Exposure is a series that turns the lens on our creative contributors.
Climbing has been a constant part of Sasha Turrentine's life, after being introduced to the sport through her father at an early age. In many ways the Brooklyn based photographer's identity is deeply connected to the sport and it has influenced the way she approaches her work outside of climbing.
How did you first discover climbing?
I never discovered climbing; climbing was handed to me. My dad started climbing was he was a young kid. He went on to dirtbag in Yosemite Valley in the 70s, and while he has always had a career and a life outside of the sport, my father is obsessed with climbing rocks—so climbing is wrapped up in my identity and personality in a sort of subconscious way. I was scrambling up granite boulders at the same time that I learned to walk, and by about six I was following Dad up multi pitch climbs in the Valley and Tuolumne. Gyms were becoming more popular in the early 90s, so I started competing, and became a gym rat. The fact that climbing has always been a part of my life, that it wasn't something I found and pursued but rather something that was just always there—I think it simultaneously makes me more jaded than those who have discovered the sport themselves, and has given me a unique appreciation for it. I'm cynical as a human in general, and that paired with the 25 years of being in a (rather small) community has meant that I am critical and somewhat apathetic about climbing. At the same time, climbing is more a part of who I am than almost anything else. The sport has offered me a really unique lens through which to see and experience the world.
Has that lens had an impact on your creativity and the way you approach your work?
I'm sure it has. When I first delved into photography and writing, I felt resistant to pursue outdoor/climbing life as a potential niche (going back to the jaded thing). While I have been a part of this community for most of my life, I feel like a bit of a black sheep. I get very exhausted by what I call the "perma-psyche"; this pervasive attitude in climbing and the outdoor industry that revels in and celebrates always being positive, and always being PSYCHED about everything. It doesn't feel tangible to me, nor does it feel in sync with the reality of the rest of the world. We all have good days, and we all have bad days. Climbing is just another thing, a fairly crazy, pointless thing, that we do to pass the time.
I realized that my criticism of the outdoor industry was as good a reason to get involved as it was not to. Climbing has taught me how I want to be in the world, as well as how I do not want to be, and this influences my work greatly. Climbing taught me "type 2 fun": Fun that's not fun while it's happening, in fact, it's often kind of fucking miserable—yet somehow, afterwards, you can't wait to do it again. That attitude has helped me get through a lot of frustrating and uncomfortable moments with a good sense of humor. Climbing has also taught me that climbing is not enough, and that experiencing the world through lenses other than this very particular and addictive pastime is not only something I crave, but something I need.
When it comes to experiencing the world through those other lenses outside of climbing, what kind of experiences do you find you are drawn to capture in your work?
I'm drawn to what is, I guess, utterly human. Capturing and telling stories of people who maybe are not doing anything extraordinary or groundbreaking, but are unusual, or tell a story that resonates with people about what this life thing is really all about. I aim to capture experiences that are at once ordinary and unique. I'm sort of allergic to the word "inspirational", I find it a bit trite. I just hope I make people feel feelings. A photographer I very much admire, Malin Fezehai, just published a story following the only girl's synchronized swimming team in Jamaica. That work made me feel lots of feelings.
I tend to be drawn to photojournalistic endeavors, although in the last three years I've done more commercial and editorial work, partly because it's easier to make money that way, but also because while living in New York I figured it was a good time to experiment with different types of photo work. I've learned loads, but I'm really looking forward to diving into more storytelling this year, and expanding my outdoor portfolio.
The Eastern Sierras region is one of my favorite places on earth, so that probably comes in at number one. The light in Bishop and in the high country is unparagoned. The most fun I've ever had rock climbing was in Arapiles, Australia. I can't wait to go back there. But I wasn't shooting much. That place is a fucking trad jungle gym. I shot a feature for Climbing in Acadia National Park in Maine; that place is stupid beautiful and really fun to shoot. I would love to shoot in New Zealand, and Patagonia too.
I am one of the climbing photographers who hasn't gone over to the Sony side—partly because I don't just shoot climbing, and partly because at this point I am just shooting stills. As far as digital is concerned, I am a Canon girl for life. It's the system I know, and I am partial to the Canon color tones. As I transition into more outdoor photography, I am having to be more practical. I am usually quite stubborn, always shooting with prime, fixed lenses, but I've learned that on a wall especially, zoom lenses are crucial. So my kit includes the Canon 5D body—upgrading soon from the Mark ii to the Mark iv, 18-35 2.8, 50 1.2, and the 70-200 2.8. And I almost always have a small 35mm film camera along with me as well. Lately though I've been playing with a Rolleiflex 3.5. That lil guy is a lot of fun, and easy to travel with.
You can follow Sasha on Instagram here.