by Gerry George
Looking through the viewfinder of his camera, Henri Georgi is motionless, transfixed by the scene before him. Trees droop lazily under a frosting of white while the mountains thrust up through the centre of the frame. Bluebird skies contrast sharply against a blanket of smooth snow that fills the lower portion of the shot .
In the air, only silence. Georgi is holding even his breath to keep the camera steady with both his hands. And then the call, “okay, go!” A skier lowers his goggles and hearing the cry, pushes off, crouches down and begins to build speed heading for the small bump down the slope. Driving his skis through the middle of the bump, snow explodes around the skier and he is launched into the air.
The camera’s motor drive advances the film at seven frames per second. As the skier’s skis exit the bump, Georgi begins firing. Although the skier’s apple green jacket is barely visible amidst the chunks of snow, Georgi can see the telltale signs of a great shot. The skier’s hands are stretched out in front of him, while his skis and feet are kicked out to the side for style. Snow is billowing everywhere and on the skier’s face, a great big smile. Pulling the camera away from his face, Georgi yells out to the skier a few metres below, “Yeah, that was great! That’s a cover for sure.”
In the world of action and sport photography there’s no greater pleasure than seeing your photo make the cover of a magazine. It is the ultimate reward and for Georgi, it is something that happens regularly.
Georgi is a local professional photographer whose photographs have graced the covers of magazines like Powder, Skiing and Bike.
Born and raised near Toronto, Georgi graduated with a technical diploma in electronics and worked for a geographic surveying company customizing software. Photography was, at that time, nothing more than a hobby for the 20-year-old who spent most of his time thinking about his true interest, skiing.
When the recession hit his industry in the early 1980’s, Georgi’s programming skills kept him employed but there wasn’t enough work to keep him occupied. It was then that Georgi approached his employer about taking a leave of absence.
With a friend from Alberta, Georgi came West for the first time and discovered some epic skiing in Fernie. It was here that he decided he would make his home one day. A year later and one career behind him, Georgi crossed the Atlantic and spent two years ski-bumming around Europe. He took odd jobs to support his skiing and began taking photographs of his friends skiing.
After looking at his photos, Georgi decided to assemble a small collection of images and wrote a short essay on photographing skiing. He submitted this package to Photo Life, Canada’s leading photographic magazine. Photo Life not only published the article but also ran one of his photos on the cover and Georgi realized he could build a new career for himself based on combining his love for skiing and his talent for photography.
Georgi pursued this new career in the East and filled a void in an industry heavily saturated with images from the West. Soon Georgi’s images began cropping up in all the major American ski magazines. Georgi also started shooting kayaking and white water rafting to supplement his income during the summer months. With few photographers focusing on these sports, Georgi carved out another niche for himself.
Almost ten years after his initial visit to Fernie, Georgi returned to scope things out and shoot some classic B.C. powder. In 1993, Georgi made the move out West.
“I remember comparing real estate listings,” Georgi says, thinking back, “one week all these houses were for sale, the next week they all had sold stamped across the photos. I knew I had to get in soon.”
A long drive and a few days later, he was signing papers for his new home. According to Georgi, the best selling feature of his new home was a walk in closet and an ensuite bathroom.
“The closet was bigger than most of the places I’d lived,” says Georgi, who now shares his walk in closet with his wife Bernie. Together, they travel in the summer months, shooting lifestyle photography across Canada and the US.
Georgi doesn’t hesitate to share his knowledge with up and coming photographers. His willingness to share shows that for Georgi, photography is more than a job. It is a passion that you can see in his eyes and hear in his voice.
When asked what he likes best about his profession Georgi replies, “It’s the freedom to chose what you want to do or what you want to shoot. Who would have thought you could make a living by taking pictures of people having fun in snow?”