Photographer Captures African-American Connections to the Natural World
Dudley Edmondson, Outdoor Afro guest blogger, photographer, and author of Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, goes on in this second part to share how he came to photograph African Americans in the outdoors.
In the four-year process of doing Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, I have met some pretty cool people who understand what I am talking about. It has clearly changed the direction of my photographic work. I find myself not just interested in the plants and animals that live on the land but the people who sometimes share those environments with them.
People like Steven Shobe and Elliott Boston, two World Class climbers and mountaineers. These two men have climb on nearly every continent on earth in places like Russia, France, Germany and the continents of South America and Africa. They’ve seen a lot of places, a lot of people, and a lot of the natural world. I became interested in their stories after finding Elliott and getting him to agree to be featured in my book.
I was fascinated by mountains and mountaineers after reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into thin Air” and people who risk their lives climbing them intrigued me. In order to photograph climbers I learned you also have to climb as well. That did not sit well with me at first and still bothers me a bit. I wanted to watch them do what they do but not do it myself. Needless to say hanging out with these two I have now climbed in the Ozark Mountains, climbed halfway up Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and ice climbed in Ouray, Colorado. It is something I don’t think I will ever get use to but would jump at the chance to work with Steven and Elliott wherever they find themselves in the world. Working in the open voids of mountain gorges, ravines and peaks does give you a view of the world most people will never see and I am glad I have had the experience and as long as Steven and Elliott are there it will be memorable.
I believe focusing my lens on people like Steven and Elliott will help paint a more complete picture of what African Americans and other people of color are doing. It shows the world that there is diversity among ethnically diverse people and we are capable of so much more than the narrow scoped, negative images the media shows us. I believe in this so much that I have staked my photographic future on it and I very comfortable with that.
Photo: Dudley Edmondson on the shores of Lake Superior near Silver Bay, MN by Nancy Latour-Edmondson