By Jim Stanford on December 12, 2012
Although the news has been shared widely since last week’s announcement, let me add my congratulations to photographer Jonathan Selkowitz for being named the International Ski Federation’s Journalist of the Year.
The award recognizes journalists for their career contributions to the sport. For 20 years, Selkowitz has poured an astounding amount of passion into covering ski racing, which is far from lucrative and, aside from Olympic years, receives little attention.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jonathan at two Olympics and other skiing events. No one works harder on and off the slopes, as the story below attests. He also is one of the more thoughtful humans on the planet.
In winning the award, presented jointly by the FIS and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, Selko joins a select group that includes longtime TV announcers Bob Beattie and Tim Ryan and the late USSA correspondent Paul Robbins.
Here is a story I wrote for the News&Guide about Selkowitz in 2006:
For Olympic photography, Selko wins gold
SESTRIERE, Italy — It’s nearly 3:30 a.m., and Jonathan Selkowitz is enjoying a few sips of grappa in what has become a nightly post-work ritual.
“A cookie, carrot and grappa – that’s dinner,” he says.
The taste of grappa, a local spirit distilled from grape skins and stems, will help Selkowitz drift off to sleep – for the good three or four hours he will rest that night. By 8:30 a.m. he will be dressed in ski clothes and hauling a 40-pound camera pack toward the slopes, on his way to the next ski race.
So goes another day of shooting the Olympics for the 39-year-old Jackson Hole resident, a U.S. Ski Team photographer.
The Torino games are Selkowitz’s third Olympics. He shot all of the Alpine races and a handful of aerials and other events.
His work on the treacherously icy slopes, sometimes enduring a blizzard, was only a fraction of his duties in Sestriere. The real labor began once he arrived back at his rented apartment or the media center and began editing thousands of frames and e-mailing them back to his home office in Jackson.
In contrast to his first two winter games, Selkowitz was working primarily for himself at these Olympics and not for an agency. Consequently, he could not just hand off cards of digital images for staffers to download and label.
“Selko,” as he is known to friends, had to do all of these chores and then transmitted the images to Powell Miller, his assistant in Jackson Hole, who helped market the photos around the world.
By Sunday, when the games concluded, Selkowitz had snapped roughly 15,000 photos in three weeks, filling three external hard drives and about 20 DVDs.
He capped his assignments by shooting portraits of U.S. skier Julia Mancuso with the gold medal she won in giant slalom. Earlier he had photographed American Ted Ligety’s surprise gold medal in the men’s combined.
In the coming months Selkowitz will continue to sell images from the Olympics to ski publications and sponsors of the various teams. Traveling to Italy and working the games likely won’t be a financial windfall, but for Selkowitz the job is a labor of love.
“If I didn’t love skiing and the athletes as much as I do, I couldn’t put up with this,” he says.
A former ski racer and coach, Selkowitz uses his experience to scout shooting locations on the slopes. He hauls a hefty, 500mm lens to capture tight, razor-sharp images of the skiers at the arc of a turn.
In the media center in Sestriere, Selkowitz established himself as one of the hardest-working photographers with his late-night routine and practically was on a first-name basis with the carbinieri police who came to close the center at about 2 a.m., well past the posted midnight deadline.
“When you observe Jonathan, you see how tough photography is,” says Pepi Stiegler, who shared an apartment with Selkowitz in Sestriere. “You have to be really dedicated and passionate.”
While his daily routine was grueling, Selkowitz took satisfaction in the smallest moments, savoring the view of the mountains from the window above his bed, or enjoying a capuccino at the nearby cafe he had adopted as his own. He subsisted on a diet of health foods, particularly organic produce. Italy’s good coffee and chocolate helped him get by, too.
One of his biggest rewards at the games came Saturday, when he skied two feet of neve fresca, or fresh powder, on and around the Olympic downhill course.
The face shots that left him with a frosty barba blanca, or white beard, were a taste of home. Burning some energy on the slopes helps him stay positive and fuels his work.
“I call it life-sustaining energy,” he says.
(Action photo by Jed Jacobsohn)