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“Be Sincere, Know What You Want, and Have Faith” – Advice from an Extreme Photographer

by Dakota Kim

“Be Sincere, Know What You Want, and Have Faith” – Advice from an Extreme Photographer Zandy Mangold

Zandy Mangold is a photographer and an ultramarathoner who has photographed the world’s toughest trekkers. We talked with him about his grueling work, why he loves it, and his advice for freelancers. 

What first inspired you to photograph?

When I was five, I picked up a camera, looked through it, and was like, wow, this is so cool. I never forgot that. Also, we had a collection of National Geographics, and I thought, doing this would be the best thing ever. Long story short, I graduated from college, worked a couple years, then went to photography school. After, I started assisting photographers, and also shooting on my own.

You shoot ultramarathons. What are ultramarathons and what is it like shooting them?

They’re self-supported races that take place over 7 days in the most remote locations possible and are 250 kilometers long, where runners run from campsite to campsite. They’re a match made in heaven for me because I’m a lifelong runner. I run alongside best as I can with my equipment, and using vehicles I hop from location to location. The events are grueling but very inspiring, and I get to see places in the world that otherwise, I would’ve never dreamed of being able to see.

The events are grueling but very inspiring, and I get to see places in the world that otherwise, I would’ve never dreamed of being able to see.

It sounds like the working conditions are tough.

The conditions are so extremely humid or hot or cold, that you have to constantly stay on top of your hydration, and make sure you get enough calories because things can go downhill pretty quickly. I learned that on my first race – I ended up in the medical tent on the first day. I had heatstroke and I went way too far into the Atacama Desert. I got out alive. Now I know not to do that. There’s more to it than just shooting and taking care of the gear.

125 degrees Farenheit, Egypt, 2011.

125 degrees Farenheit, Egypt, 2011.


What advice would you offer for freelance photographers who are starting out?

The freedom to pursue interests is rather unique to freelancers, so take advantage. If you’re interested in something, go shoot it on your own, pursue it. Don’t wait to get hired – create your own project. Then you can show someone what you’ve done. Shoot what interests you – don’t try to make other people happy; make yourself happy first.

The second thing is, you actually have to do it: you have to give yourself projects and see them through. Don’t let things get in the way. It’s such a competitive field that if you’re willing to let other things get in the way you’re probably not going to break through. You’re going to have to sacrifice some things, but go for it. Don’t get discouraged.

Don’t let things get in the way. It’s such a competitive field that if you’re willing to let other things get in the way you’re probably not going to break through. You’re going to have to sacrifice some things, but go for it. Don’t get discouraged.

At 30 years old, I was a college graduate with honors, and I was bussing tables in a nightclub, literally mopping up people’s vomit, working the graveyard shift just so I could leave the days free in case I got called to shoot or assist. The only reason I was able to do this humiliating and exhausting job was because I had my eyes on the prize. Be sincere, know what you want, go after it, and have faith.

Do you have any regrets?

I harbored dreams of being a pro athlete my whole life, but at some point, I chose photography because it seemed like a safer bet. Yeah right! Anyways, as a result of shooting something I was passionate about, running, I actually ended up getting back into running and even picked up a sponsorship.

Point is – don’t think “can’t” — imagine what is possible. 

Check out Mandy’s website here

Dakota Kim is a freelance journalist covering the arts, style, business, food and travel. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Huffington Post, Bedford + Bowery, The Wall Street Transcript, and various in-flight magazines. Tweet her at @dakotakim1.