Mountain Hardwear Open Aperture Clinic: Overcoming Underrepresentation in Climbing

Mountain Hardwear’s Open Aperture Clinic offers climbing photography skills for historically marginalized communities.

For each image of a climber sending a thorny route, there is a talented photographer hanging on the cliff with a camera.

Climbing photography requires a unique blend of skills, and Mountain Hardwear’s Open photo clinic wants to help aspiring photographers learn the ropes.

Applications are open for the clinic, which is now in its third year. From November 4-7, 2022, this workshop in Las Vegas teaches participants how to improve their outdoor shooting skills – with a purpose.

The clinic aims to broaden representation in the outdoor industry. The brand invites “underrepresented groups within the outdoor community who want to learn more about climbing photography.”

“Ultimately, no one can tell the story of the experience of a marginalized group better than those who are directly affected,” says Mountain Hardwear.

Open clinic 2022: additions, scholarships, video

An image taken by Laura Defrain during the Open Aperture Photo Clinic 2021; (photo/Laura Defrain)

Mountain Hardwear will be offering six full scholarships this year to ensure underrepresented groups have a chance to participate. It will include transportation, accommodation and food, as well as climbing equipment and photographic equipment.

Attendees at this year’s clinic will also have the chance to learn videography. This is new and will be offered in addition to help with photography, editing and advice on finding paid work.

The program is led by Mountain Hardwear athlete Nikki Smith, a National Geographic Adventure contributing photographer. She has guided more than a dozen photographers through the clinic since 2019.

“For most of my life, I’ve searched and hoped to see someone like me in the outside media, but I never saw him,” Smith said.

“I know how much it affected me. And I wanted to do something to help change the lack of inclusion in photography. I worked with Mountain Hardwear to create Open Aperture so that regardless of experience, we could open doors and opportunities to support storytellers of all backgrounds.

Other clinic programs include workshops, one-on-one mentorship with industry professionals, and of course, lots of rock climbing. And the end of the clinic is not the end of the training, as “participants will receive ongoing mentorship for a full year after the program.”

open-air clinic
An image of Jaylyn Sabrina Gough at the first photo clinic in 2019; (photo/Jaylyn Sabrina Gough)

An open application for underrepresented people

The 2022 Open Aperture Photo Clinic is accepting applications until October 9. To qualify, candidates must identify themselves with at least one or more underrepresented groups. Alumni from previous years will help choose this year’s class. And naturally, basic photography skills and an interest in climbing photography are recommended.

Applicants must also “have a vision for how you can use your photography to raise awareness for underrepresented communities outdoors.”

Photos of clinic participants are published by Mountain Hardwear. Some alumni have moved on to photo jobs with outdoor brands and organizations. This is a real opportunity to get a head start on this complicated (but rewarding) career path. It is also a way to amplify often ignored voices.

Matt Burbach, Director of Global Marketing at Mountain Hardwear, says, “Open Aperture was developed and is fueled by a passion for empowering underrepresented communities to share their stories.

Apply now.

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