This title “Living & Loving – The High Life” is more than a catchy phrase, it perfectly describes Christian Fracchia the subject of this portrait. The image was created for Rock & Ice magazine with some fancy lighting and a couple of rigging tricks a few hundred feet off the ground for a feature on the Millbrook area of the Shawangunks NY. In the end this particular image didn’t run in the magazine but it remains among my favorites of the shoot. Christian has spent a lot of time on this cliff. He can see it looming over him from his nearby home, beckoning his explorations. As such he’s created a thorough online guide to share the info he’s gleaned through his years of personal experience climbing at Millbrook, (http://thewhitecliff.com). While it would be considerably easier to shoot his portrait on the ground with the cliff as a backdrop or simply stick to action shots of him climbing, it somehow seemed much more appropriate and appealing to pull out all the stops and create a portrait of him in the middle of the cliff gazing over of his domain. So we did.
Yet another great outcome of this shoot – As a photographer seeing your images published alongside the work of icons of the industry for whom you have great respect is about as good as it gets. So I was quite pleased to see my photograph of Whitney Boland rubbing elbows with photos from Jimmy Chin & David Clifford.
And here’s a smattering of additional eye candy from Millbrook.
Murph plugging gear high up off the deck.
Christian Fracchia sharing the beta.
Murph “hanging out” at Millbrook, because he can.
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I can remember back to when I was a kid, I was ecstatic when the local grocery store turned one of the aisles into a mini Barnes and Noble. That transformation marked the beginning of a longstanding arrangement. If I were well behaved during the weekly shopping outing I was allowed to get a book. Little did I know that most parents would be more than happy to get their kids to read more and wouldn’t hold it as a condition of “being good” but I kept myself in check because as a kid I absolutely loved reading. Maybe not always what I was supposed to read, as I was prone to hiding paperbacks in my text books to give me a more entertaining way to pass the time in class, but reading nonetheless. Accordingly, while other kids were busy making plans to be firefighters and astronauts, I was professing my intent to be an author. Not a writer, as a kid I only read books, and books were written by “Authors”. Fast forward longer than I’d care to admit and I’ve been fortunate enough to be published in plenty of books, magazines and newspapers, but it’s always been photographs, not too much in the way of words beyond some short captions. That is until now with this feature article I wrote (and photographed) about rock climbing in Colombia. I suspect I’ll stay focused on the image/film making, if you saw how much time I can squander on a simple email you’ll know why, but it’s nice to be able to dabble on the fringes of that childhood aspiration.
I’m very excited to end the radio silence here by announcing an entirely new portfolio website. It’s been many months in the making and represents the visual culmination of ten years of grand adventures, exciting travels and amazing opportunities to meet, work with and photograph some truly remarkable people. A big thank you to everyone who’s lent a hand along the way.
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This issue of Rock & Ice has come and gone. Most everyone (well everyone who cares about this sort of thing) has already seen it and moved on. Meanwhile I’ve been dreaming up and working on new photo projects. As such I haven’t until now been able to look back and pull a few personal favorites that didn’t make the magazine and share them here.
Twilight climbing over New Haven with views of Yale and Long Island Sound? Definitely not sucking. Getting all the gear down once that twilight oh so quickly becomes pitch black, well that’s another story.
Rick Kraft And Nick Caporuscio enjoying the juxtaposition of the urban and natural worlds.
A touch of evil glare maybe all it takes to get you through the crux. Michelle on Gabajistan@ Bear Rock.
This one is clearly worth far more than a thousand words.
What it lacks in height it more than makes up for in FUN. Rick Kraft getting ready to ride the Shabbat Elevator @ Pine Ledge. Too bad he got off at the wrong floor. Remember kids, just because it’s “sport” climbing doesn’t mean it’s safe. Be careful out there.
Thanks again to Brian Phillips for writing the story that I couldn’t and for taking all the flak.
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A few weeks back I was asked by the folks at asportinglife.com if I could write an article for them detailing some aspect of my approach to photography. The result was a piece exploring the concept of pre-visualization. You can read the full piece as well as great articles from numerous other top tier photographers @ Make Vs. Take and the Power of Pre-Visualization.
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I’m very fortunate to be represented by Wonderful Machine an organization that promotes the worlds top photographers. They recently profiled my involvement in the creation of the film “No Place on Earth” which I’ve excerpted below.
by Maria Luci
In 1993, while exploring Ukraine’s Gypsum Giant cave systems, caver Chris Nicola discovered several partially intact man-made walls, a key, a comb and other signs of past inhabitation. Extremely intrigued, Chris set out to find the story behind the people of Priest’s Grotto cave. What he discovered was the amazing story of 38 Ukrainian Jews who hid in the caves for over a year and a half during the Holocaust.
Extensive research and many years later, Chris tracked down some of these survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, and decided to create a feature-length documentary on their incredible underground journey. This movie was titled No Place On Earth. To film it, he enlisted the help of a large crew, including veteran director/producer Janet Tobias, who took over as director. Janet knew that to take on filming in the depths of such a large cave, which would be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Therefore, she would need someone who knew what they were doing underground. This is where Wonderful Machine photographer Christopher Beauchamp comes in.
Christopher is an experienced adventure photographer. He has extensive knowledge on shooting underground environments, and previous expedition experience in Priest’s Grotto cave. Although he’d never worked on a feature film before, his experience in production, caving, and shooting underground secured him a seat on the team as one of the directors of photography.
The job was pitched to Christopher simply—something along the lines of “how would you like to go back to Ukraine?” The answer was yes, and Christopher soon found himself jumping into a project that would take six years to complete. Several “false starts” due to financing issues, the health of the survivors, and a “myriad of other details” meant the film took longer than expected to get off the ground. Production began in earnest in 2010, when the survivors were brought back to Ukraine. Christopher wore many hats during the long production,
The project evolved through quite a few stages over a number of years, and likewise, my role expanded as I was able to showcase my versatility and a willingness to get down and dirty to make things happen. So that evolution went from being a photographer with a caving background to being a cinematographer/director of photography—but even within that sphere, my caving background was being called on to address safety issues.
For instance, there were shots needed of the survivors emerging from the cave. They had already filmed exterior of the entrance from a location, so we had to go back and use that same location for it to match, unfortunately when I got there I was informed that the entrance was actually a 300′ vertical pit. So I was tasked with rappelling in and assessing the safest way to rig a platform inside the cave to create a space for the actors, quite a few of them children, to emerge from. We had a fairly large crew for most of the stages of the film, and some extremely talented cinematographers with way more experience and credits under their belts than I, but quite frequently there were shots that would have been very difficult for the more traditional film crew to capture—that was a large part of what I was tackling.
There was so much involved in creating the film that Christopher initially believed it couldn’t be done. However, after “meeting the survivors and realizing they were not regular people, it actually felt possible.” Also, Christopher says that Janet’s “uncompromising drive to achieve her creative vision, and what she believed the story could be was quite an inspiration.” As for the one of the biggest challenges, the caves themselves, he describes the environment as “cold, wet, dark, and awesome,” adding,
Getting to work in the caves is sort of a dream come true, such beautiful remarkable places but also so harsh and exhausting. They’re extremely tough on equipment. Not dark, but completely devoid of all light, 100% humidity, water and mud everywhere, irregular spaces often requiring crawling through slop. I imagine if the rental houses could’ve envisioned where we would be taking their very expensive equipment, they might’ve very kindly shown us the door.
However, the best part of this entire project for Christopher was working with the survivors. “Obviously it was a very emotional experience for them, but also a source of humble pride. For Saul [one of the survivors], I think it was the completion of his life’s work. He survived the cave, went on to raise a family, start a business, have a regular life, and coming back to show the cave to his granddaughter, was the completion of that, a sort of coming around full circle.” Christopher also adds, “It was a real privilege. Their story is hugely inspiring and they’re genuinely likeable people who invited us into their world. I’d like to believe I’m a little better for it. This was a really special, one of a kind project.”
Variety said the film was “gripping and moving. A Substantial contribution to Holocaust cinema.” The Hollywood Reporter called it simply “astounding.” No Place On Earth opens in New York for its theatrical run on April 5th, it will be coming soon to theaters across America.
Some of Christopher’s No Place On Earth behind the scenes images are below, more can be found here.
Interpreting one’s imagery and then articulating that vision in words can be a difficult challenge. Having someone else do that for your work can be equally or perhaps even more unsettling. Which is why I’m quite thankful to Lori Fredrickson at Popular Photography Magazine for so artfully doing just that in the “Backstory” feature of their current issue. I’ll quite happily just leave the wordsmithing to her.
The rest of this series ” Monuments to Failure” can be viewed here-
I’m very happy to have been able to provide lots of imagery for the latest issue of Vertical Times magazine which is published by the Access Fund. The Access Fund is the premiere advocacy organization protecting climbing and climbing access in the United States and they do tons of great work in the form of legal counsel, political advocacy and $ to various projects and local organizations. I can proudly say I’ve been a member for a number of years and if you’re a climber who climbs anywhere in the US you really should consider becoming a member. Just because your local crag isn’t currently threatened doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. I do also have to admit, I’m really quite fond of their Prana organic cotton tees you can score for joining. You can find more info on the AF site here Access Fund.
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On the lookout for cougars. Bill Betty founder of the Punchbowl Puma Posse.
If you have an Ipad you will definitely want to check out The Huffington Post Magazine App. Its a fantastic app with great stories and gorgeous photography (Yes, I recently shot a feature for them, no I’m not expressly referring to my own work). Best of all, the subscription is currently FREE! And if you happen to live in Connecticut you’ll surely want to check out the feature I photographed about what may or may not be lurking in your backyard.
In their own words-
Introducing Huffington magazine, a distillation of the very best original content from The Huffington Post. Huffington also offers a mix of exclusive stories and interactive features you won’t find anywhere else in an elegantly-designed weekly iPad app. As always, you’ll also enjoy contributions from our roster of respected bloggers, alongside the pithiest comments from the most engaged and passionate readership on the web.
Check it out-http://www.huffingtonmagazine.com/
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Just returned from the Toronto International Film Festival where I was able to see both my own cinematography work and that of a large group of talented individuals on the big silver screen at the debut of “No Place on Earth” a film I’m very proud to be a part of. After six years of efforts, it’s great to enjoy the final product and have it be so well received. Congratulations to Janet Tobias and everyone who helped make it happen.