Ask An Adventure Photographer: Max Lowe
by Lily Wolfe ('18)
Despite growing up under the parentage of reputable mountaineers and adventurers—Conrad Anker and Alex Lowe—Max Lowe (’11) never thought he would actually be able to make a living as a photographer and journalist in the outdoor industry. When he received the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant in 2012 to travel to the Khumbu region of Nepal, Max decided to give professional photography and storytelling a try. He hasn’t looked back since.
How did you make your way into the world of adventure photography and storytelling?
“When I began high school I started getting into photography. I was in the journalism class and did dark room photography, which is where my interest in visual storytelling started. I carried that into Westminster where I took some digital photography classes. I majored in business because I never thought that I would be able to actually make a living as a photographer and journalist. I shot for SLUG Magazine and a handful of other small local publications, skied a bunch, and shot a lot of photography of my friends skiing. It was always something I really enjoyed, but it was a hobby more than anything.
After graduating from Westminster, I lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for two months, sleeping on my cousin’s floor. I came home and was looking at job opportunities, but I didn't want to get a real job quite yet, and decided to see if I could make something happen in the visual arts realm. My mom is an artist, my dad (Conrad Anker) is a professional climber, and my father (Alex Lowe) was a professional climber before he passed away in 1999. So, finding something that you love and making that your life is ingrained in me. I was traveling in India when I got the news I had received the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant to do some work in Nepal. That was kind of my jumping off point. It gave me the confidence and the door into a world I could slowly start making my way up and turn into my life.”
How does your degree in business from Westminster carry over to your career as an adventure photographer and storyteller?
“I definitely feel like many photographers would probably be better off studying business. The art form of doing what I do is just a very small part of what it takes to take art and turn that into a way by which you can make a living. You are, in a very real sense, running a business, and you have to learn how to sell yourself. That’s honestly the hardest part about being a photographer in my opinion.”
Do you have a favorite landscape or sport to photograph?
“For still photography I still really love shooting skiing. Skiing is my sport. It’s the sport that I love the most. At Westminster, I learned a lot about photography just taking a camera with me into the mountains and shooting with my friends. is still one of my favorite things to shoot. Putting people in these immense, snowy, sterile environments…I think it’s a powerful palette.
The stories that are most impactful to tell are more journalistic based. Stories where you’re tapping into someone else’s intimate realm and getting an inside look at a world that you wouldn't otherwise be able to. Shooting skiing and lifestyle photography is great and fun, but when you’re presented with someone’s intimate life or other hard-hitting stories, bringing those issues to the forefront through story is one of the most impactful things that I do.”
Is there one trip or project that stands out to you?
“The more that I travel, the more value I find in just spending time at home and looking for stories in my own backyard here in Montana. As far as trips go, I’d say the trip I took to Nepal through the Young Explorers Grant was one of the most foundational and amazing experiences I’ve had. Spending three months in one place that’s not your home, completely alone with people who are from there, and getting a very intimate and real look at what life is like on another part of the planet is a pretty incredible experience. I’ve gone back to Nepal over the years since then, and of all places, Nepal feels the most like home besides Montana.”
What do you envision with your career in the future?
“I don’t have a master plan, per se. I really enjoy what I’m doing right now and I’ll probably do it as long as it makes sense. I’m edging more into the video world and I’ve done several short documentary films in the last year that have garnered me some success. I’m actually currently working on a feature documentary film about my family, our story, and the trip we took to recover my body in 2016. I don’t know where that will take me, but I love the work I do now, and I’m going to do it as long as it makes sense and as long as I can.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.