"I THOUGHT I WAS GONNA BE A professional horseback rider," says Paris-born Myriam Lang-Willar, who as a teenager didn't ski more than two weeks a year. But at age 18, she moved to Verbier, Switzerland, on a lark - and pursued her other hobby, photography, while toiling away in a film-processing lab and ratcheting up her days on snow. Today, the 33-year-old is one of the most in-demand female ski photographers in a business where women are usually told to stay on the front side of the lens.
Her images - often of huge hucks, freeskiing comps, and big mountain snowboarding-appear in ads for companies like Atomic and Red Bull, and in all the major ski publications in Europe and the States. The last two years have proved particularly fruitful: Lang-Willar added a 16mm movie camera to her arsenal, shooting segments for Matchstick Productions' Yearbook. In 2004, she and freeskier Andrea Binning clinched first place in three categories at the Women's Photo Challenge in Aspen (co-sponsored by Skiing), the first-ever contest of female-only shooters.
At ski magazines, photo editors find themselves weighing submissions from Lang-Willar and her photographer husband Jancsi Hadik; often the images show the same athletes, shot on the same days. Neither of them lets the competition sour their relationship, however - or their reign as ski photography's power couple. But despite her obvious talents, Lang-Willar still raises many a bro's eyebrows. "I called Salomon for a job once, and the guy said, 'Wait, you're a woman and you take pictures of skiers?'"
SHOOTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Lang-Willar already has four passports. Her mother is Slovakian, and her father, son of Swiss parents, was born in Argentina and lived in France.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: "It's definitely a guy's world, but there are more and more female ski photographers coming onto the scene, just like with fashion designers, painters - all kinds of artists."
LOCATION, LOCATION: Her favorite is Verbier in January. "The sun is low, the light is soft, there are amazing shadows. Unfortunately, the snow usually sucks compared to March."
ALL MYRIAM, ALL THE TIME: Check out seven of Lang-Willar's images in her photo essay, "On Exhibit." Click on the link below.