For anyone that actually reads this blog, you might notice that one of the posts is now missing. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which for me was the amicable conversation I have just had with what could only be described as one of the targets of my rants, Dave Simmonite. Dave was rightly pissed off when I phoned him, but thankfully he wasn’t as angry as I was expecting, in fact he wasn’t angry at all. Which probably goes to show something about him as a person?
We had a calm and totally civilised conversation over about an hour, covering several topics about climbing and the media. Some of which revolved around the accusations I had thrown at him and James Pearson, that after hearing him out made me realise that my knee jerk reaction was both OTT, unfounded and out of order. In removing the post I hope I have removed any lasting offence I had made towards Dave and James.
However, in the spirit of impartiality that I was ranting about, and by way of an apology, I felt some of the things Dave was saying not only totally vindicate him, but also say something of our industry. In that given anyone brave enough to give an opinion is often shot down on the notion of hearsay, by people on the internet who hide behind anonymous usernames.
When the like of Dave MacLeod isn’t grading a route, because to grade something like Echo Wall that is another possible E12, would have lead to similar criticism, makes you question what climbing has come too! By putting his neck on the line James has come under attack from armchair critics like myself, simply because he dared to suggest that his route represents the ultimate in terms of traditional lead climbs.
This is perhaps backed up by Dave Simmonite who fully admits to probably getting carried away with media frenzy after the ascent of Walk of Life, as he truly believe he had witnessed one of the best climbers in the UK pull off the lead of his life. Given Dave’s experience of photographing hard and dangerous climbs then this statement can’t be taken lightly. Having belayed people on hard on-sight/ground up ascents, as well as headpoints, I have to support Dave in that the buzz, excitement and intensity that witnessing with you own eyes such climbing displays is powerful stuff.
When it came to the amount of exposure that the route got in CLIMB, Dave himself was surprised, but if the editor likes the copy he is more than willing to take the money. Dave is quick to pick up that I had only concentrated on James’ rather than other examples of over exposure, like the coverage of Rhapsody, when first Dave Macleod ascent produced a media frenzy, followed by Sonnie Trotters, then of course Steve McClure and James Pearson visit to Dumbarton, I had to admit to being sick of the Glasgow/Dumbarton skyline after that!
Obviously these all had great images associated with, them and that’s what the editors are after. However Echo Wall, where Dave opted for an ‘in house’ approach with his wife taking the shots and video, meant that there was probably less for the media to work with, and then arguably less exposure.
As a climbing photographer Dave has to make a living, and given the amount of money that magazines offer for content, then Dave has no problem with being over exposed. It is after all one of the only ways that magazines can offer something different from the internet, because often all a website wants is a quick news item, one photo, and within a week it is off the news page and in the archives. Interestingly many people like the extended coverage, however people like myself don’t, given that I don’t buy magazines, then maybe CLIMB understand their market.
Our conversation drifted off topic around here and we discussed magazine covers, and the loss of the classic Mountain/Crags shot. Something that Dave wishes could be revitalised, however he talks of the ‘commercial reality’ of the situation, in that the seller’s, insistence on tight in shots, and strap-lines. Whilst Summit magazine still up holds the clean cover image, as the in-house member’s magazine for the BMC it is not under the same commercial pressure or business model as Climber or Climb.
We then broach the thorny subject of commercial placement in photography, and interestingly whilst it simply has to happen, else people like James Pearson, Dave Macloed, Leo Houlding and other sponsored climbers just simply wouldn’t be able to get the meager deals that they do. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as I point out that the likes of Gresham and Emmett where taking the logo exposure to wild new heights in the late 1990’s mainly because their sponsors offered ‘photo incentive deals’ whereby they’d only pay up if the logo was clear and readable!
What it led to was some tacky images where the emphasis wasn’t on the climber or the climb but the oversized logo’s. Now sponsored climbers can only dress in the clothes they are supplied with. So it was interesting to here from Dave that The North Face is only supplying standard clothing from now on. Now TNF like many companies have such strong and identifiable logos that even a small logo will forge the association of athlete/product they are looking for.
Generally Dave has taken it from all sides recently, and underneath it there is a nice guy who is trying to make an honest living, and armchair critics like myself, have just been increasing his stress. To the extent that he is now cutting back on some of the work he did, and instead concentrating on his first love photography. He talks of some ‘vanity publishing’ project he is planning with a B&W book of grit climbing, it won’t be out for a while but sounds very enticing, something for Christmas 2009/10 maybe?
It wasn’t too long ago that I was in a similar position to Dave and James, when bolting the Slate Quarry’s and excessive criticism from armchair critics totally destroyed my love of climbing, and made me effectively stop re-equipping routes, to the extent that I haven’t raise a drill in anger for well over a year.
As such I feel bad about my blog, not having an editor to keep me in check, having limited experience as well as an ability to act before thinking means that I can offend and insult people without realising the damage, but I would argue that there are many internet critics that are just as guilty as me, but they will hide behind there username. Dave has given me some good advice, so hopefully I won’t upset so many people in the future, when I get a bee in my bonnet!