Q&A with National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita, author of Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey.
It was 1978, and I had just returned from Asia. I boldly
walked into National Geographic one day with this Asia portfolio and
went to see the now legendary director of photography Bob Gilka, who
has started a lot of careers in photography. I showed him some pictures
and he liked them; liked them enough to give me a hundred rolls of film
and told me to go shoot him a story for World Magazine, a children’s
magazine. I was headed for Europe, to build a European portfolio that said I
could travel to other parts of the world. I started off in England,
bought the van, did the whole hippie number, traveling in a van around
Europe. When I got to France, I shot a story in a ski school.
Jean-Claude Killy was at the time the greatest living legend of French
skiing, an Olympic gold medalist. He founded a ski school in Southern
France in the region in the Mont Blanc area–the French Alps area – to
nurture more champions like himself. I did a little story, it got
published, and that was the beginning.