Red Bull Illume is the world’s premier international photography competition dedicated to the arena of action and adventure sports. The Image Quest 2013 is the 3rd edition of the competition which also occurred in 2007 and 2010. From tens of thousands of masterful entries, 50 images in ten categories were selected by international judges and photo editors from renowned publications.

The overall winner was Lorenz Holder of Germany. His photo of snowboarder Xaver Hoffmann performing a jump off of a satellite dish in snowy Raisting, Germany was lauded by the judge’s panel. 

The Winner Award Ceremony took place on August 29th in hong kong and the top 50 Illume finalists were unveiled at the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong and their masterpieces have been traveling around the globe on various illuminated displays ever since. 

In Part I of The Shadow League’s Red Bull Illume photographer hotlight, we interviewed 2010 overall winner Chris Burkard, who also took the Spirit Award category in the 2013 Illume competition.

Part II focuses on another jet-setting and impactful photographer, young Morgan Maassen, who won the Athlete’s Choice (Lifestyle) award and was a finalist in the Close-up category.


TSL: What sparked your interest in photography and when did you know that you could gain fame and recognition for your work?

MM: I had a pretty unique upbringing filled with art, traveling, and the outdoors, but it wasn't until I found filmmaking in my mid-teens that I started having fun exploring the world through the lens. After I left my first job at the age of 18 to travel for an extended period of time, I decided a photo camera would be an interesting way to document the places I intended to visit. From that moment on, I was immediately passionate about photography.

TSL: How did growing up where you grew up shape your approach to pictures, art?

MM: Growing up in Santa Barbara, California I was exposed to the outdoors. My father was a fisherman and surfer, while my mother worked for non-profits and was an artist. Between exploring the ocean, traveling in our free time, and delving into the arts, I was heavily influenced by both them.

TSL: What kind of response have you gotten from people since winning?

MM: It has been breathtaking. Business opportunities aside, seeing the response from people around the world has reached a magnitude I never could have imagined. I get emails daily from people in as far-reaching places as Ecuador and Pakistan, which really shows how immense the event's reach is.

TSL: What kind of journey has Illume taken you on? Describe some of your fondest moments going through this process.

MM: Red Bull Illume 2013 is the first global photo contest I've ever entered, so as a young photographer, it was challenging but refreshing to sit down and examine my work for submission. When I made the top 250, I was filled with nervous excitement. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget. Many sleepless nights were spent wondering if I'd be granted an invitation to Hong Kong. Upon finding out that I’d been chosen to show – and arriving in Hong Kong – well… that was a trip of a lifetime, amidst both my peers and heroes. Red Bull showed us an amazing city, treated us like rock stars, and the event was absolutely stunning. Seeing my photo illuminated on the water's edge in Hong Kong, under the Symphony of Lights in Victoria Harbor, will forever be one of my greatest achievements as an artist.

TSL: Where have you traveled and worked as a photographer?

MM: My job as a photographer and filmmaker takes me to new places every month! I've recently visited: Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, France, Spain, Indonesia, China, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, and the Bahamas.

TSL: List some testy situations you've been in on the job. 

MM: Between swimming with Humpback whales off of Tahiti, nearly drowning in Australia, or being circled by bull sharks in the Bahamas… the ocean makes for memorable moments almost every time!

TSL: How has digital photography advanced your craft?

MM: Digital cameras are amazing in the sense that you can shoot countless photos onto a card the size of a matchbook. On longer camping trips, 5 hour swims in large surf, and when in all-around tight squeezes, not having to worry about changing film or being able to work immediately with digital files to send off around the world always makes the job easier.

TSL: Where did you attend school?

MM: I grew up in Santa Barbara and also attended school in New Zealand.

TSL: What is the one photo in the one place, you haven't captured yet?

MM: I'd really like to photograph the Ganges River in India and all the chaos its banks hold; that, or swimming with Great White sharks. Both would be a dream come true.

TSL: Where will you draw your inspiration for future photos?

MM: I always look to art, film, and music for inspiration. They are my three guiding lights. "The Grand Beauty" is a new Italian film that really blew me away, and I’m always inspired by Ashley Bickerton's artwork – which he produces in his Balinese studio. Travel and documentary photos, especially those of social and political conflicts, really gets me excited to shoot movements, environments, and people. The future looks grand, filled with movie projects, photography trips, and miscellaneous personal ideas that fill in the blanks of my day to day life. And the 2016 Red Bull Illume contest is always lurking in the back of my mind!

TSL: How do you top yourself next Illume?

MM: I'm working as hard as I can to be the best that I can be, to afford me more opportunities like what I’ve experienced with Illume. I aspire to take a photo that rings true to everything I value in sports and travel. Fingers crossed that the judges see that image as beautiful and inspiring enough to take the big win 🙂

Peep for an in-depth look at Maassen's talents.

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