I decided to start a new series called “People in Climbing”.
This is my way to share the stories of the people in the climbing industry who inspire me.
Whether they are photographers, athletes, editors, or writers. Climbing unites us all and I want to share that energy.
This month I’m featuring Matt Enlow. I have to admit that I’m particularly excited about featuring Matt.
Since asking him to be featured we’ve already: - Made plans to drink beer in Portland, as a conditional requirement for his interview. - Meet up in Lander for the International Climbers Festival and climb. - Swapped gear tips and inspirations re: etriérs, and skinny ropes.
Anyway, in addition to what is probably an impending bro-crush Matt shared the following sage words of advice that resonated pretty strongly with me.
“Commit sooner and more completely.”
“You don’t have to be the best to do what you want to do, and, keep trying and you’ll surprise yourself.”
So read on below to learn more about Matt and his work.
Q: How did you get your start in outdoor media? What was the turning point when you realized you could turn it into a profession?
I’d had a habit of traveling around with the camera ever since studying abroad back in college.
As my life shifted towards full-time climbing, it was pretty natural to have the camera along on all those travels as well.
The biggest shift came when I was out in Fremont Canyon (WY) with a group of friends. I was recovering from shoulder surgery and forbidden from climbing, but the doc hadn’t said anything about jugging. So, that was my first trip focusing not only on shooting but on all the rigging and work that goes with it.
Q: As a creative business owner how do you structure your days?
My days are very unstructured, typically. It all revolves around finding the time to get edits in, get work done for clients, send friends photos of them that I’ve finally finished off from a month ago, and, most importantly, matching up schedules with someone to get out climbing.
Q: Who inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
I draw my inspiration from a number of sources. The easiest one to point to is my rock climbing Obi-Wan Kenobi, a guy named Trudeau.
He taught me not only how to climb (when I’d already been doing it for four years), but how to think about it. He was my gateway into the culture, and when I took my internal debates about giving up on full-time work and focusing on climbing two years ago he reassured me with wisdom like (paraphrased) “Shit man, I didn’t start my career until I was thirty. You have plenty of time. Go be a dirtbag.”
Then there are the friends who helped me discover the outdoors of my home state back in college, the buddy from Boulder living out of his van and off of his photography, a family-man friend in Jackson who lived his life how he wanted thanks to taking a risk on working for himself… the list goes on and on.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a creative?
Using my time effectively.
I’ve gotten better at focusing on the peak of the iceberg with regard to the results of a shoot, but it’s still easy to go diving down too deep and put too much time into every-day photos, the ones that are significant to me but nothing spectacular in-and-of themselves.
As I do more and more shoots, that can put me further and further behind on work as I edit non-critical pieces. And then, of course, there’s all the other ways I waste my own time throughout the course of the week. It’s always something to be cognizant of and strive to be better with.
Q: Where and how do you work best?
I work best with people. Sweeping vistas isn’t my forte, and don’t typically speak to me.
I love focusing on portrait-esque shots on route and people out in the greater world.
Indoors, I prefer working in bustling, high-ceilinged coffeeshops. I typically lose my muse if I stay in one spot too long, so I bounce from cafe to cafe pretty often.
Q: If you had to start your business over what would you do differently?
Commit sooner and more completely. Also, come up with a better name (luckily, this is something I can do at any time)
Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned along the way?
You don’t have to be the best to do what you want to do, and, keep trying and you’ll surprise yourself.
Q: Who do you consider your target market?
I started taking photos just to please myself, and I’ve mainly stayed the course.
After that, I’m as pleased when a brand picks up a photo as when a friend’s parent wants one for their wall.
Q: What has been your hardest and most rewarding project?
It’s always hard to remember how difficult a project was after the fact, particularly if the photos came out.
I did just have an enormous day in the Grand Canyon shooting with seven ultra-runners as they went to the confluence of the Little Colorado River and back - 24 miles with 6000’ of vert.
I like to think of our trip as “Snow White and the Seven Ultrarunners.” The furthest my feet had ever taken me in a day before that was 13 miles into the Wind Rivers to climb. I was very out of my element, was very broken down, and came away with photos I’m very, very happy with.
Once my knees start working normally again, that’s all that I’ll be able to remember.
Q: What’s the best way to follow your work?
I’m pretty eclectic in what I put up where. My favorite way of sharing things is my blog, but… it gets a little weird over there at times, and reads quite a lot like a journal (ie, it just makes sense to me and the people who were there).
It will not be the next adventure journal or splitter, but it will always make me happy to look back on. And it does get some pretty photos on it fairly often.
I also have a photography site that, as is seemingly the case with all photography sites, needs updating. It’s tricky walking the line between “I must show off my best photos so as to make myself look amazing” and “I just want to share this whole story, even if it means including the blurry buttshot”.
For all of you who are going to be at the International Climbers Festival in Lander, WY next week.
Check out Matt’s work along with three other photographers. Who are putting on a show celebrating Wyoming climbing. Photos will be on display at Cowfish (148 Main St, next to the Lander Grill and Bar) starting Wednesday night and remaining all through the Climber’s Festival.
The show will feature the work of Sagar Gondalia, Wyoming native and Devil’s Tower guide; Matt Enlow, fourth generation Wyomingite (though first generation climber); and Kyle Duba of Lander Rock Climbs guidebook fame.