Mountainfilm: Jim Herrington, Photographer-Author-Climber-Raconteur

Mountainfilm: Jim Herrington, Photographer-Author-Climber-Raconteur

The line-up for the 41st annual gathering of the tribe features guest director Cheryl Strayed, plus Sir Chris Bonington, Hilaree Nelson, Erin Parisi and Ben Rhodes.

Passes/tickets to the 41st annual Mountainfilm are on sale now.

“Jim Herrington captures the men and women behind the superhuman feats. His experi­ence as a climber allows him access to their world, but his talent as a photographer is what brings them back to ours. In these portraits we are reminded that great climbers are still people, sharing the same humor, motivation, and humanity as the rest of us,” Alex Honnold (of “Free Solo”)

“I was hoping my debut in the New York Post would have a headline at least as juicy as ‘Headless Body in Topless Bar’ but still happy to be in the rag that nobody admits to reading,” photographer-climber-raconteur Jim Herrington.

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast with photographer-climber Jim Herrington.

Jim Herrington, Photo by Sara Zmudzinski.

Once upon a time, photography was considered too much of a democratic medium (read, anyone with a point-and-shoot could do it), too fast, slick and facile to be considered fine art. It was also regarded as too indecently young to be considered museum-worthy with a history going back only as far as 1839.

But those dusty ideas changed in the late ‘90s when revered institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art began displaying its collection of fine art photography,(originally stashed in the corner of a storage room in the print department), and works by major photographers began to command top dollar at auctions.

Fast forward to the present day and those same august institutions are still caught scratching their heads, this time about the direction of photography in an era when cameras and lenses are optional, even quaint, and variations on theme unending.

But, as artist Nan Goldin famously said: “Cameras don’t take great pictures. Artists take great pictures.”

Jim Herrington is one of those great artist-photographers who, for decades now, has used his lens (and yes, conventional cameras) to mine for emotional depth – always striking pay dirt – while also pursuing his other love: climbing.

The latest work of the celebrated photographer, “The Climbers,” marries Herrington’s twin passions. Images from the book will be on display at Telluride Art’s HQ (across the street from the Telluride Library) over Memorial Weekend, May 24 – May 27, at Mountainfilm, along with examples of the artist’s music and celebrity portraits (upon which he built his considerable reputation). The show will remain up for about one month.

With a text by accomplished writer and climber Greg Child, “The Climbers,” which won the Grand Prize and Mountaineering History Award in the Banff Mountain Book Competition in 2017, and the book will be featured at Between the Cover’s Reading Frenzy over Mountainfilm weekend, when Herrington will also participate in a talk.

“The Climbers” features faces from the golden age of the sport, defined by Herrington as “those who were vertically active between the 1920s and 1970s.”

In other words, former legends who might otherwise have been overlooked in favor the youth who tend to dominate in all adventure sports. But it is those people, Herrington’s people, who long ago discovered what was possible and how far things could be pushed – all the way uphill.

How did the project get jump-started?

Inspired by the Sierra Nevada routes he had been climbing for more than a decade while living in Los Angeles, Herrington set out in the 1990s to photograph the range’s pioneering climbers, among them, Glen Dawson and Jules Eichorn, octogenarians when he finally caught up with them. He then went on to tour the globe from California to Cumbria to Kathmandu, 10 countries in all, to capture the faces of other world-renowned alpinists. Published in October 2017, “The Climbers” is the result of Herrington’s 20-year quest.

The large format coffee table book turned out to be a 192-page tribute to the discipline’s greatest hits, rugged individualists, men and women alike, who used primitive gear along with their considerable wits, talent, and fortitude to tackle unscaled peaks around the world. The 60 openly honest, no frills, black-and-white portraits of 60 climbers includes the likes of Royal Robbins, Reinhold Messner, Yvon Chouinard and Riccardo Cassin. The forward is by none other than Alex Honnold, the famous subject of “Free Solo,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Shot on analog film, “The Climbers” allows us to study the faces of the men and women who ascended bold, visionary lines, often in remote regions, far from the media spotlight. Herrington’s portraits plumb their faces to reveal, through their eyes, the utter humanity of obsession, determination, intellect, and, at times, frailty.

“…It is as if Richard Avedon had photographed mountaineers rather than movie stars, minus the props and gimmicks,” David Roberts.

“Herrington looks for the meaning of the koan in the faces of the climbers themselves, through their stony gazes and crenellated skin…it’s mesmerizing stuff,” Amazon’s Omnivoracious book blog.

“20 years of gorgeous photos by Mr. Herrington. A gift of beauty and grit,” The Wall Street Journal.

“…Herrington more than achieves his aims: to both inspire and provoke his readers to reflect on how we’re transacting our own lives, which end all too quickly. The stills—all black and white, all starkly honest—speak for themselves,” Outside Magazine.

Mark Powell by Jim Herrington from “The Climbers.”


Minon Higeta by Jim Herrington.


Pat Ament by Jim Herrington.


Gwen Moffat by Jim Herrington.


Bradford Washburn by Jim Herrington.

Jim Herrington, more:

Jim Herrington is a photographer whose portraits of celebrities including Benny Goodman, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, Cormac McCarthy, Morgan Freeman and Dolly Parton have appeared on the pages of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Outside and The New York Times, as well as on scores of album covers for more than three decades. He also photographed international ad campaigns for clients such as Thule, Trek Bikes, Gibson Guitars and Wild Turkey Bourbon.

Gillian Welch by Jim Herrington


Cormac McCarthy by JimHerrington


Dolly Parton by Jim Herrington


Morgan Freeman by JimHerrington


Keith Richards by JimHerrington


Ray Price by Jim Herrington


Willie Nelson by JimHerrington

Herrington co-produced the Jerry Lee Lewis episode for the HBO/Cinemax series “Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus” that premiered September 2017.

Herrington’s photography has been exhibited in solo and group gallery shows in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Nashville, Milwaukee and Charlotte, and is in numerous private collections.

He now divides his time between New York City, Owens Valley, CA and Southern Europe.

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