Exposure is a series that turns the lens on our creative contributors.
If Raphael Fourau's photography has a defining feature, it is capturing the subtleties of the sport and yet still putting them in a wider context. The French photographer manages to capture moments of movement amongst incredible vistas and more often than not the results are stunning.
How did you get into climbing?
I started climbing with my parents. But still when I was young, even if I liked my annual climbing session at the time, I preferred to skate with my mates than pass an entire day at the cliff with my parents! But slowly the bug caught me, over time, more and more, I loved to be outdoors, chilling with my friends at the cliff and trying harder and harder routes. I have climbed ever since.
How did you first get into photography?
I got into photography through climbing. During our trips I was climbing on the static rope on rest days and taking pictures of my friends. I became so passionate about it that within a few months taking the best picture became more important than climbing my own project. I soon understood that it was a way to share my vision of climbing, this world we live in, our lifestyle. It was pretty cool to learn it this way! Then I had the chance to meet people like Nina Caprez, who trusted me and asked me to work with her, even though nobody knew my work at the time. Then I had my first publications in specialized media, my first covers, and my first assignments.
How did you develop your style as a photographer over that time?
I think my style is changing with my vision of climbing and the way I live it. I first shot sport climbing, working on news images for the specialized press, when a climber sent his project and stuff like that. It’s easier to focus your work on a single route during severals days, thinking on the way to shoot it, the best angle, wait for the best light, repeat the sequence again and again.
But I was missing something. I wanted to shoot climbing in another way; as a whole. I wanted to leave the well-known spots, the overcrowded cliffs, and focus my energy on finding new destinations, which were left out by many for some wrong reasons, too risky, too far or not enough popular. That’s why we went to Corsica, then to Iceland and Northern Ireland for trad-climbing. These have been incredible trips which forged my vision of climbing and my way to take pictures.
Now I try to keep this way of working but I also want to focus on the characters I meet during my trips, from fanatic climbers drawing topos on the walls of their house to passionated skiers living on their boat right in the fjords. This is my motivation.
Where do you look for photographic inspiration?
I’m mainly inspired by the places and the people I met during my travels or my climbing trips. But I spend a lot of my time checking the work of my friends and other photographers, including Jon Glassberg, Francois Lebeau, Lars Schneider, Jeff Johnson, Thomas Vialletet and Jeremy Bernard. I like to see their portfolios, their new jobs, their daily inspiration on Inspiration or their last report. We exchange a lot.
For climbing my favorite destination is definitely the Gorges du Tarn. It’s an hour's drive from my house, the cliffs are really perfect with 40 meters endurance routes on a perfect rock and you can chill at the river with friends between two session. Now this is climbing!
I have also strong memories of our trip in Iceland. It’s like climbing on the moon, at the end of the world. It’s a crazy inhuman place!
My essential gear is my bag! I work with a Fstop LokaUL. It’s a perfectly designed bag for adventure photographers as it’s light and versatile. I can carry my camera and lenses but also my harness or my crampons, ice axe and skins when I work in snow.
I don’t really have essential kit, I just try to work with light gear. If you want to be in the action, the real key is this: Don’t be late.
You can follow Raphael on Instagram here.