Bernardo Gimenez photography interview. Observing the mountains #2
Interview with Argentine photographer Bernardo Gimenez who has made the mountains, rock climbing and alpinism are his favourite photo set. By Marco Ferrario.
Bernardo Gimenez, you are recognised as one of the world's best climbing and mountain photographers. Where are you from? And tell us about your first experience with the mountains?
I was born in Argentina, in the mountains in the western part of the country, but I've been living in Europe for the last 12 years. My first experience in the mountains actually was skiing. I started skiing when I was a young child and when I decided to go off-piste skiing I had to learn the safety techniques that's how I got into climbing.
What do the mountains (and the world connected to them) represent to you?
Over the past 25 years mountain sports and everything connected to them have come to represent an extremely important part of my life. I could say that the mountains and rocks are now part of me.
Tell us about your first climbs
25 years ago there were no climbing gyms in Argentina and not much was known about the few peg-protected routes that existed at the time. So my first, more or less serious climb was a multi-pitch trad route. Not an easy way to learn the ropes, but in retrospect I'm glad things came about this way.
Tell us about photography. When did you discover this world? Have you always photographed climbers or mountains? And from where do you draw inspiration for your photographs?
Photography has always been my first love, even before I started climbing. I started taking pictures of friends skiing, during my first off-piste experiences. I then abandoned my topography studies and took up photography. My first job was photojournalism, I worked for a newspaper and I was so taken in by this, the workshops and courses, that I spent almost all my time there. I soon found out though that this was becoming too stressful and so I decided to take a break. I travelled to Europe to go climbing for a couple of months but things turned out different and I didn't return to Argentina.
Since when have you worked as a professional photographer?
Why do you photograph climbers all over the world? What inner "fire" drives you everywhere to see a talented climber try his or her best on a difficult route?
I like to travel and see new places and taking photos is a good way to do this. I don't just take photos and videos of cutting-edge climbs, but at times I travel with friends who are professional alpinists or I work for companies that want images or videos of their athletes trying their hardest. Having said that, I enjoy just as much creating images of easy climbs located in particular environment or a gorgeous setting.
Which was the best experience you've had and which was the worst?
Perhaps one of the best experiences I've had was witnessing close up Adam Ondra free "La dura dura". On a par is being with Nico Favresse and Adam Pustelnik, during their repeat of Orbayu (Naranjo de Bulnes). Two consecutive days. Sharing the climb, sharing moments together on the face and their excitement was a really intense experience. Certainly the worst moment happened during that same climb, when Adam Pustelnik fell circa 20 metres and grounded right next to me.
Can you describe the link between a photographer and the world he's trying to represent in his pictures?
My goal is to reproduce the truest possible representation of what I see, and that's why I really like photojournalism.
Your personal style?
Whenever possible, I try to avoid photos that are posed, I try to leave everything as natural as possible and to not exceed in the postproduction stages.
So what do you look for in a photograph?
A good image maintains a good balance between the subject (alpinist, skier, etc.) and the environment they happen to be in. And I look for something that surprises me, because it's clean, tidy, without too much information but nevertheless complete with everything that is necessary.
What is the relationship between Bernardo Gimenez, the rocks, mountains and nature in general?
I'm out about, in the mountains or on a rock face almost every day, for personal reasons. In fact I live in Siurana, surround by rock!
What do you think of climbing in 2014? What future does it have?
I cann't see into the future. I just hope the current obsession with rankings, grades and athletic performance will remain within the competition world, without breaching out into the world of the mountains and rocks.
What is the best photo you've ever taken?
I still haven't taken my best picture ever. Even when I look at my best images, I always think I could have done slightly better.
Interview by Marco Ferrario
14/03/2014 - Erri De Luca interview. Observing the mountains #1