Behind the Lens: Ilanna Barkusky

Hey Ilanna! How’s it going? Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to this season?

Hey! I’m doing great! This season I managed to cross a few major goals off my list, so I would have to say it has been the most exciting winter I have ever had. Whistler has been firing all year, so I have really enjoyed my time at home between trips.

My season started off with a super fun week at Dew Tour, and then after that it just kept getting better! I got the opportunity to go on a road trip from Bear to Mammoth with a great crew, hit up X-Games and got an invite to Nine Queens. Now I’m hanging out at the Portland airport waiting on a ride to the West Coast Session!

Best time of the year right around the corner.. 🙏🙌🏻

A photo posted by Ilanna (@ilannaemily) on

Do you consider photography a hobby or a career? Talk to us a bit about the difference between the two.

The difference between the two is a very fine line, since in my opinion doing what you love in life is key. I’m not really in the position to answer that question either way, considering I am in the final year of my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. Photography has been a great balance of opposites in regards to my degree in Political Science and International Relations.

What are your plans after your undergrad? What are you hoping to do with your degree?

I get asked this question quite a bit, but I don’t have any concrete plans until I graduate in December in order to keep my options open. My undergraduate degree is definitely a stepping stone to other opportunities and I am definitely considering doing an MBA. The other idea I’ve had on my mind for quite a bit is potentially moving to South Africa (where I have citizenship) once I graduate and shooting surfing for a bit.

Day 1 of shooting at @nineknights went down today! So stoked to be here 🙏

A photo posted by Ilanna (@ilannaemily) on

Where do you see yourself in five years? What about fifteen?

I wish I knew! I have a lot of different things I would like to accomplish, so only time will tell. I would love to branch out into the surf industry. I could also see myself pursuing an MBA down the road, I really enjoy certain aspects of sports marketing. As for fifteen years in the future, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Talk to us a bit about growing up and living in Whistler

I was actually born in Vancouver, but I’ve been back and forth between the two my whole life ever since I was really young. Whistler definitely feels like home and it is made up of such a great community of like-minded people who love the outdoors. I feel really lucky to have grown up skiing such great terrain all the way into the summer.

Who do you normally ski with when you’re shooting? What about on personal days?

Usually whoever is in Whistler at the time, it is always changing since everyone is on a different schedule throughout the year with traveling! I shoot with Anna Segal quite a bit since I love her work ethic. I also shoot and ride with Jenna Blasman pretty often, and as a result of her referring me I’ve also been privileged enough to work with the Canada Snowboard Team for two seasons now on some different things, so when the team is having a training camp on Blackcomb I usually try to get up there for at least a day!

Who has helped you along the way?

I’ve definitely had a lot of people help me navigate through the industry. Jeff [Schmuck] has undoubtedly had a huge impact on my photography development and career. He helped me land my first photography job shooting the North Face Park and Pipe Open in Whistler in 2013 when I was only 19. Since then, he has continued to help me achieve my goals and I can’t thank him enough for that. Darren [Rayner] also helped me a lot in the beginning as well.

I’d love to do the same for others, I try to offer feedback to people who email me for critiques and try to answer the questions I get through Instagram direct message as well.

Name one male and one female photographer you take inspiration from.

A female photographer I take inspiration from would be Zoya Lynch. Her photography blows me away every time I see it, and I love the fact that she really emphasizes the surrounding environment in her photos. Her photos are unique and different in an oversaturated world of content, and she has a really well-defined style.

Narrowing it down to one male photographer is tough as well! I looked up to Rocky Maloney’s work when I was starting out, especially his photography from the West Coast Session every year. I remember seeing that one-footer photo of B-Dog published in SBC and thinking it was just the sickest thing ever! I think I told him that last year, but if not, Rocky you’re the man!

Day 5 @westcoastsession, what a day it was 😍

A photo posted by Ilanna (@ilannaemily) on

Do you have anything you’d like to check off the old photo bucket list? Any other goals with your career as a photographer?

I definitely achieved a handful of my goals this past season, so going forward I have to create some new ones! The biggest goal I have (which is probably pretty consistent with other photographers) is to land a cover. I’d also love to have photos published in some of the European magazines and get to enjoy a Southern Hemisphere winter in Australia or New Zealand.

What advice do you have for someone just picking up a camera?

Look through magazines and find what kinds of work inspire you. Don’t worry about what kind of camera you have – shoot what you’re stoked on and see where that takes you!

Do you have any exciting plans for the summer?

I love summers in BC and July is by far my favourite month in Whistler! This summer I’ll be shooting in the Momentum lane on the glacier for a few days to work on some different things as well as shooting some race events in town like Tough Mudder. Besides that, I’m planning on climbing and hiking as much as I can!

Do you have anything you’d like to check off the old photo bucket list? Any other goals with your career as a photographer?

I definitely achieved a handful of my goals this past season, so going forward I have to create some new ones! The biggest goal I have (which is probably pretty consistent with other photographers) is to land a cover. I’d also love to have photos published in some of the European magazines and get to enjoy a Southern Hemisphere winter in Australia or New Zealand.

Traveling sure beats studying for exams 😬 #onemoreweek ✔️

A photo posted by Ilanna (@ilannaemily) on

What makes WCS so special among athletes and content creators?

I love going to events like WCS and Nine Queens that really have a special vibe to them, being focused on putting together photo and video content. Everyone is so stoked to be there and collaborate, that whatever comes out of it ends up being pretty timeless. They also feel like community gatherings where everyone can catch up and have fun.

Do you have a favourite memory from a WCS?

My favourite memory didn’t actually take place during West Coast Session, but it would have to be opening up a magazine to find my first ever editorial feature that I wrote and photographed. Filling four magazine pages with content from WCS9 was something I’ll be stoked on forever! It’ll always be my first editorial feature and I’m so proud of it.

Who are you most excited to shoot with at WCS?

Everyone at WCS is super awesome to shoot with! If I had to give a shout out to some riders though, it would have to be Nicky Keefer and Jonah Williams. They have such awesome attitudes and are great people above all else. They are also such stylish skiers, overall a pleasure to link up with!

Talk to us a bit about Ethan Stone, one of the masterminds behind the WCS?

Ethan is the man! I was so excited when he gave me the opportunity to attend WCS9 last year. The event is a highlight of the year for so many people thanks to his hard work. He is also so talented in so many different areas of the industry – you name it, he is good at it! I really look up to people who are well-rounded in so many different areas and he is a prime example.

ABM Whistler

“This photo of @abmskier almost didn’t happen! We were posted up on @whistlerblackcomb with the @canadasnowboardteam and @canfreestyleski when the weather looked like it wasn’t going to clear up for the sunset shoot. Right at the last minute, the wind died down and the clouds rolled out. Watching the sun set from 7th Heaven was probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!”

Jake Doan

“@bear_mountain is one of my new favourite places. Spring weather in January was hard to beat and hot lapping top to bottom all day was really fun. This is @jake_doan stepping up to this monster of a rail. Can’t wait to get back there!”

Jordan Innes Grouse

“I always make sure I get up to @grousepark during the season with a crew. This photo of @jordanninnes was taken on an elusive sunny Vancouver day in February. I took this shot just as we were waiting for the sunset to go off over the city.”

13320295_1792213620998564_1860516117_n

“@anna_segal is hands down one of my favourite people to shoot photos with. She has a great work ethic and a great friend so it ends up being the best of both worlds! We always end up shooting until the end of the day and in this case, this shot was taken early in the winter. This time of year you end up with some interesting light just as the mountain is shutting down and you’re taking the last few laps.”

Noah Bowman Breck

“This shot of @noahbowmanski was taken during practice for Dew Tour, which ended up being one of most fun weeks of the season for me in Breckenridge. I have to give a shout out to my statistics professor at UBC for re-scheduling an exam that was supposed to take place during pipe finals. I studied on the plane home instead!”