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By 2012, Jordan Manley was a respected ski photographer. All the ski rags fought over his best work, and he was in the midst of wrapping up his acclaimed ski-travel video series, A Skier’s Journey. Then, in November of that year, a strike to the head in a mountain-bike crash changed everything. During his recovery, another head bump undid most of his progress. Now, the Whistler-based 30-year-old is at home, learning to adapt.
I did a backwards somersault and hit my head.It was a slow recovery. Then I bumped my head again last winter, on a shelf, while fitting my ski boot in our local shop. It set me way back. I was pissed. It told me that if I had hit my head even worse or had another fall, it would have been really bad. So now I’ve got a bit of a different attitude.
I wouldn’t call myself lost, but I’m definitely having a tough time knowing how to go forward. Walking has been a big challenge—the percus- sion and vibration of walking. Recovery has been way slower than the first time. If this is the new Jordan, if I can’t sustain any risk, ski photography is not the work I should continue.
In 2008 or ’09, DSLRs started shooting high-quality video and I approached Arc’teryx for funding, with the goal of painting a picture of ski travel around the world. Making A Skier’s Journey was an amazing learning experience. Telling stories well is challenging. That’s something that will always remain challenging.
Last year, I did this “Daily Walk” thing on Instagram. I couldn’t take pictures with my SLR at that time but I could use my phone, which automates the details. I walked around close to my house, a few blocks at a time. I was stripping photography down to its core, which is exploration and communication.
I’ve also been fishing and tying flies. There’s an athletic element in learning how to cast well. And then there’s learning about the landscape and the ecosystem. Lots of knowledge needs to come together in order to catch a fish. But a lot of it is luck, too.
When you do something for almost a decade and that’s your identity, it’s challenging to move away from it. I have to embrace changing course. There’s lots of ways to live. Lots to photograph. The part I do have control over is whether to be positive or not.