This week’s StandardVision artist takeover on the SVLA1 screen at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles features photographer Jim Herrington. Herrington is the latest artist to be invited to take over the two-week-long recurring 15-second spot to showcase his work to the public. His selected photographs will be on view through November 5, 2017.
A labor of love, admiration, and respect, Jim Herrington’s series “The Climbers” has been two decades in the making. Traveling from Los Angeles to Kathmandu, he has chronicled the greatest climbers of our time that defined the sport at the beginning of the 20th century. The photographs of these men and women, renowned for their past accomplishments, not only convey Herrington’s deep-seated passion for climbing, but also a heartfelt respect for each pioneer that risked their lives with each ascent. Each portrait provokes the viewers to reflect on how they conduct their lives – obsessions, friendships, marriages, finances, devotion, intellect, and ultimately, human frailty.
(left: Chuck Pratt, right: Robert Gabriel)
Could you tell us about what inspired you to take these portraits?
I’ve had this extreme attraction to history, the past, old things, old people, old stories since I was very young. It never occurred to me that is was odd or that it shouldn’t be that way, it’s just what interests me. I’m this way about everything– music, cooking, photography. I’ve been a climber since the 1970s so it was natural that at some point I would be drawn to finding the last of these “golden age” climbers from the early/mid 20th century, and photographing them. Some people seem to find it a bit curious or odd even, but it’s the most natural and obvious impulse for me.
How many places have you traveled to meet everyone?
Over the past two decades, I traveled 65,000 miles for this project — USA, Japan, Nepal, England, Scotland, Austria, Italy, France, and Argentina.
What is it that draws you to climbing?
I like the outdoors and I like the mountains. There’s a very strong aesthetic present in that environment that appeals to me. The activity is very physical, which I like, but I’m also drawn to the craft and skills that are involved, the strong literary tradition surrounding it that goes very far back. It demands self-reliance and a certain independence, which also suits me.
You have a hefty background in celebrity portraiture as well – have you found that this influences your work in “The Climbers?”
Yes, and vice versa. I think I approach both the same way. In both the music/celebrity portraiture as well as the photos of the climbers, I’m looking for something that’s a bit timeless I suppose. I prefer photographing people that I believe to be valid characters… worthy of documenting. If you found any of these photos in a box under a bed in 50 years I’d hope they stood the test of time in some way, not just disposable “content.”
(left: David Brower, right: Thomas Hornbein)
What role do you think contemporary photography has to play in chronicling the past? Do you feel that there is a certain responsibility?
Interesting words, “chronicling the past,” since photography, the act of it at least, is so in the present. But yes, delving into a history with the camera, I get what you mean. I don’t know if there’s a responsibility or not. It’s great when a photographer’s interests find an audience that is drawn to his or her photographs. I find it so natural and obvious to find these great old people and stories, it’s so much of what I’ve always done. No, I don’t think there’s a responsibility as a photographer at all to do any certain thing, you should do what you like doing and be good at it. That’s your only responsibility.
Are you working on any additional interesting projects?
I’m in book tour/publicity world for the next few months. Next, I plan to do a book of my music portraiture, which is actually the one everyone thought I’d do first. After that, I’m very excited to start shooting a brand new project – stay tuned…