Breaching the Rules of Mountain Bike Media

Extremely talented photographer and founder of Eskapee, Damian Breach has always loved mountain biking and photography.  Working as a public servant with the Department of Defence, he lived in the United States for 4 years in his early 20’s. And raced downhill in NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) for a season.  No longer in existence. “It was probably bigger than World Cups at the time” he tells me at a cafe in Canberra.  “I did a whole season over there and I was not good, finishing towards the back in the pack.”  Obviously pretty good though to be racing at that level.

Damian Breach by Damian Breach

A passion for photography

With a passion for photography from his school days. Damian grew up reading BMX magazines that were heavy on photography.  “I’d go to doctors clinics and search through all the National Geographics because I loved photography, but I never had the money.  I couldn’t afford to race bikes and do photography.”  Once he stopped racing, wanting to remain in the sport, and finally with some money. He started getting into mountain biking photography.  Buying a bunch of Nikon gear in 2002. “I lived above a camera store in the US at the time and I went down stairs and said I want to do photography.  Back then the new nikon D70 was out. One of the first digital cameras. And that’s how I started.  I always had a full time job and photography was like my second job.”

Damian Breach by Damian Breach

It’s who you know

Using his vacation time, weekends and eventually long service leave to travel and shoot mountain bike racing. Having friends that raced professionally helped open up a few doors for Damian.  “I was lucky, it’s not what you know it’s who you know I guess.  I was lucky because I had friends who introduced me to magazines or companies or whatever it might be, in the US and back here.”

Damian Breach by Damian Breach

“There wasn’t a lot of photographers back then either, it was the glory days.  Digital made it cheaper, but it was still in the realm where photos were worth a lot of money.  You could sell a single photo for thousands of dollars, depending on what it was going to be used for, there was no such thing as social media.”

Damian Breach by Damian Breach

Moving back to Australia Damian started to do work for Australian Mountain Bike magazine, Revolution and Clicked, still a few overseas magazines and was getting commercial clients in the cycling industry.

Quitting work as a public servant

After 22 years working for the government, about 5 years ago Damian wanted to do something different and quit working as a public servant.  “I wanted to do photography, I wanted to immerse myself a bit more in photography.”  Mick Ross and Chris Southwood had just started up FLOW and doing print and digital they needed and extra hand.  Damian was helping out on the digital side and was also a third opinion between discussions.  That was for about a year, at which time they decided not to do print and went full digital.  Both Mick and Chris were also getting into photography and they didn’t need an extra person.  “It’s really good to be a part of it when it started up and see where it is now, it’s pretty cool.”

Damian Breach by Damian Breach

Succeeding through failing

After FLOW Damian got into the start up app development world for mobile phones.  Playing around with that for about 18 months and spending time in Silicon Valley, he didn’t have success.  “In America that’s a good thing.  To fail is a badge of honour, failure teaches you things, without failure you don’t learn.”  One thing that he did learn was that he didn’t enjoy that world.  “In my experience I felt it was too money driven.  So I decided to start Eskapee.”

Anthology 1, Photo credit: Eskapee.com

Starting Escapee

Driven from a long passion about his vision of mountain biking, supporting the culture and lifestyle rather than technology and racing. Damian is trying to create something more closely aligned to what you see in surfing magazines than mountain biking.  “It’s been sitting in the back of my head for a long time and I thought I’m just going to do it and see what happens.”

Anthology 1, Photo credit: Eskapee.com

Launching Escapee coffee table book

Launching online first on Damian’s birthday in November 2015, “it was a birthday present to myself.”  Then in October 2016, while talking to James McNight, who used to work for Dirt Magazine, he decided to create a coffee table book.  Not messing around it was released 5 months later.  Eskapee publishes a long story once a month and shorter stories every week online.  “Committed to being original through the creation of original content and promotion of original thought. Eskapee honours and respects contributors and will always reward and support them.”

Anthology 1, Photo credit: Eskapee.com

Eskapee bucks the trend turning digital content into a book.  “Repurposing the online content and putting it in a different format so people can enjoy it in my mind also gives it a longer life.  In theory everything lives on the internet forever, but unless you’re searching for it you’ll never find it.”  Damian wanted to create something that is physical and has a presence in your life, something you can touch, smell and feel, with weight texture and volume.  It can collect dust and be found years later for you to keep on rediscovering.

Eskapee Anthology 2 PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography

The procrastinator

Damian does everything himself but has a partner in the print side in Europe.  “The thing that’s hard is not having anyone to talk to in the office environment and not having anyone to help make decisions.  I’m a procrastinator by nature, it’s hard for a procrastinator to make decisions.  The good thing is I work from home and living a couple of hundred metres from Mount Stromlo, I ride my mountain bike every single day.”

Eskapee Anthology 2 PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography

Apart from Eskapee, Damian has other work, a contractor and brand ambassador for Stromlo Forest Park doing social media and content production.  He also does mountain bike, commercial and wedding photography through Damian Breach photography.  “I try to balance all those three.  With the recent release of Anthology 2, my focus has been on Eskapee which reduces the amount of money coming into the bank account.”

Eskapee Anthology 2 PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography

“Coming from 22 years in the government to suddenly being a small business owner where you have to do everything yourself, for me there was a lot to learn.  I didn’t spend the last 20 years as an entrepreneur with 50 different business ideas, succeeded or failed and learnt from all of that.  One thing I learnt from the start up world is that they teach you to fail quickly.  You want to fail quickly because generally failing quickly means it’s cheaper.  And don’t be afraid to pivot.  I talk to other people in the start up mountain bike world and they all face the same problems, what to do next.  A lot of it’s money, but sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s your idea or your work ethic or the people you know or a combination of all of those.”

Damian presenting at the Shimano Bike Buller festival earlier this year, photo Steve Leeder

Anything in life that is worthwhile doesn’t come easy.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Eskapee.

www.eskapee.com

www.damianbreach.com

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