Climbing gyms are unique places. What fascinates me about them is how the vibe in gyms is part urban, part outdoor. It’s part sports and part leisure. Putting an exact label on the indoor climbing subculture is no easy task. What’s more, every gym has its own unique little ecosystem with top athletes, local crushers, fit girls and boys and a huge community of people who are ‘just’ there to work out a bit and have fun. There is one unifying element in all these gyms though: How open everyone is to helping each other. I don’t think I’ve met as many new people anywhere else. It’s amazing how easy it is to strike up a conversation talking about a bunch of plastic holds screwed to a wooden panel.
When I first started out as a photographer, I’d just started climbing at my local gym, Monk Bouldergym in Eindhoven. I quickly struck up a deal with the manager of the gym to shoot some photos of their events once every one or two months. Shooting at this gym has been absolutely key in my development as a photographer. I learned to shoot movement, work with difficult light and connect with people in order to improve my photos. It was here that I learned to love shooting into the light, backlighting my subjects to add a slim layer of epicness. When you’ve learned to shoot in an indoor climbing gym in the evening, shooting anywhere else is a walk in the park in terms of light. In order to be able to capture some of these photos, it was essential that I connect with the climbers and elicit a response from them at times, and at other times have them be so accustomed to me being around that they hardly notice me any more so I can capture a genuine moment.
Most of these photos were shot during the gym’s bimonthly local competition. These comps are a perfect example of why gyms are such a special place. At any of the events, you could see a local kid struggling in a Font 5a (V0) boulder and get some advice from a random guy who then sends a Font 8a (V11) problem and turns out to be Rustam Gelmanov. I like to compare climbing to winter sports: Both are done with friends and don’t need to have a clear winner, but you often end up challenging each other and pushing your limits.
Photographer based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, focused on capturing athletes’ lifestyles for brands.