It’s our second installment of Behind the Lens, about our intrepid and freakishly talented photographers. Photographs don’t grow on trees, and our Flickr account is populated by the art of a number of wonderful CFSBKers. They’re so good at shooting us while we sweat that we sometimes even forget they’re there! Our first interview was with Bekka Palmer, and this one is with the marvelous Asta Fivgas. See some of her favorite photos and her interview with Kate below.
Behind the Lens: Asta Fivgas
Where and when were you born? Keflavik, Iceland on May 25, 1985.
What color are your eyes? They’re actually the same color as my hair. Matchy matchy.
Favorite smell? Cinnamon and that super toxic smell when the A/C first comes on in the car.
Weird fact: Besides when people find out I was born in Iceland? I pronounce my w-h combinations in words, it’s not really weird but people point it out a lot.
What is your perfect Friday night? Something involving friends, laughter, and bourbon. Sometimes this devolves into just liquor by myself on the couch after a long week. And open gym. You can usually find me there when my Friday is going as planned.
Favorite photographer? I don’t know if I can really narrow this down, I appreciate a lot of different photographers for a variety of reasons but two of my favorite books of images are by Lee Friedlander and Geir Jordahl.
Kate: You’ve been around CFSBK way longer than I have, so other people might know the answers to some of these questions. Regardless, clue us all in, if you don’t mind. How did you start down the CrossFit journey and how did you find SBK?
Asta: I was dating a guy who was super into CrossFit but always made it sound like the most bizarre thing in the world—so when I got the opportunity to meet some of these “CrossFit people” during a little potluck (complete with what turned into a really aggressive game of dodgeball and burpees), I was definitely going to be there. I decided that I, too, wanted to work out in the post-apocalyptic movie set known as the Lyceum and challenge myself more than my gym routine of peddling away on the stationary bike while reading The Fountainhead. I knew I had endurance, but I wasn’t very strong and I truly didn’t know what to do to get strong—so being around all these really interesting, diverse, strong people definitely called to me. My first teaser was with Margie and I started Foundations in January of 2009.
Kate: Tell us about your journey with your camera. Do you remember your first photograph? What did you shoot with?
Asta: I don’t remember my first photograph but I know I always liked taking pictures. I have albums upon albums of developed images from my childhood through college. I ended up at an art school for college and was able to take a bunch of photography classes where I learned to develop my own film and really explore photography as a craft. Back then, I was really into black and white nudes and exploring ways to highlight the human body. I didn’t start taking a lot of digital photography until I traveled around Europe towards the end of college with my 5MP (laughable now) HP point and shoot. That’s when I started working more with trying to capture moments in a moving environment.
Dan got me started on the sports photography and using an SLR. Even though I had my digital point and shoot, I still turned my nose up at digital photography a bit since you weren’t really physically developing and the connection between photographer and piece… you probably get where I’m going with this. One day Dan just handed me the camera and said go for it, and it was HARD. Shooting people moving rapidly was a nightmare; I was so disappointed with my first shots, but also kind of responding with “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.” I then had the opportunity to shoot regionals upstate and everything just sort of clicked. I had explored the human form in black and white (and staged) and now I was getting to do the same thing but with color and speed and very little control other than to find the best shot/angle/moment.
Kate: What do you shoot with now?
Asta: Canon 7D with a 50mm/1.4
Kate: What’s your favorite photo that you’ve taken?
Asta: This is kind of always evolving and changing depending on what I’m interested in at the moment. Sometimes it’s patterns, sometimes it’s monumental structures, sometimes it’s broken things I find on the sidewalk. The first thing that comes to mind though is a photo I shot at a show recently for CMJ (music festival) in NYC. I was put on an Aussie Showcase with about seven sets, and one of the bands was The Preatures. The female lead was really intense on stage, but had these great moments on interaction with her bandmates.
Another is an older photo from an exhibition at MoMA years ago. I like the pattern and I remember getting in a lot of trouble from the security guard for sticking my camera “into the piece.”
Kate: What captures your eye over everything else?
Asta: Human connection/touch and lines that form patterns.
Kate: If you had to spend the rest of your life photographing one thing or one type of scene, what would you choose?
Kate: Tell us about your life outside of the gym. Word on the street is that you’re an architecture buff. How do you spend your days beyond barbells and skulls?
Asta: Ghost in the machine at a big global engineering/architecture firm. Well, not really ghost—I just say that because sometimes people don’t understand what architects do. Which is completely understandable, we are such mysterious creatures (haha).
I moved from a design-heavy small firm to a technical-minded large firm a couple of years ago and am really enjoying how hands-on my current job is. I get to travel, I get to break open walls and investigate damage, hang off really tall buildings on scaffolds—it’s fun and it’s challenging. I’ll probably go back to design full-time at some point and I still do freelance architectural design on the side to scratch that itch, but for the time being I think it’s important I keep nerding out on the technical side of our built environment to improve my capacity as an architect.
Otherwise, I try and travel as much as I can. Sit on beaches. Eat exciting food. See the stars.
Kate: One of the things I always love about your photos for CFSBK is how they capture bodies in motion so beautifully, and in a way I feel like I haven’t seen before, at least not with “ordinary” people. Talk to me about shooting athletes and people who are sweating all over the place and often not looking their conventionally sexiest. How do you capture CrossFit in your photos? What’s the hardest part about shooting athletes?
Asta: Bad lighting? 😉
I see it this way, bodies are these incredible and beautiful mechanisms, especially in motion when they are experiencing the struggle and elation of performing a really hard task. I’ve had to really let go of expecting people to be in the right spot or making the right face, which is what all my previous work was about. I think that when people are performing and not paying attention or worrying about how they look, that’s when the good photos happen. I mean, I take thousands of photos and parse them heavily to find the shots that work. At the end of the day, you’re telling someone’s story and I want that story to be relatable, to mean something, to mean many different things to many different people. Occasionally there is a creepy moment when someone makes direct eye contact with me through my lens which is my cue that I’m not being mindful. If I’m distracting them, then I’m not catching the really good shots, and they aren’t focused on the task at hand. Photo ninja, it’s a work in progress.
Kate: What’s your favorite event or day that you shot at SBK?
Asta: Events with multiple gyms involved (Subway Series, games). The shots of people giving it their all with their whole support network yelling it out on the sidelines, the energy in those shots is palpable. Uhm, and anything with a self-service photo booth, since I get to take all the photos home.
Kate: If you had to give a piece of advice to blossoming photographers or people who want to take better photos, what would it be?
Asta: Take a lot of shots, even if you’ve set up the scene/still-life—take a burst of frames. You’ll soon realize that one in 50 will actually be worth going in your “really good” album and that is completely normal, frankly I would consider that a good day. Also keep track of your images, rank them, compile your favorites, see how your own story develops. Last, my personal thing is, I don’t take photos of people where I wouldn’t be okay having my photo taken if roles were reversed. Empathy can be helpful.
Kate: Where can we see more of your work? Can I hire you?
Asta: My photography portfolio is available by request. I take on jobs every now and then (headshots, events, concerts/shows)—if you have something that you want to collaborate on, get in touch! Also I post all the CF photo content on the CFSBK Flickr account, so if you want some photo overload, go poke around there.
What is your 14.4 strategy?
Happy Birthday, Dan E!