The University of Tennessee in Knoxville is hosting an exhibit of my work all this month (November 2011). The exhibit, produced for the Visual Arts Committee, is titled “The Dark Art of Climbing Photography”. UT let me pick the theme of the exhibit so I thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase many years of my darkness-themed rock climbing photography. It was also good timing for Halloween.
My goal was to produce a real fine-art investment which could be re-exhibited or sold rather than just a temporary show. I wanted something with permanence but also something unique. The show consists of 23 pieces of my best “dark” climbing images as photographic C-prints at 20×30″, archival mounted onto hand-finished sustainable bamboo backing from Plywerk in Portland Oregon. There is a level of commitment and trust you need to have for bonded artwork, and after consulting with Plywerk and a few others who have worked with them in the past, I decided to go for it.
The printing and mounting is spectacular, some of the best photographic prints I have seen of my work, with minimal proofing. I delivered 23 high-resolution files to Plywerk and in a few weeks I received 300 lbs of perfect prints on beautifully finished bamboo. I had pulled a few prints out for temporary display at Patagonia Atlanta, but I didn’t see the rest until we opened the boxes at the Concourse Gallery in Knoxville. What a relief and joy to see the final pieces.Above: Delivering and hanging 300lbs of bamboo and emulsion at the Concourse Gallery at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I have not hung a proper show since leaving Tucson. It’s been years and I do not miss nailing and hanging artwork. Fortunately the Plywerk panels come perfectly keyholed. Third from top left, my studio manager Brett May (in OR shirt) put his years of art school experience to work and expertly prepped and hung the show. Jake Wheeler (second from left, top) and the rest of the Visual Arts Committee (second from right, bottom) were also on-hand to help hang the show and have provided excellent support throughout. Second from bottom left: The print quality and mounting from Plywerk is just spectacular. They nailed the tones perfectly, especially the blacks which were essential to this show. Some photos here by Brett and Jake.
Here is my artist’s statement for the show:
There was a time when straying from the classic natural-light style of climbing photography was unacceptable, especially to photo editors. Producing a great climbing picture was a dark art, an alchemy of being present for an amazing scene and having the presence to record it. Mess with that formula and you were just snapping record shots. The fear was that by introducing artificial light and unusual composition, one might lose sight of the authenticity that is so essential to pure rock climbing – a much misunderstood and maligned pursuit, even in the action sports arena. So while photography of skateboarding, snowboarding, and all the other X-Games sports advanced, climbing photography remained static.
In the last decade, the whole scene has changed dramatically and I am glad to have been a part of it. As it turns out, new creative approaches can reveal more about the sport and illuminate hidden dimensions of the experience, without sacrificing authenticity.
I love climbing, but I am a photographer first. No matter how familiar you are with the subject matter, a great photograph hints at something you may not have considered. It is a dark corner, briefly illuminated.
Above: Fine art prints are available from the show
Check out the show for yourself if you are in the South. The images are also available as reasonably-priced unmounted fine art prints here. The original pieces are also for sale after the show. Contact me directly if you are interested: