The same year that a company called Netscape commercialized something called a browser, Corey Rich removed the passenger seat of a beat-up Honda Civic and hit the road, hoping to climb as much as possible and to capture it on film. He was several courses away from completing a college degree, but he’d served as a photographer of the local newspaper. As a young man, he was equally captivated by photojournalism and adventure sports, especially climbing. Although (then) not naturally outgoing, he had a knack of connecting with climbing partners that were. The willingness to live the stories he wanted to tell through photography got him some early magazine covers and Patagonia ads. These, in turn, led to more professional work for spanning media, tourism, apparel and gear makers.
At their best, images tell stories. In the context of climbing, these might be about virtuosity, courage, or simply getting in over your head. These are the images that shake us loose from our moorings. (They might also sell climbing gear.) With each image, Rich tells us about the technical aspects of the photography/videography, interesting in their own right, along with a narrative of how the image came to be. At the heart of this is the journalistic/artistic demand to capture the essence of a story, but not be the story. To do this high up the Salathe headwall is, unquestionably, high art.
Rich constantly asks the question: what makes this image compelling? Has the story it’s telling been told before? Does it challenge our assumptions about the sport? Does it make us think differently, about climbing, about the nature of experience? There are also the very real commercial considerations that form the backbone of a life in adventure photograph that are brought into focus, so to speak.—tom Valis