14th April 2015
I had met with Phil previous to the shoot and asked him a few questions about his favourite place and why. At first he said Baildon Crag and then expanded to The Cow & Calf – because he loves to climb. He also loves to cycle. He said when doing these things he is “in his element”. The aim here was to capture Phil in his element – in one of his favourite places doing his favourite activities. He said he just loves the environment of the crag and how you can get stuck in! He has had many great memories in these places and doing these activities – by himself, feeling close to God, but also finds that doing these activities in a group is really interesting because when helping each other out – whether you know the other person or not – you hold each others life in your hands. This builds trust really quickly between people. He has also taught and guided others in climbing. He loves the feeling of climbing, of the adrenaline and the accomplishment of it.
I wanted to photograph Phil with the rock and the environment itself (he also wanted a photo of him with his favourite climb called “Josephine”) and to photograph him engaging with the activity.
It was really interesting in this shoot because Phil gave me the opportunity of engaging with this activity that he loves – climbing. I got harnessed up and tried climbing as he held the rope and pulled me up as I tried to progress upwards. However I found it really difficult. I had never done anything like it before and I didn’t feel ‘comfortable’ in my ability to climb, so had to come down. This experience really taught me a lot. Phil is confident in this – as he said, it’s ‘his element’. He is completely comfortable in the role of also teaching others how to climb. Afterwards in the car we were talking about this, and how what you do could be an expression of who you are… rather than what you do determining who you are. There is a reason everyone does e.g the activities they like to do, and the places they like to go. They seem to be expressions of peoples qualities and personalities. For example, Phil may not feel comfortable singing – but I do. And that’s ok. Everyone is different and unique – there is not one person on the earth that is the same as another. Even within a group of people all doing the same thing – each person may love that thing for a different reason – maybe within the feeling it gives them, or how it resonates with the qualities they possess. So what a person does may express a snippet of their identity but there are so many parts within 1 person it is hard to capture that one person within a photograph, especially if they are seen differently by different people.
The shots that I think work really well in this shoot are the ones where it is him stood with the rock, looking at the camera with the location as the context, also the ones where he is engaging with the activity itself, as the expression on his face is very telling of the enjoyment he gets from it and also the grit and determination it takes to climb. I feel as though I got to know Phil a lot better just from photographing him in this experience. I feel these photos have a lot of meaning, even just within the change of positioning and expression in each shot.