Times are changing fast and even a stubborn person like me seems to change. I have always been curious and
challenged by new ideas and the experience gained through my work around the world for different clients is hopefully making my work better.
Years ago, I decided that an office was not my favorite place and I will always feel more comfortable outside. After seven years working in a bank with mostly foreign securities and the stock exchange including a short stint in London, I got employed with a smaller company importing ski equipment which ended up with starting a ski magazine called Åka Skidor, 1974. Interesting but still as the chief editor I just became another office character but it gave me a lots of experience writing stories and most of all photography. We already had a story of photographers in our family starting already 1842 and one of my ancestors was actually the photographer for the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.
All my work for clients in the world of sports, adventures and traveling to strange places have given me an advantage over many traditional photographers who may feel less secure in a not so controllable conditions. To be comfortable and experienced when the going gets weird is definitely an advantage out in the field. Hanging outside a helicopter to capture a cruising ship, an oil-rig in the North Sea or a dam project in Venezuela became routine. Or shooting sports clothing with professionals doing their sport. Real fashion with models, no thanks.
Outside is my studio and I let go of the very very cosy studio smack in the middle of Stockholm that I shared with my favorite friend and partner Felix Oppenheim till a couple of years ago. It became more and more like an office and a place for storing my stock pictures and drinking beer. Wintertime my base camp is in Chamonix, France which is the Alpine hub of the world and full of crazy adventurers from the whole world. Adventures will always be high on my list and even working for a chainsaw company in Oregon, with children’s clothing in Morocco or sports equipment in Equator can be a small adventure. even if I enjoy photographing penguins and elephant seals in Antarctica a little bit more. Just don’t try to make me go into a studio again. Please. Outside is my comfort zone and a tent on a mountain ridge in Nepal, a jungle of New Guinea or a snow bivouac on Mount Ararat is perfectly acceptable.
I came a long way to find my type of work. Working in mountains with skiing and climbing taught me a lot and I learned to work fast and not waste too much film. Experience that I can apply to digital photography and save a lot of both my clients and my own time. I do more commercial work than editorial these days which is not always more interesting but definitely pays better and also gives me a possibility to realize my own projects. But I still try hard to work only with clients that I like and products that I approve of. Makes everything much more fun and most probably a lot better. Enthusiasm is the key word and hopefully my present and future clients will benefit from this philosophy too. You can learn more about what I do by just google Felix S:t Clair. And yes, I almost forgot to brag a little about that Gold Medal the French government gave me 2001 for what my pictures had done to promote tourism in my favorite country…
Give me a call if you think we are going to like each other.
Comments from others
Niclas Sjögren, journalist & friend
“Playing with Felix is the ride of your life. Whether it’s about picking mushrooms, cooking or enjoying vintage wines Felix is full on. He is also the most capable gourmet I have ever met. And there is nothing he likes more than sharing a five course, home made dinner.
Skiing with Felix is humiliating. Since I have a 20 year advantage over him it’s always annoying being outskied by this old fart. Come windpacked, come powder, Felix is always the first to ask “what happened, what took you so long” when you reach the foot of the mountain three seconds after him.
Traveling with Felix is exhausting. Not only is he an earlybird, his curiosity never ends. Because of Felix I have visited more continents and weird restaurants than I could possibly have imagined before I started writing.
Working with Felix is a challenge. If you want to play with the best you have to work hard. Since Felix´ ambitions are higher than the Mont Blanc he also demands the highest standards from his colleagues.
Not only am I a very good friend of Felix, I am also proud to say that our work, magazine features etc, together often is the most talked about in our niche.”
Nine lives and counting By Neil Stebbins (iSKINeil) 2002
If you ever think there must be more to life than the old 9- to-5, then you may want to adopt Swedish sports and fashion photographer Felix S:t Clair Renard as a role model for the rest of your life, Think about it. Who says you have to live in the country of your birth or marry a mate from your own culture? Who says you have to live in the same place all year long or work in a place you don’t want to live, doing something you don’t love to do? Spend some time with Felix and I guarantee you will start to re-assess some of your most basic priorities. Incidentally, this Swedish-accented interview took place in Felix wood and stone winter home just 100 meters from the lifts of Les Grand Montets in Chamonix. He spends his summers in and around Stockholm:
I started out working in a bank for a few years managing securities. I didn’t dislike my job, but I got nervous thinking you only get five or six weeks holiday a year in Sweden.
I thought there must be something else I could do. A lot of people say you will have another life after you die, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I hope they’re right, but, shit, I’d hate to be wrong. The important thing is to decide what you really like to do. Then all you have to do is find somebody to pay you for doing it well. You can be happy working at a gas station if that’s what you really like. I was lucky. I started out in photography at a time when there wasn’t a lot of competition.
You don’t have to make a whole lot of money to have a good life. Some people make millions, but they have no time to play. They work their asses off just to have a nice car. I’d love to have a Ferrari, but I’m not prepared to work that hard to get one. I’m quite happy with my old truck. I don’t need a Ferrari to be happy.
I live a good life, a privileged life. I eat good food, drink good wine. I entertain good friends and go to nice places. I don’t even work with clients if I don’t like them. It’s impossible to like everyone. It’s also easier to work like that. I don’t want to make money doing things I don’t like to do or living where I don’t want to live.
Right now, I’m looking for a summer place in the south of France, where I can have the ocean, where it’s fairly clean, no nuclear plants or too much industry. The southwest Basque corner of France is still very nice, very green. And the biking’s great, Surfing too. Biking is a good thing for me right now. In a car, you go too fast all the time. On a bike, if you see a flower, you can stop. In the spring, even after skiing, I take my bike out almost every day. I also like the ocean. This summer I’ll be working on a 71-foot former Whitbread racing yacht, I’ll train with the crew and act as official photographer, It did 34 knots on the last Fastnet Race so it’s quite a boat.
I was supposed to be in Mali this summer, to cover the the Paris-Dakar Road Rally, but it fell through. I’ve covered a lot of competitions before, but it’s not the racing I like so much as the opportunity it gives me to go strange places… Chad..,Cameroon.., Angola.., Tibet.., New Guinea… I met my wife in Venezuela. I was photographing bathing suits. She was a local model and fashion designer.
Having a kid is the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me. (Note: Now there are two – Sara and Max.) With children a lot of things that used to be important aren’t that important any more. Partying, for example. I have about 20% of my brain cells left from partying, but that’s quite good for this valley.
And what about this legendary valley? What tips does Felix have for newcomers – beginners and experts alike?
Get a guide or ski with someone who knows the area. Especially off-piste. You can have big problems if you ski by yourself. Those glaciers are easy to ski and look very inviting, but they are very dangerous .. a much bigger threat than avalanches because you never know if they are safe or not. Chamonix is a good place, but it’s not the perfect ski area, Verbier and St. Anton are much better for the average skier. But once you know Chamonix and get used to it, it’s the most challenging skiing in the world. The whole concept of skiing in the States is different than here, It’s smoother. You don’t have to fight the lift lines, everybody is so nice and polite. And what we call extreme skiing here in France is not what you call it in the States. Here, the main difference is, if you fall, you die. They all die, though. I first came here in 74 and, since 1980,I’ve been living here, I’ve been to more funerals than weddings.
Vallencant, his wife, Goivy, Boivin … I’m not surprised they died. They did crazy things. There are just too many factors you can’t control. It’s stupid to die on the mountain when you’re 25, There’s so much left to do. There are always people willing to jump for the camera. When you’re 20 you think you’re immortal. When you’re 50 and live in Chamonix and go to funerals for very good skiers, it makes you think about it. Now, when I’m on the mountain and it’s steep and hard and icy and I know if I fall I will probably die, I get scared. And when I get scared, I ski like shit. I didn’t think about that much before. Sometimes not at all. But the older you get, the more you start to appreciate life. If something’s really dangerous, if the conditions out of my control, I don’t want to do it. If the danger is small, if the odds are good, that’s fine, that’s normal.
Skiing has so many elements – the nature, the mountains, how big they are, how insignificant we are. I don’t think of myself as an athlete – just as an outdoor person. I don’t want my children to become professional athletes. I don’t think competition is healthy, because, to be happy as a competitor, you have to win. Somebody else has to lose. I know, I used to compete in car racing, in windsurfing, in skiing, but now I’d rather do things for fun. I used to ski pretty well, but after my accident (I crashed into a tree on my first parachute jump, had to use my reserve chute, hurt my ankle), I don’t ski as well any more. But I still ski with fantastic skiers for photos. I used to say I would never ask anyone to do something I could not do myself, Today, I don’t even consider doing what they do now. You have to realize your limits. But I don’t feel bad about that. My limits are still pretty good.
One more thing, Felix’s x-wife, Minora – suggested that I read the inscription on the back of Felix’s watch. Felix smiled and handed it to me. Translated, the inscription read. “Too much pleasure – is wonderful.” Or as my friend, photographer Bruce Benedict says, “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.”