Samantha Saskia Dugon
Hailing from South Wales, UK, Samantha Saskia Dugon has honed her skills in the art of capturing the raw grit, power and adrenaline of mountain biking. Expressing an athlete’s story with her unique eye for framing and critical attention to detail is what Sam does best, made all the more impressive when you see her hauling her camera kit upon her back as she, too, rides the trails just to keep up with the talent! Often with her trail-dog in tow, Sam’s life on the road with her camera and bike has taken her all over the World, so while she has a spare few minutes in the mountains of Slovenia, we caught up with her to find out more.
After dabbling with a straightforward point-and-shoot camera as a teenager, Sam decided she wanted to invest in a DSLR, “then I just took photos of anything and everything, not with any real aim, I just enjoyed it!” With an off-chance free weekend, Sam headed down to a local Welsh mountain bike event with her camera and, quite literally, it was all downhill from there. Sam explains, “I got my first proper photography job during my final year of university. Trek Bicycles reached out to Pinkbike Magazine wanting a photo story on the women on the Trek Factory Racing Enduro team; Tracy Moseley and Katy Winton.” With her first photo story published in the largest mountain bike online publication, Sam set out to pursue a freelance career which would allow her to travel the world, capturing this dynamic sport one shot at a time.
“I just see it as riding around on my bike, trying to keep up with people and dragging my camera bag around with me haha!”
But, why mountain biking? “ I enjoy shooting mountain biking because of how fast paced it is. I really enjoy thinking on my feet, getting to a location and scouting it out quickly and working from different angles. And I don't necessarily have to be shooting something fast moving, I do music photography too, and that's fast-paced but in the sense of, you only have a few songs to shoot the band then you're off! You get to a new venue and have to figure out what the lighting is like, the stage layout, the space on the side etc., and that's exactly the same with mountain biking, but you've got a lot more to work with, in the great outdoors which makes it even more unpredictable and fun.”
With years of professional action sports photography under her belt, Sam has covered some incredible events and worked on some high-profile projects, but her most significant achievement to date is shooting the Red Bull Hardline mountain bike event in 2018. “I was working in a group with Sven Martin and Boris Beyer, two of my idols, I may have had an internal monologue of "omg, it's them, they're standing right in front of me, talking to me, I should probably get out of my own brain and start listening to them”...They were so welcoming and friendly, and within minutes we were all working as a team, and they were treating me as one of them, the whole weekend felt very surreal, and it was one of the best learning curves I've had.”
Being a female in a mostly male-dominated industry or sport can be a difficult place to feel comfortable, accepted and even respected. While Sam has been fortunate to not experience any gender discrimination or challenges as a professional photographer, she recalls a time when she worked in a bike shop… “I worked in a bike shop for six years and the majority of the people, both customers and staff were lovely. However, there were a handful of people who would challenge me, my ideas, not take me seriously, and I had one delightful (please highlight the sarcasm) chap tell me to "stick to hairdressing, love." That was both insulting to me and hairdressers 'cos I've tried cutting my own hair, and it didn’t go well.”
“I like to think that people will judge me by my work, and if they want to judge me as a person, then do that separately as I try quite hard to keep the two separate online.”
With the rise of women in action sports and media-making, Shextreme believes the playing field needs levelling out which is why we created the Shextreme Alliance; a supportive and encouraging community for female creatives. For Sam, she feels organisations like these are massively important… “To have a group of women to talk to, brainstorm with, share ideas and skills? It's a brilliant idea and a fantastic resource not only for those in it but for companies looking to find fresh female talent. I cannot stress enough that brilliant feeling of meeting someone who is not only like-minded and into adventure sports, but who is also a media person, it just opens up a space for some great ideas to come to fruition.”
For aspiring photographers and media-makers, Sam shares with us her top tips: “Go shoot. So many people I talk to say they put off shooting because they don't have anyone to shoot for, or because "they don't have a following". You don't need to have an end goal to go and shoot, you don't need to have a large following to present it to. Shoot what you love, and if something comes from it, then that's amazing. But don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself as that will take from the reason why you did it in the first place: for fun. In regards to gaining a following, that shouldn't be your reason to go and shoot, it can be a motivator, but ultimately, you should go shoot what you love, because you love it. And at the end of the day, if you're posting shots where your passion can be seen for what you're shooting, then people will naturally love it and thrive off of your love of it.”
So, how is Sam’s year shaping up? “I'm heading out to shoot the majority of the Mountain Bike World Cups this year. I'll be shooting the cross-country action for Radon Bicycles and the Downhill races for myself while doing some content creation for Canyon Bicycles. Outside of the mountain bike industry, I’m just about to start my first large "Passion Project" which will focus more on people and their stories.”