We are very excited to be a part of the 3rd Annual Canmore Climbing Festival that will take place this weekend on Saturday, August 12, 2017.
Colette McInerney will be speaking Saturday night at the 3rd Annual Canmore Climbing Festival. Colette has been in the climbing industry for over a decade, traveling and living the climber’s lifestyle. Early exposure to capturing her experiences through camera have led her to pursue the art of storytelling through a number of different mediums. Most recently, she been a part of creating an all women’s production team under Never Not Collective, with an emphasis on storytelling from the the perspective of women in climbing. We had a chance to catch up with Colette before the show and here is what she had to say.
Hi Colette, first off thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We are very excited that you will be a part of the Canmore Climbing Festival. This will not be the first time you have been here. Can you tell us about your previous trip?
I visited the area back in 2012. I completely fell in love with the vistas here. I still think it’s one of the prettiest mountain ranges in North America. That trip I climbed mainly at the upper wall at Acephale as my partner at the time had a big project there. This time I’m back at that wall but hoping to work on a few hard projects of my own.
What will you be sharing at the festival?
My slideshow is generally about my photography and experience climbing and living on the road. I’ve been living “on the road” and working remotely since 2009 more or less. My show shares some experiences I’ve had along the way.
A lot has changed and happened since your last trip and coming back to Canmore now. Can you tell us a bit about that ‘journey’ and where it has taken you since way back then?
In 2013, I separated from my long time partner both climbing and romantic, and starting working on my own doing photography and film work. It was definitely a big transition time in my life trying to figure out where climbing and work fit into my life plus really stepping back for the first time in a long time and thinking about what I really wanted for my future. What I found was number one; I had an amazing supportive community in my climbing world and two; when I looked at what I knew how to do best it was filming and shooting climbing. So, I just figured I really love doing this and why stop.
How did you first start getting into filming and how have you grown into that art?
I got my first full time desk job as a copy writer in 2009, it didn’t last long as I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. I started a blog in an attempt to keep up my writing while I continued to explore climbing life and travel. I started taking photos with my post and was lucky to be surrounded my some of the best photographers in the biz like Keith Ladzinski and Tim Kemple. Initially this sparked my interest in working in production, which I pursued and still work in today, but it also unlocked some creative realms about myself I didn’t know I had. I was a little more forced into the video realm by the times, but now I really love shooting both. In reality I still feel like a beginner and a hobbyist some of the time and would never compare myself to the photographers that inspire me most. But I also feel like this kind of self critique will make me better at my craft.
Capturing climbing through pictures seems easier than with film. In your opinion, what makes climbing so difficult to capture on film, or vice versa, what makes it so easy?
I have mixed feelings about that. In one way, film is way harder because there are so many moving parts, multiple angles, sound, editing it just goes on and on. But in another way because film isn’t just a single image I find it much more forgiving than trying to take the perfect photo. I think your film can still be a bit “messy” and say something, you can have a couple of bad shots in a movie and still have a powerful piece. With a great photo everything kind of needs to align perfectly. This is stressful!
Growing into being a film maker and photographer on the road must have had its challenges. Can you name two things or concepts that have made you a better filmmaker/photographer?
It sounds cliché but just going for it. In a way it’s kind of like trying a new hard project. In the beginning there’s a lot of self doubt going into a new film project, it can feel big and ominous, just like a new hard route. I find just getting in there and shooting day after day alleviates that doubt and makes you realize that you are capable of doing more that you thought.
More practically I’ve had to be realistic about what kind of work-space I need. Sometimes after a big shoot I’ll rent a place where I can be alone and not distracted my roommates or hectic living spaces. I know I need this kind of environment to work well because I’m too social and easily distracted.
Is there anything that really drives you to capture climbing a new way?
I think I’m most interested in telling people’s stories and showing their character. Climbing just happens to be this vehicle to show it in. I don’t think I’m capturing anything particular new about climbing, it’s just that everyone has their own story, motivation and way to their goal and this is always intriguing and kind of a timeless pursuit.
You have been very support of promoting women in climbing. Can you tell us a bit about what that means to you?
Yeah I think it goes without saying that when I started shooting more and thought about the stories I wanted to tell it was easy to gravitate towards stories about/of women. There were quiet a few women when I started climbing, and I started climbing primarily with women my first three years, but afterwards when I started spending more time on the road and traveling I realized I had a pretty skewed idea of women in climbing. I definitely remember lots of road trips being the only girl and not having any female companionship for months. Those they were still amazing trips, but I definitely craved girlfriends and really started appreciating those relationships more and more.
In the bigger scheme statistics tell us how women are unrepresented in as media makers, and in main roles positions. As a woman to put myself in any of these roles makes me an advocate whether I like it or not. I’ve always been a feminist but I think one who didn’t like to ruffle too many feathers along the way. I still believe there is a subtly to not alienating people when talking about minority and women’s issue. I also think there’s a point where you look at the facts and kinda of say hey if we’re not all on board here we still have a lot of work to do.
I’ve started working with an all women’s production team called Never Not Collective. We have some really cool stories we’re working on in the coming year. One project we’re planning on is a passion project of mine to make an all women’s climbing film. I want it to be modelled around the climbing films in the early 2000’s when I started climbing like Dosage and The Road. We’re launching a kickstarter at the end of August so look out for it!
After so many years on the road and travelling, do you ever feel like hanging it all up and settling down in one spot?
Oh yeah, like once a month! I have total meltdowns sometimes about being exhausted and shuffling gear. It’s really all first world problems but sometimes it can really suck, not having your own space or feeling completely disorganized. But at the same time I absolutely love travel, my community and my lifestyle and I know I’ll continue to live like this to a degree as long as it’s feasible.
Where do you call home these days?
I’ve been based in Sweden for the last year. But my boyfriend would chuckle at that. We did a 6 month road trip last fall, then from Jan- June I was probably in our apartment for a totally of a month and a half. I tell people I’m from Tennessee, which is where I grew up and where my dad is. I have some stuff stored there and when I come back to the states without a plan I usually end up in his spare bedroom.
You have gone from climbing festival to climbing festival over the past month. What do you get out of these events?
Two year ago I went to the first Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop CA. I was blown away by all the new climbers out there and in a way felt slightly disconnected from this “newer” generation of climbers. Around this time I was participating in Black Diamond’s initiative ROCK PROJECT with Access Fund, which was a series of events aimed at mentoring new climbers in the sport. It was fascinated hearing from the local communities about the challenges they are facing with new climbers as well as existing issues. I kind of realized I was always a pretty selfish climber up until that point. I suppose it was a bit of a maturity thing realizing this kind of work wasn’t somebody else’s job to do, I was in that role now.
How do you balance your art, your professional obligations and then your own personal growth as a climber?
That’s a tricky one. I think it’s always shifting. I try to be open to the fact that there’s no perfect formula and depending on the objective, the year or the bank account balance those priorities will change. I realize to the best at any one of those things I would need to devote all of my time to it. But for me it’s about having all of those things in my life, so I have to be aware that it may mean I won’t always be the best climber or the best photographer because I will take time to dedicate myself to both pursuits. I figure it’s not too bad of a compromise.
Is it ever difficult to be in the spotlight as a professional athlete?
Yes, I think so. I’ve been in the “industry” for a long time, but only recently have people called me a professional climber. I definitely have my idea of what that means and it’s not really how I see myself. I considering a professional climber to be at the top of their sport and live solely of money made at their sport. I’ve never fully supported myself from climbing. I’ve always had side jobs and chosen a lifestyle that works with living and climbing on the road. I don’t do competitions or consider myself even near the top tiers climber. But at the same time I have made a living through the climbing industry and lived a life devoted to the lifestyle. I climb because I love it and will continue to do it as long as the arms hold out if that makes me a professional climber I guess I am one!
Finally, what are you looking forward to the most coming back to Canmore?
The hikes! Hahah, ok not really though I do love feeling in shape on the hikes, plus the scenery along the way is totally epic so that helps;) I’ve been working a LOT the past three months and had a mini finger injury so I’m most happy to just climb, and get in the groove of projecting and climbing everyday. It’s the simple good life!
Thanks again. We are really looking forward to your presentation!
Colette will be presenting Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at the Canmore Climbing Festival. Tickets available from Vertical Addiction!