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Jordan Manley's Images Really Move

At 27, adventure photographer Jordan Manley is already a veteran in his field. His eye for vitality and mood has earned him the covers of magazines like Bike, Powder, SBC Skier, and Skiing. His images, though, rise above the numbing trove of “ski porn.”

So why is he exploring ski video, a niche that’s struggled to break from its worn-out groove of big hucks and dizzying spins?

“With video, there’s a narrative opportunity that’s not there with photography," he says. “I can be more involved in the storytelling."

Jordan Manley photographyIndeed, Manley the videographer is more interested in mountain chronicles than big air. Recently, a piece of his, called “Friends of Shames” told the story of a B.C. ski community trying to save their mountain from the bad economy. It’s part of the second season of his web series A Skier’s Journey, which has featured travelogues of Kashmir and France in past episodes. Manley finds poignant stories to accompany his stunning cinematography. His voiceovers are slight, reflective, thoughtful, albeit not necessarily gripping.

Manley’s own story isn’t mythic. In 1996, he and his family moved from a pink-skied suburb in Ontario to Vancouver. He got interested in mountain biking, and his passion for skiing was amplified. “The environment is such a big part of skiing,” he says. “There’s no match for the experience of being above treeline in the Coast Mountains.”

One day, he picked up his dad’s Pentax Spotmatic (though he's since shifted to Nikon D3s) and started clicking photos of cyclists and the wet, mossy forest.

Old folksTo learn the technical aspects of shooting, he read books by Freeman Patterson. Soon he was gazing at photographs by Patterson, Sterling Lorence, and Vincent Laforet, thinking, “How do I do that?” Then he developed an eye. Photography became a supplement to action sports, a new way of interacting with nature. “I’ve always had a passion for moving through a landscape on foot or on skis. I want to capture how an athlete interprets his surroundings,” he says.

Manley often spotlights the point of contact — a skier’s exploding line fringed by austere powder, say — where an athlete ruffles his pristine environment. It's compelling, he believes, how the snow erupts, then settles back into form.

Manley’s most arresting works pull us right in. We feel a single texture, like wet snow hitting our faces or mist settling on our skin, and from there, the settings swallow us. Our gaze becomes touch: We feel socked-in by their weather, engulfed by their locales, burned by their sun, scraped by their old, dark wood. They aren’t really images; they’re worlds to wander through.

The Baffin Island episode of A Skier’s Journey premieres Monday, Dec. 12, followed by the Argentina episode on Jan. 2. Watch these and past installments at Jordan Manley's Vimeo site. To see more of his photography, click through the jump, below.

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--Jake Abrahamson/images courtesy Jordan Manley

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