Katherine Donnelly | 05.09.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Brooke Jackson.

Photographer, writer, and someone who says yes to every opportunity that comes her way, this Woman In the Wild is happiest when surrounded by nature with coffee and her camera in tow. Get the full scoop below.

OP: Give us the skinny on who Brooke Jackson is. 

Brooke Jackson: I am a freelance content creator based in the Pacific Northwest who doubles as an outdoor instructor for REI. I utilize my platform to amplify the voices of those who have a story to tell and inspire others to discover theirs.

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?

Brooke Jackson: I don’t think it was ever an option really. My desire to spend a life outdoors is as intrinsic as breathing or eating. Once the onerous duty of college was satisfied, the decision to work professionally in the outdoors was finally achievable.

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry?

Brooke Jackson: I don’t identify as a women in the outdoors. I identify as a professional and an enthusiast.

OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back?

Brooke Jackson: The outdoors provides my soul a place to recharge, a place to escape from societal norms, and an invigorating sensation of being alive and part of something bigger than day-to-day life. I suppose I try to pay it back by respecting the sacredness of those truly wild places, no matter how big or small. Also, I strive to educate others on the importance of protecting the outdoors by helping individuals find their own deep connections to the natural world.

OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think photographers and storytellers should play in this evolving conversation and landscape?

Brooke Jackson: Wow, that is a loaded question. I don’t think there is one correct answer. With the evolution of technology such as social media, photographers are on the forefront of uncharted waters. The outdoors are more popular than ever. From accessibility to marketing campaigns, the natural landscapes we recreate in are trending. Photographers and storytellers need to accept the role of honest representation and education. Additionally, I’d challenge each creator to pause before taking a photo and ask themselves “Why am I doing this?” Is it to get a “like” on social media, to tell a story, to document a moment for yourself to remember a trip? Contemplate the substance of what you’re creating and the effect it may have on others, as well as the area you’re visiting. Think before you click.

OP:  Who has inspired you along the way?

Brooke Jackson: Every person who adventures by their own definition of the word. Also, Chris Burkard and Tim Kempe, because have you seen their photography? Mind Blowing.

OP:  What does adventure mean to you?

Brooke Jackson: Adventure to me is a feeling. A feeling of unknowing, of the challenging, of the uncomfortable. Ultimately, adventure is the sensation of awakeness in every fiber of my existence that reminds me of how fragile my existence really is.

OP:  What mantra or set of words do you live by?

Brooke Jackson: Haha! For determining what adventures to pursue, ​it might not be appropriate, but normally it’s along the lines of, “Why the f*ck not?” For life in general, I take a deep breathe and think, “Just go with it.”

OP:  What is one thing that you never leave home without?

Brooke Jackson: Coffee.

OP:  Let’s talk gear:​ What are your thoughts on women-specific gear? Love it, hate it? Are there any companies out there doing it right? And how so? When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products?

Brooke Jackson: I haven’t dabbled much in the realm of women-specific gear. Mainly because I have older gear that still performs and I choose not to spend the money until it is necessary to replace something. The only women-specific item I own is a pair of La Sportiva Sparkle ski touring boots. As much as I appreciate the adjusted fit for the heel, I am disappointed in the lack of flex that many women’s ski boots have. Fortunately, brands are beginning to stiffen the flex on women’s boots, so that is definitely a win in my book.

OP:  What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received, and what’s the story behind it?

Brooke Jackson: The gentle reminder to “take a breath and reflect on where you started” has truly helped me overcome many perceived obstacles. As a freelancer, the hustle game is real. Getting caught up in the stress to be the best, push the envelope, deliver the impossible, create the most disruptive story, etc. is a true difficulty I deal with in my profession. It’s easy to compare your work to others and feel unaccomplished. Fortunately, many friends and family members have a more patient demeanor than I do in pursuit for success. They calmly remind me to take a moment to enjoy the things I have accomplished and to slow down from time to time. Revisiting old trips, photos, and writings always helps me feel recharged and remind myself that I am making progress, even when it feels like I’m not.

OP:  If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out as an adventure storyteller, what would it be?

Brooke Jackson: Ditch the can opener and invest in a sleeping pad. I really roughed it for the first year of my adventures, and man, I was not prepared.

OP:  In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media, and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play?

Brooke Jackson: I utilize two platforms; Facebook and Instagram. I post personal things to Facebook while I approach Instagram professionally as a portfolio exhibit. Honestly, social media is not my strength, and I have a constant love-hate battle with it. I hope to one day be successful enough by my own merit that I can ditch the platforms altogether and still bring relevance to a brand or project. That’s the dream, really.  

OP:  The world of outdoor photography and storytelling is rapidly progressing. How are you stepping things up to stand out from the crowd?

Brooke Jackson: Focusing on quality over quantity, depth over perception and passion over promotion. I might not be turning out projects every day and posting jaw-dropping images weekly. However, when I do release a project, I strive to deliver a message which is of substance and authenticity.

OP:  What’s next for you in the coming months and years?

Brooke Jackson: Wouldn’t I like to know! The furthest into the future that I plan tends to be a month. Any time further than that and things change. My life plan never goes as anticipated. I am hoping to continue documenting climbing, kayaking and skiing. I have a few trips churning in the brain, but we will have to wait and see which ones work out.

OP:  The title of your autobiography would be...

Brooke Jackson: Bruises and Burritos, the Story of Figuring it Out.

OP:  In your next life, you will come back as...

Brooke Jackson: Probably a rock, like an igneous or maybe granite slab. Or even a new mountain that pops-out from the earth. That would be pretty cool.

OP:  Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

Brooke Jackson: I’m not good with secrets. Most people know whatever they want about me. I guess a weird thing would be that I’ve only ever broke one bone in my body and it’s my middle finger. My father and I were whitewater rafting when I was about nine or ten years old. I slipped while loading the boat into the river and popped my finger out of place on a rock. My dad decided he knew how to fix things, so tried to remedy my dislocated finger and ended up misplacing it. Now, I have a crooked middle finger and can’t snap with my right hand because the pressure hurts my knuckle joint.

OP:  If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Brooke Jackson: I would want whoever is reading this to define adventure by their own voice. There is no right or wrong way to do what you love. As long as you’re respecting the environments in which we recreate by leaving them better than you found them, go do you for you. Not for social media, not for money, not for sponsorships; adventure for the love of it.

Learn more about Brooke and her work by checking out her website or Instagram.


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