The mountains to me represent a simple and basic place removed from all the human-created stresses and pressures of society. You create your own personal challenge and that’s what I really like about Alpine climbing – it has minimal competitiveness to it. One ascent can never be compared like-for-like. Conditions and the very nature of the mountains see to it that every ascent and every summit is different from the next. The mountains are a very honest stage; you can’t cheat your way up a big route, you can’t rely on the safety net of modern society and it’s just you and your partner and the climb ahead. It’s pure and very real and because of that it is one of the most genuine experiences that you can accomplish. The core values that form the foundations of our sport are values that I uphold in my work as well. I shoot as a climber, not as a photographer – I like to shoot the real and honest truth behind climbing because at the end of the day photos can hide a lot as well. Technology has supplied us with ever increasingly powerful software that allow us to alter and change images – in a place where you may find yourself at your most honest and genuine in life it seems sad when I see images taken that have been altered to make them more ‘poppy’ and eye catching to the viewer.
If I think to what really inspires me nowadays it’s still that simple photos tell a story. Alpinism is meant to be a tough game no matter what level you’re operating at and for me capturing that true grit in an image without needing the ‘hyper reality’ software effect is the holy grail. A powerful image needs to have a powerful human touch to it and thankfully that is something that post processing can never replicate. They will have a timeless quality to them because at the core of these shots are human beings pushing themselves to a limit in an environment that few humans have ever been to.
Over the last ten years I’ve been lucky enough to tie in with some of the world’s best climbers and taken my camera to some extraordinary places. From huge endurance speed climbs in the Greater Ranges to attempting unclimbed technical objectives in the Himalayas, it’s been a really wild adventure and one that has created brothers out of my friends. Who knows where the next ten years will lead me, right now when I look back at over a decade of documentary photos of humans pushing themselves physically and mentally in some of the world’s most unforgiving and dangerous places I get pretty excited with what the future is going to bring! – Jonathan Griffith
Prints of these images are available through Griffith’s “Alpine Exposures” website here. These three images are taken from a new book by Griffith, also called “Alpine Exposures”, which collates a decade’s worth of extreme sports and climbing photography into a nearly 300-page volume. Order the book here. To see more of his work, visit his website at www.jonathangriffith.co.uk. Follow him on Facebook.
Equipment and settings:
Mer de Glace Glacier, Chamonix, France – Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM wide angle zoom lens @ 17mm – 1/60th @ f/5.0 – ISO 200
Innominata Ridge, Mont Blanc, France – Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L wide angle lens @ 40mm – 1/40th @ f/4.0 – ISO 320
Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, France – Canon EOS 5D, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM standard zoom lens @ 84mm – 1/160th @ f/5.6 – ISO 200