember these things because they require a focus and a presence that’s more than a week, two weeks—and although you can create really interesting pictures in that [editorial] space, they don’t have the same emotional space in your life.”

As he gets up to leave, Sundsbø opens up his Google Maps and explains the long journey he is about to embark on. Leaving for an annual two-week ski trip, he will be picked up by a helicopter near the Alberta border and dropped down into the great abyss. “I might not have shown B.C. in all its greatness. But, maybe I’ve opened up a different kind of window to look at B.C.,” he muses. “If I’ve done that, that’s enough for me. That’s a lot.”


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July 16, 2018