The Climbers

Gripped - - REVIEWS - Climbers. The Climbers The Lover, The The Climbers The Climbers, Jon Popowich

Jim Her­ring­ton Fore­word by Alex Hon­nold Es­say by Greg Child Moun­taineers Books

One of my favourite books is by Mar­guerite Duras. I pur­chased my now well-worn copy at a used book­store i n White­horse, Yukon in the days around an ex­pe­di­tion to the Saint Elias Range many years ago. In the ear­li­est pages of that semi­au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, she writes of a com­ment she re­ceived from some­one, upon see­ing her much later in her life: “I’ve known you for years. Ev­ery­one says you were beau­ti­ful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beau­ti­ful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I pre­fer your face as it is now. Rav­aged.”

The cel­e­bra­tion of the of­ten rav­aged, weath­ered face; the to­pog­ra­phy of eyes, noses and mouths, the shad­ows that crease or con­ceal, and l ike glaciers cut­ting into stone, the years and ex­pe­ri­ences and his­tory that shape it – this is the sub­ject of Jim Her­ring­ton’s out­stand­ing new book

The re­sult of a nearly 20- year pho­to­graphic pur­suit, is a col­lec­tion of stun­ning black-and-white por­traits of climbers who were ac­tive dur­ing the 1930s to 1970s. Her­ring­ton is both a climber and an in­cred­i­bly skilled pho­tog­ra­pher of rep­u­ta­tion, hav­ing pho­tographed sig­nif­i­cant A-list act­ing and mu­sic ta­lent for many years. It is for­tu­nate for us then that he turned his lens to this project, which is both art, labour of love, and his­tor­i­cal ar­chive. Many of the climbers fea­tured are in their fi­nal years; some have now been gone for a while.

The photos alone are them­selves a col­lec­tion of sto­ries; these are the im­ages of proud faces, worn faces, faces – like that of Ric­cardo Cassin – right near the very end of life. But the book con­tains out­stand­ing words as well. A fore­word by Alex Hon­nold, is a short ref lec­tion on the in­ter­sec­tion of climb­ing his­tory and its cul­ture, and the many things we climbers hold as ref­er­ences. Greg Child pro­vides a well-writ­ten and in­for­ma­tive his­tor­i­cal es­say that sum­ma­rizes a lot of 20th- cen­tury climb­ing, in­clud­ing the lives of those fea­tured in the photos and the many oth­ers who were also ac­tive in and around these char­ac­ters. And Her­ring­ton’s own writ­ing de­scribes the con­text for the project, his style and ap­proach, his inf lu­ences from climb­ing and his love of pho­tog­ra­phy. These writ­ten pas­sages are won­der­ful and set the stage for what are truly breath­tak­ing im­ages.

was the well-de­served winner of two awards at the 2017 Banff Moun­tain Film Fes­ti­val – the Moun­taineer­ing His­tory Award, and the Grand Prize. It suc­ceeds for three rea­sons. It is a his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment, capturing the sto­ries through the faces of the many bold fig­ures of our sport. Sec­ond, it is an in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy of inar­guable qual­ity, skill and craft – these are mas­ter por­traits. Lastly, Her­ring­ton has ap­proached the whole project with a dis­tinc­tive aes­thetic in­formed by his own youth­ful and on­go­ing inf lu­ences – pho­to­graph­i­cally, climb­ing-wise, and cul­tur­ally as a whole. Bear­ing his fin­ger­prints with­out in­tru­sion, it cel­e­brates the past yet is time­less.

The mas­ter French pho­tog­ra­pher Henri Cartier-Bres­son once said, “As time passes by and you look at por­traits, the peo­ple come back to you like a silent echo.” This type of book, this type of pho­tog­ra­phy, does not come along of­ten. Do your­self a favour and buy it; you won’t re­gret it. It is my be­lief that like the faces and im­ages it con­tain, will be­come its own his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ence point in the fu­ture.—

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