We are fortunate to have such an incredible team of CYPRES athletes. So many are humble, full of gratitude, and passionate about this sport. And today, is no different. We want to take you back in time to nearly 50 years ago. When round parachutes were all the craze, and sport skydiving was just becoming popularized. This is when one of skydiving’s celebrities is just finding the sport, and unbeknownst to him, he’s about to become a legend and inspire many other well-known skydiving photographers and future skydivers after him. Today, we get to hang out with Norman Kent!
Norman’s mother was a Spanish refuge and his father was American. His mother insisted that he would be born in the US, and they made their way to El Paso, TX where he was born. Norman recalled, “Soon after birth I was taken to Cuba which is where my family lived until the US and Cuba broke ties. We then moved to Mexico City when I was just one years old. I am very proud to have been raised in Mexico and to have a Latin upbringing. Even though I am not Mexican, I consider myself to have a Mexican heart!”
Norman made his first skydive at the age of nineteen in Tequesquitengo, near Mexico City. His aim was to just go for the one time experience. “My first jump was a static line at 2,000 feet!” he remembered. “I was a great student, it just seemed simple: ARCH! Do what your told and it works!”
As he continued learning to skydive he noticed that other students were terrified and jumped out in a fetal position. “I could not understand that,” Norman said. “Within 5 jumps I was spotting the load for other students. Since there were only four slots in the Cessna, this allowed the center to put more students in the plane. It was so much fun!”
He continued, “I quickly progressed and could not wait to put my camera on my helmet which I did within 25 jumps. From there, lots of trial and error figuring things out, and a tremendous amount of fun!” We all know that today, that is a much less common occurrence and more strict safety measures are in place. However, it is a testament to the sport’s evolution to hear stories like Norman’s.
Although he wanted to just try it once, he was hooked from the very first jump. “A familiar story amongst skydivers I think,” he said. Norman then moved to the US to further his photography and skydiving careers. He shared, “I never dreamed they would become a way of living, I was just following my heart.”
As most of us know, Norman went on to publish classic and iconic images, skydiving videos such as Willing to Fly, and commercials in and out of the skydiving industry. In fact, there are so many you can see his RESUME HERE! However, one notable project he participated in was the Coca-Cola Commercial filmed in 1991 in which he won a Cleo Award.
Norman shared the story: “My first commercial job was actually shooting for ABC Wide World Of Sports when they decided to cover the Skydiving Nationals (I believe around 1980 or so). I felt a sense of accomplishment as I always wanted to play in the big leagues and that was it for sure. From there, I got better known and did many commercials and feature films. The Coca Cola commercial where there was a lot of CGI to build a bottle of CocaCola in the sky with my shots, won a Clio award [which is like an Oscar for commercials]. That was a very special project and award for me. From there, many other projects emerged.”
Norman has had extensive experience in the sport, not just filming for commercials and producing quality images. He also had experience capturing the beauty of the sport with his late wife Deanna “Skydancer” Kent. Deanna is considered the mother of freestyle as she pioneered that discipline and introduced it to the world skydiving for the first time through Norman’s film “From Wings Came Flight” which opened the door to 3-Dimensional flying. Other creative disciplines we know today were born from that important branch.
Deanna was such a natural in the sky. The duo inspired so many with their routines and timeless images. Norman’s favorite subjects have always been the people closest to him including his present wife Caroline Layne who has appeared in several national and international magazines including the cover of Parachutist magazine. Norman has also gone on to film the artistic POV from several disciplines of world records including the 84-Way Head Up World Record in 2019 to the 100-Way CRW World Record and several Women’s Vertical World Records.
In thinking of his accomplishments, Norman said, “I think there is not one particular accomplishment. Rather, I feel a privilege to be a translator or a communicator of skydiving. Through my work, the non-skydiving audience gets to see our sport. That is why I always try to shoot images that appeal to the non-skydiver and the person inside every skydiver. If you like my images and you are not in them, then I have done a good job!”
He continued, “I think cameramen are the biggest marketing asset our sport has since it can only be shared through images. I also feel privileged to skydive amongst the best during events and world records even though I am certainly not one of the best skydivers. The work published is simply a representation of what I do but by far my biggest accomplishment is to live a life doing what I love, full of magic and love. I am the possibility of love, creativity and courage, I am proud of that.”
Bar none, photography is Norman’s number one passion. Norman has always said, “If I was told that I could only have one passion, I would have to choose photography! I love capturing images and sharing the beauty I see everywhere.”
We are fortunate to have a living legend who is still active in the sport, capturing incredible images that continue to inspire as well as capture the evolution and history of our sport. Norman hosts workshops, coaches and offers himself as a mentor. He is also a presenter, and he shared with me, “I love public speaking! If you’d like to have me as a speaker, the audience always has fun as my events are always audience-driven!”
There are several ways to engage with Norman as well as check out his brilliant work.