Sacha Stejko is a sports photographer whose lens is more than a tool; it's a portal into the super power of humans. Her work is a testament to the belief that sports, in its purest form, is the closest thing we as humans have to wielding superpowers. In a world where athletes harness both their bodies and minds, pushing them to the very brink, this artist captures the inspiring essence of this superhuman journey.
How did you end up behind the camera?
I grew up around the film industry with very creative parents, so the language of images always drew me in. For me, it didn't take long until I discovered my own creative outlet - photography. I was always so fascinated with how a single photograph could have such an impact on the viewer; the experience really stayed with me. I remember those earlier influences of seeing images by Steve Curry or Henri Cartier-Bresson, the feelings I felt when I saw them, Curry’s portraits were so insightful and they felt like they were from a world I knew so little about. Whereas Cartier-Bresson was able to capture this hypnotic magic and poetry in a passing moment. It was no surprise that when I finally got my hands on a camera at 14, it all just clicked. I felt very natural being behind the camera, it really felt like I had found my thing- it was about intuition.
Can you describe your creative process when conceptualizing and planning a photo shoot?
When it comes to my creative process, the visual aspect is always the driving force for me. I am always drawn in by how I want the image to look and feel. There is something about capturing a moment that evokes a certain energy, and that is what I am constantly seeking in my work. Once I have captured the essence of how I want the image to look and feel, I can then delve into the deeper meaning and concept behind it. Sometimes, inspiration strikes when I am listening to a song, watching a film or daydreaming. There is a spark that ignites within me, and I immediately feel compelled to translate that energy into my images. It's like a rush that consumes me, and I find myself becoming obsessed with getting that shot. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book ‘Big Magic’, spoke about the importance of acting on creative ideas when they come to you. She described it as if the inspiration would flutter off and find someone else if you don't seize the opportunity. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. When I am inspired, I feel a sense of urgency to act on it before that spark fades away and I am onto the next thing.
What is the story behind the winning shot? What inspired you to capture it?
I've always been captivated by fencing. There is just something undeniably regal about the sport. The way fencers move with such grace and precision. I also love the anonymity it offers, you can't see your opponent's face. To me, this aspect is haunting, yet intriguing. I've been photographing different athletes from various sports as a part of an ongoing personal project. My aim is to document and explore the intricacies of each sport, paying close attention to the details of how they hold their equipment or capture the natural movements unique to each discipline. It's been an incredible journey so far. Before this shoot, I had already photographed a fencer. But there was an itch I needed to scratch; a fascination that consumed me. I became obsessed with the idea of capturing a fencer in black and white, illuminated by only one light source. I have a natural inclination towards creating dramatic images, and I was eager to see how this concept would translate in black and white. When you strip away all the colours from an image, something intriguing happens. The focus shifts, and I find myself drawn even more to the textures. The way the fabric sits of the fencing uniform or the woven mesh of the helmet, it's
all amplified in black and white.
What made you want to participate in these Awards?
The Spotlight Awards feature some of the best image makers worldwide. I am highly competitive with myself, and I am always trying to do better than my last shoot. Participating in these awards is a chance to challenge myself, be inspired, and prove that I can push the boundaries of my own creativity. One of the things I find incredibly inspiring about these awards is seeing everyone's work, and it’s a real honour to be included in the final selection. I know it must be hard for the judges to choose a winner because all the submissions are of such a high quality.
What is your favorite piece of equipment or photography gear, and how does it enhance your work?
For me, light is the secret ingredient that takes my images from ordinary to extraordinary. I am super hands-on when it comes to my set ups, and I think the most important part of my images that enhances my work, is my use of light. Whether that is natural light or artificial, I love finding new ways to craft the light. This could be controlling daylight or setting up a studio with lights. I am always inspired to play with light and how it creates the atmosphere in my images. It's the tool I use to tell stories, create moods, and capture the essence of a subject.
What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?
Working in advertising as an artist has taught me one crucial lesson - speed is everything. Whether I'm working with athletes or on the set of a TV commercial, time is always limited. This means that as an artist, I need to sharpen my instincts and make quick decisions to bring out the best in my work. If something isn't working, it's essential to identify the issue and pivot swiftly. Also another important thing, don’t be a “dick” to work with, it’s important to make an atmosphere that people want to be around. Being able to communicate and collaborate effectively ensures that the final product is a result of everyone's input and expertise. When people enjoy what they do and enjoy working with you, you can see it reflected in the images you create. I really love what I do, and I know that the energy and passion I bring to my sets really has an impact on how my shoot runs.
What do you like the most about sports photography?
I love the energy of it! I have always been fascinated with sports because to be a successful athlete, you have to not just have a disciplined body, but also a disciplined mind. I think it’s the closest thing we as humans have to having super powers, by taking full advantage of both our bodies and minds and pushing them to the limits. I love taking that into my images, it’s not just all about contorting the body, but also about getting the mental sharpness, intensity and determination of the athletes of whatever sport I am shooting.
Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to share or discuss?
I shoot a lot of advertising which are always under wraps until the campaign is released. But I recently became a mother, and I am really interested in starting a personal project around the pressures and expectations of being a mother. There is still so much that isn’t spoken around motherhood, and sharing stories is the only way we can raise awareness of these societal pressures on modern day women.
We sincerely thank Sacha for her enlightening responses and for allowing us to peek into the world where human potential meets superhuman dedication.