Today’s Guest: Rick Smolan, photographer, Tracks, Inside Tracks
Watch this exclusive Mr. Media interview with photographer Rick Smolan, who is played by actor Adam Driver in the Mia Wasikowska film Tracks and whose new behind-the-scenes book of Robyn Davidson images from the Australia outback is Inside Tracks, by clicking on the video player above!
Mr. Media is recorded live before a studio audience full of slow-moving camels whose humps store only craft beer… in the NEW new media capital of the world… St. Petersburg, Florida!
Rick Smolan started his career as a photographer, but one unlike most others in his field.
He thinks big. Really big.
One day, Smolan unleashed an entire army of photographers – amateurs and pros alike – on a country to capture a day in its life. He eventually published an entire series of coffee table books with “Day in A Life” images from around the globe.
RICK SMOLAN podcast excerpt: “I had never seen ‘Girls’ on HBO when they said they had cast Adam Driver in ‘Tracks.’ I watched one of the shows and it was pretty bizarre to see someone you knew is going to be playing you on the screen. If this happens at all, it usually happens when you’re not alive anymore or you’ve done something so notorious that it’s holding you up for ridicule. Adam was wonderful to work with. I met with him in New York City before he went to Australia to play me in the movie. He admitted he had never actually held a 35mm camera before. He said, ‘I’ve taken pictures with my iPhone.’ So he wanted someone to spend a day with him, showing him how to hold the camera, how to change a roll of film, how to look like he actually was a photojournalist. He came across very well in the film, I thought.”
Then, another idea: Let’s attack a theme. His most recent: The Human Face of Big Data.
But before he became known for his massive reach—and recognizable by his mustache and goofy grin—Smolan was a Time, Life, and National Geographic magazine photographer, one who found himself in a grand bargain.
An ambitious young Australian woman named Robyn Davidson had asked the Geographic Society to fund her planned journey across 900 meters of the Australian outback in exchange for writing a first-person story about her trip.
Nat Geo turned her down.
RICK SMOLAN podcast excerpt: “I was pretty smitten with Robyn Davidson. In fact, they played down the romance in the movie. Which I think was actually good because the movie is about this young woman listening to her own inner voice, learning to survive by only her wits, risking her life. I tell people it is a love story, a dog story, a mystery of why she is out there, and an epic adventure. Most of us spend our lives avoiding the things that frighten us. But Robyn is the only person I’ve met in my life that feels like she needs to run toward the things that frighten her to see if they’re worth it.”
Undaunted, she appeared in the editor’s mailbox a second time, a year later, to ask for their help – and $4,000 – again. This time, the answer was yes. But it came with a tall string: the magazine wanted to send photographer Smolan to capture her travels on film at different points along the way.
Amid grave hesitation, she agreed, although she never let Smolan forget he was helicoptering in and not fully engaged.
The spectacular new book, Inside Tracks, is the photographer’s view. Open it and you won’t be able to take your eyes off it. And if this sounds familiar, it should: Robyn Davidson’s told her story, Tracks, in a book, and it was made into a well-received movie of the same name in 2014 starring Mia Wasikowska as Davidson and Adam Driver as Smolan.
This, by the way, is Smolan’s second appearance on Mr. Media.
LISTEN! Rick Smolan’s first interview with Mr. Media (2008)