By Gavin Heverly


New England has spawned it’s fair share of climbing names. Dave Graham and Joe Kinder are well-known climbing names. Not to mention other heroes like Henry Barber, Joe Lentini, and  Ed Webster. But what about on the other side of the lens? Tim Kemple is a New Hampshire native whom has become one of the more published and revered outdoor photographers of the day. His images are simply stunning, and he manages to capture not only the subject, but also the atmosphere and mood of the situation he sees through his lens. Which is no small feat when you are taking the kind of pictures in the kind of locations the Tim does. I had a chance recently to chat with Tim about his roots, his current projects, and his aspirations. He is currently living in Utah and travels all over the damn place to take sexy shots of great people doing amazing things. Must suck.

BRG: How long have you been climbing? How long have you been looking through a camera lens?
Time Kemple; I’ve been climbing for 18 years and shooting for ten (professionally for 7)
How did you first get in to photography? What was the catalyst?
I went on a road trip with Joe Kinder, Dave Graham and some other friends in the summer of 1999 to Utah. I brought along a camera as something to play with on rest days When I came back I called up a photo editor at one of the magazines because I thought there were some good shots, and he gave me a great critique, I’m super thankful for that to this day.
Do you consider yourself a climber first, or a photographer? Does your profession enable you to pursue climbing, hinder it, or perhaps a bit of both?
Well these days photography is my job and climbing is what I do to escape and be in the mountains. If someone asked me, say on a plane, ‘What do you do’ I’d tell them I was a photographer. I guess its more than my job, I live it breath it, I’m really engulfed in the entire creative process.
Its impossible for me to climb and shoot well on the same day, I’m too much of a perfectionist. But photography has taken me to some awesome places to climb, and visa versa so I guess they complement each other well.
Did you do a lot of juggling early on? Did it take a long time to reach that keystone moment where you could “quit your day job” to be afull-time photographer?
I went to college at UNH (for Microbiology) and shot those 4 years through college mostly for editorial clients… it wasn’t until I graduated that I was making just enough money to pay rent and live a pretty meager lifestyle.
Do you attribute any one person or organization to really believing in you early on and helping to launch your career?
Yeah that photo editor was at Climbing Magazine, Tyler Stableford. He was definitely a catalyst. Then further down the line other Photo Editors helped me focus my creative juices. David Clifford and Zach Reynolds; they helped me take it to the next level… and its part of the reason I get bummed when I see Editorial staff sizes get cut down.
At what point did it go from being something you did, to what you DO (if you take my meaning.)?
At the point when I started to focus more energy on photographing well rather than climbing well. I’d say that was about 4 years ago.
Sometimes when your work is also your passion, it can be tricky. Do you ever find yourself being disillusioned or that your passion is challenged by attaching financial and professional obligations to it?
No. I’m really motivated by the creative process… and the artistic part of my mind is something I don’t fully understand… or at least a part I’m not 100% comfortable with yet. So I’m psyched to be learning about myself and other people and expressing that creatively. Getting paid is just a bonus.
In what direction or way do you think outdoor/action sports photography can grow or progress? What do you feel you bring to the table to bring about those changes?
Well I’ve been outspoken about how editorial (magazines) do a poor job of cultivating the future growth of both artists and athletes… I’d like to see that come around. I’d also like to see mainstream demand more accurate representation of action sport… not just some image shot in the studio and composited inphotoshop for a car advertisement for example.
The climbing industry seems to be going through a lot of exciting changes right now. Whether it’s huge climbing comps, the expansion of the sport, giant fancy gyms, etc. Are you excited to be a part of this? You’ve obviously played your part by being involved with some exciting photo shoots and working closely with the NE2c guys. Where do you think it’s all going?
Yes of course I’m stoked to be involved… and it does feel like climbing is coming into a new era. The past decade and a half was about finding new areas, rapid development of cliffs, growth in equipment and technology. I think the next era will be about a more refined athlete (at least if we are talking on the higher performance level) that is forced to live overseas because we don’t have the limestone that will produce those next level type of routes. We also don’t have that motivated community that really cares about 5.15s.
What are your plans for the future?
Well I’m slowly putting money aside for a Nissan GT-R… that’s on the two-year plan… did I mention I have a thing for fast cars? More currently I just formed a video production company with Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin. We are calling it the Camp4 Collective and we have already begun shooting projects; mostly 2-5 web videos for outdoor/action sport clients. We have a big press release announced for later in the week. So yeah lots of video work ahead to mix in with the still projects.
Do you have an all-time favorite shot?
Not really, all my images bring back memories of cool people, cool places, and lots of hard work. I think artists always like their most current work the most, and I’m the same way… I think the work I’ve done the last year kills everything else I’ve ever done. But that’s probably not the case, and I’m aware of that. I do like looking back on those old slides of years ago though…
If you could photograph anyone doing anything, anywhere, what would it be?
Tiger Woods with all of his girlfriends… something David LaChapelle-esque – it would be simply awesome.

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  1. Pingback: News & Notes – 3/4/2010 | ClimbingNarc.com

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