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Field Journal

Sam Dugon: Finding Confidence and Capturing Pace

Sam Dugon: Finding Confidence and Capturing Pace

Telling the Stories of Those on Two Wheels
Written by Abbie Merritt // Photography by Tom Shopland // Tina Gerber // Monet Adams

In a changing world, Welsh photographer, filmmaker, writer, and mountain biker Sam Dugon finds balance in capturing the sport she has always been fascinated by. From the moment she bought her first bike, she discovered her connection to the outdoors and her resolute passion for storytelling.

Fascinated by movement, Sam has spent the last six years refining her skills as a professional storyteller. Having dived straight into cycling photography fresh out of university, she is often surprised, even now, by where her career takes her. Sam has spent the last few years travelling in her van and documenting mountain bikers across the world – most recently at the freeride event Audi Nines. She talks of respecting the speed at which things happen, the pace of her subjects, the years it takes to master a skill, and how her affinity for nature has led to her involvement in Trash Free Trails (TFT). And although her work has been featured on a variety of different platforms, she has struggled with imposter syndrome in the past.

To most, it comes as a surprise to find that Sam has had to deal with self-doubt throughout her career. As a photographer, she has always struggled with the lack of a distinct career pathway, and recalls several occasions when she doubted whether she was on the right track. ‘Particularly in 2016/17, I was close to selling all my kit, settling down, and finding a more conventional job. Although I knew that what I do isn’t normal, it would have been so comforting to talk to a careers advisor. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a predefined route to becoming a freelance photographer in the mountain-biking industry.’

Although nowadays her life is centred around the outdoors, as a child Sam didn’t save her pocket money to go on far-flung trips. Growing up around Swansea, her youth was spent on bike rides around the Gower coast. During the summer holidays, her mum would pitch a tent on the beach and they would celebrate the Welsh sunshine with a dip in the sea, but that was the extent of her outdoorsy upbringing. Until she got a bike, Sam’s options for adventure remained relatively limited; her world consisted of Swansea, the Mumbles, Gower, and the occasional trip to Cardiff.

Sam Dugon: Finding Confidence and Capturing Pace

As a young adult, Sam began to venture out. Being able to cycle and explore quickly became her haven. ‘I remember having this old phone in 2009 and photographing everything that I saw in front of me.’ Curiosity piqued, she perceived the world through new eyes – and since then, Sam has felt more connected to the outdoors. When she looks back at her younger self who struggled to know what she was going to do, she is grateful for the time spent documenting the world on her bike, for that led to everything falling into place. It has taken her a number of years to become comfortable with her work, but embracing the changes and learning process is something that Sam has valued. Progress is not something to be rushed.

Photography isn’t Sam’s only method of storytelling. She has also written for online and print publications. ‘I was a bit taken aback when I got my first commission. I had met an Aussie writer in Morzine and thought he would make an interesting story. I sent the pitch to an editor without any expectation of hearing much back, maybe a one- or two-page biography at most. Somehow, it ended up being a 15-page piece about the guy. Having that commission sparked a change in me. I suddenly had someone believing in my ability and giving me responsibility of my own – it was a bit mind blowing.’ Sam felt she had been admitted into a realm of other storytellers.

Nowadays, most of Sam’s time is spent in her van photographing Downhill World Cups and other events in Europe. Her dedication towards documenting action sports comes down to one thing: the speed. She is utterly fascinated by what people can achieve at a pace, particularly if they’re on two wheels. In 2021, Sam captured some of the world-firsts taking place at a free-ride event called Audi Nines. Until recently, the event has always been exclusive to men. ‘Over the last 18 months, I think the mountain-bike community and the industry have really started to catch up. Women are not only being able to participate in these huge freeride events, they’re absolutely crushing it. Nobody could have imagined how well it’s gone.’

Sam Dugon: Finding Confidence and Capturing Pace

Alongside her time spent documenting the pace and adventure surrounding her, Sam is also an active member of the TFT steering group. Over the last couple of years, she has gradually found the direction of her work moving towards a more environmental theme. It was in 2020 when she began working alongside TFT. ‘They felt like the perfect blend of sports and adventure, with an overall goal of making our trails cleaner. It was a no brainer.’ Sam came away from every interaction with the group feeling invigorated and motivated, acknowledging her social anxiety dwindling. ‘The more time I spent within the community, the more comfortable I became. They’re such a positive group of people simply doing amazing things for our wild spaces. Somehow, they turn all my emotion and disappointment into energy – I’m constantly astounded by them.’

When time allows, she spends as much time as possible away with her dog, Trigger. A double-whammy adventure involves going out to clear her head while acknowledging a deeper purpose or impact. ‘Whether I’m going on a walk or taking Trigger for a swim in the river, I always underestimate the value of being outside.’ Sam goes on to emphasise how overwhelming the everyday can be, so having this valuable space allows her to ruminate and remain calm. ‘Just the other day, we were wandering around our local park – all the colours are emerging and everything’s in bloom. Although I knew it was raining, I didn’t realise until we were sheltering under the canopy of the trees how absent I had been. I was dry and cosy, looking down at my dog’s happy little face, when I realised that I hadn’t been present for the walk.’ Under the blanket of foliage, she experienced a similar feeling to being surrounded by the TFT family. Sam’s stress was alleviated.

Being outdoors and connected to positive people is where she feels most comfortable, and she recognises the hugely beneficial impact it has had on those around her. When time is on her side, Sam will pop out with her family, gloves on and a bag in hand, to see what trash she can find. Although the world is an overwhelming place, and it’s not always easy to stay upbeat, finding purpose in the smaller adventures is a wonderful way to stay positive.

Samantha Dugon // @saskiadugon
Trash Free Trails // @trashfreetrails
Monet Adams // @monetroseadams
Tina Gerber // @teeneegee
Abbie Merritt //



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