UNREAL REALITY - INTERVIEW FOR SERBIAN MAGAZINE ONA

I happily announce that Serbian magazine Ona, got inspired by my work and published my interview across five pages. This is monthly magazine designed for women which brings exclusively reports and conffesions from celebrities in our local public scene, along with biographies and practical advises from famous people.

Predrag Vuckovic interview in Serbian magazine Ona

Predrag Vuckovic (39) from Belgrade, is a world famous photographer and the man who shot Felix Baumgartner while jumping from the edge of space in October last year. Here's a story about extreme sports, the company Red Bull for which Predrag works, unreal beautiful photographs of real hidden gems of the Earth which he had a chance to see and his aversion to airports, airplanes, airlines ... which occurs when a person has 112 official air travels in one year.
How airports breathe and smell?
If you ask me what I dislike, on top of the list are airports and cell phones.
Why the airports?
I love to travel, but if today I travel to the Philippines and get back in three days, which is total of 30 hours of time, then I spend the night in Belgrade, and in the morning I travel to Los Angeles, then you need to understand that is too much. Daily procedures at airports, control ... it offends my intelligence.
Where was the most rigorous airport control?
In Israel, where four or five hours before the flight you should be at the airport. They are very detailed and a lot more control occurs on the exit then on the entrance to the country.
What was your task in Israel?
I've been working on a big Red Bull project called Walking on the Water. We were at the famous lake where Jesus walked on water surface. We made a replica of that event with a well-known Red Bull athlete who uses "kajcer" (surfing board with a small sail). The boy was practicing for months to pull the sail, to let it go, remove the board and continue to run on water. That project, though small, has experienced extremely high success and popularity through the media.
What was the position you took photos from?
I photographed all from the water, I was one meter away from him.
In diving equipment?
Yes, in diving equipment and with underwater camera, I swam and took pictures.
You can do that...?!
Yes you can. Everything requires training and experience. That’s what I like. If I give you now my camera and all that I carry with me, you would’ve sinked as if I gave you a concrete block. I’m into scuba diving more than 20 years. I am also scuba diving instructor.
How much time did you spend in water then?
Four-five hours.
No food, no drink...?!
It was June, the water was extremely hot around 30 degrees so it was pleasure to work, and food is generaly the last thing on my mind while I work because of the adrenalin. The only thing you need when the weather is hot is drinking water.
Are you aware of the time while you work?
No, not at all. Sometimes I look at my watch and can’t believe what I see. Like I’m in another world, totally focused on the work. I only think of making the photograph, how to be on the right place at the right moment. I have no other thoughts in that moment.
What sports have you been practising?
Many. You wouldn’t believe if I count them. I started as a kid, played ice hockey in Partizan and for our national team. After that I started riding a bicycle and performing various stunts. From 1988 to 1994 I trained that discipline for 16 hours a day and reached the fifth position on world rank. One day I realised that I’ve reached my peak performance, I draw the line and never again set on the bicycle. I eather do something to my max or don’t do it at all.

Predrag Vuckovic interview in Serbian magazine Ona

Have you ever broke something while riding bicycle, and what?
Both arms, both legs and my middle finger (laug).
What other sports have you been training?
I was the pioneer of skateboarding in former Yugoslavia, then wakeboarding and snowboarding.
What is wakeboarding?
It is riding the board on the water while you are being pulled by the boat, like you are pulled ba the cable on Ada Ciganlija. I practised more extreme sports alon the way, and all of that gave me the ability to make a perfect photo on the places where ordinary colleague photographer can’t go to. I remain active in snowboarding and diving, and in a new discipline called extreme canyoning.
Are the extreme sports athletes more braver than other people?
No, they just have more abilities than regular people. Thanks to the training and years in that sport their limits are pushed accordingly.
The limits are not to be passed, your head is not in the bag?
It is hard to explain, but the limit is known and any extreme sports athlete, nor I, won’t go beyond that limit just for some good photograph. I’ll give you an example. When you see a water puddle and you want to jump over it, if the puddle is one meter long you will just say „hop“ and you’re done. But if the puddle is long one and a half meter you will listen to the inner feeling whether or not you can jump over it. The same goes for extreme sports. With more training you are tuning that feeling.
Are the extreme photographers more extreme than the athletes?
I can’t say, the numbers of extreme sports athletes and extreme photographers are very large. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
In your case?
It’s the same in my case. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
When it was a „Yes“?
Lots of times. I can give you an example from photoshooting the cliff diving world championship event. On the last stop in Italy I spent 5 hours in water, without exit, regardless of the extremely big waves. The divers that were present for security reasons took changes every half an hour. They were sick, they vomited, had dizziness...
When you hear the words Red Bull, what are the three associations comming on your mind?
Energy drink, extreme sports and generosity. Energy drink because the Red Bull is exactly that. Extreme sports because everything extreme in the world is in some way connected to Red Bull. You saw the jump from the edge of space! And generosity because of the Red Bull Company way of thinking and policy, treating the athletes and employees. In Red Bull they never leave you in the lurch. When they pick athletes at age of 12-14 they immediately start investing in their lives, their career although it does not necessarily mean that there will be the investment return. One of such investments is the Wings For Life foundation. The scientific research part of that foundation is trying to find a way to extend the spinal cord in order to people may continue with normal life after injury. Each country that sell Red Bull worldwide organize once a year a donation event for those researches. I organized a sales exhibition of my photographs in Belgrade, where the entire sales income went to the Wings for Life Foundation. Kada se Red Bullov sportista povredi, odlazi u rehabilitacioni centar u Austriji gde se brinu o njemu. When Red Bull athlete gots hurt they transfer that athlete to rehab center in Austria and fully take care of everything. When the same happens in football the person gets replaced by another football player.
What first comes to your mind when someone mention Felix Baumgartner, who jumped in October last year from the edge of the universe with parachute?
Something impossible, unreal – that’s my first thought.
What was your task regarding his jump from a height of 39 km?
First we shot two test jumps with Felix from a heights of 21 and 29 kilometers. In the final jump, my task was to take photos from the ground and from a helicopter. I was capturing Felix's dressing, preparation, arrival at the location ... When he entered the capsule, I walked into a helicopter and was responsible for the first video and photo contact. I recorded the takeoff of the capsule to a certain height, as well as Felix's landing, the arrival...
What is the difference between photo and video footage?
Photography is a moment, and video is something that is long lasting. Something can be presented better in the frozen moment, and vice versa. In technical terms, you can not get the high quality picture out of the video footage.
Videos will never replace the photography?
I think it's impossible. Evidence of that are different media types. You can not put a video in the newspaper...
How much reality and photography have in common?
The reality is related to photography.
When we see azure blue sea on your pictures, is that actual color of the sea and the color of the sky?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes the contrasts does its thing, but I have visited many unreal places that people think that they can not exist.
Are you saying that they are unrealistically beautiful?
Exactly so.
Where are these places?
Some islands in the Maldives that are not for tourists, Cayman Islands... The unreal places, of course, include Kamchatka, a peninsula on the outskirts of Russia and Antarctica. There you can not see the real things, real colors... when you take a picture even with an ordinary camera it looks unreal.
Have you been at every point on the globe?
Not yet.
Do you have a list of places you'd like to re-visit?
I had but I do not anymore because my journeys passed over my head, I am eager to home. If I had to single out, maybe it's Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Reminds me of scuba diving, photography, incredible environment, unrealistically beautiful things, and on the other hand it is warm and everything is the opposite of the usual.
In which part the Belgrade is unrealistically beautiful, how is it special?
By the friends I have there and the people around me. It is special for me.
Could you live without people?
Yes, without a second thought. What are you laughing about?
You are extreme in the answers. How was the shooting of Valery Rosov jumping in an active volcano?
The whole project is on the list of my favorites. It is the most beautiful thing I have experienced through photography. It’s enough to say that I rode snowboard along the cliff of active volcano, through the untouched snow, where human foot never stepped before. The sky was incredibly blue, the road was bright, behind me was a smoke and when we arrived at the bottom of the volcano we came across a geyser that throws hot water in the air. Imagine how it feels to get undressed and get into the geyser when outside is -20 degrees and the water is +30 degrees. Then you go a couple of kilometers away, on the river you see the bears that catch salmon and then realize that it's the real untouched nature. And finally, for dinner you get the real, super salmon. Everything there was special.
You have brought to Belgrade Valery Rosov, the man who jumped into the lava?
Yes, I have because we socialize privately and we are in contact. We worked several expeditions together, we were in Antarctica, climbed the Mont Blanc...
He is Russian. Do you speak Russian?
Of course not.

Predrag Vuckovic interview in Serbian magazine Ona

Is Extreme Gym, behind which you stand, the first gym opened here?
No, but one amongst the first. We exist since May 1999, so 14 years.
How much time that job is consuming from you?
I am very well organized, but it takes a very big part of me. My associates in this work are making me independent and so the company works fine without me.
When you should separate three of your photos that show the true you, what would those be?
You asked me very difficult question. I have photos that bind me to the places where I've been, I've got photos that bind me to people and I have photos that bind me to photography itself. When all the segments are put together, I do not have a favorite photo. When I was making the exhibition at the end of 2010, the biggest problem was to choose the photographs.
What do your friends say, what are their favorite photos that you made?
I like very much when someone looks at my photo and sais: "It's Photoshop." Then I know that photography is really good. My real friends know what I do and the way I do it, and they are accustomed to it and it's hard for me to surprise them, though I manage that too.
What is your brilliant idea that improved humanity?
Humanity is a very wide term. I know there are a lot of photos that only I took in the whole world, by which I gave a motive to other, younger photographers. Simply speaking, I'm a photographer who makes unique photos.
Do you have a family?
I have a family, parents, older brother, the girl whom I have very long time, maybe she is the one that suffers the most...
Is she on underwater photography from the island Vis, with a shell?
Yes. She sometimes modeled through tears and suffered for the sake of good photograps.
Why the island of Vis?
Vis is one of the most popular scuba diving sites. On two square kilometers there lies eight wrecks, and that is something very interesting and special for divers. Visibility under water is good because Vis is far from the coast, and Komiza is a special place so it’s a ritual to us for years that we are the first visitors the first week in June. We don’t agree about it, it is known in our circle of people.
What school you attended and when did you become a professional photographer?
Electrical Engineering "Nikola Tesla". I never thought I'd be dealing with professional photography and I always have been, I've always had a camera with me, I always photographed in the company of my friends, as we rode bikes, boards... I went step by step, until that grew to the profession. For the past nine years I am a professional photographer.
Why do people think that extreme sports athletes are crazy, and do not know about fear?
What we do is not possible for everyone, and if everyone else can’t do it, then people believe that we're crazy. We are actually super-trained, and not a bit crazy.
How much do you pay for life insurance?
I only have dive and travel insurance, life insurance I don’t have.
You have the support of family and your girlfriend. Tell us something about her.
She is not an ordinary person, she is special and understand everything I do. Many things we go through together, we were together on lot of my photoshootings.
When did you fell in love with photography?
When I was born.
Did you knew it was going to become a profession?
No, never.

Text: Branislava Micic
Photo: Predrag Vuckovic, Zoran Mircetic