Joyce, Actress, Climbing for: 6 years

I work as an actress. However I am educated as a scientist, namely Biochemistry

I climb because it’s my zen + it’s my workout

I mainly boulder which is my favorite. However, I also sport climb

The most memorable climbing experience was climbing a building in Stockholm, Sweden

I don’t think I could live without music, It’s my passion. my playlist is eclectic. Sometimes, I sing when I climb as it helps me with the climbing and it's fun. I take in air very slowly and exhale slowly as well and it’s calming and I stay very focused.

I just want to climb as long as I can and as hard as I can.

I am a problem solver. I’m patient. I care more about the next move than getting to the top.


Nick, Head Climbing Coach, Years Climbing: 3

I climb because at this point in my life, it would feel wrong not to.

I started climbing in college when a roommate introduced me to bouldering. It’s been about 3 years and I’ve climbed almost every day since I got my first gym membership.

Bouldering is by far my favorite kind of climbing. I love that it’s just you and the wall so you’re completely in control of the outcome. It’s meditative. I’m open to any type of climbing, as I think all great climbers should be, but so far bouldering has been my jam.

My favorite problem that I’ve ever worked is the V7 Caveman traverse in Joshua Tree. It features a lot of compression, corework and toe hooks. Though I still haven’t sent it, I pieced together both halves the first time we met and I’ve been dying to get back to it ever since. Working the movement on that problem has easily been my most memorable afternoon spent touching a rock.

I’m a big fan of crimps, though it hasn’t always been that way. When you train like I do, you can hold your own body weight on the smallest of ledges. Having that kind of power makes those little holds a lot of fun...I’m a technique guy, so learning how to utilize my entire body is a never ending journey. I love a good dyno, but patiently stemming across a slab wall is where I do some of my best bouldering. I prefer toe hooks to heel hooks, but a proper execution of either one feels super rewarding.

I want to be the strongest climber in the world of bouldering. I want to compete in the World Cup and in 2020 be one of the very first Olympic climbers.

Strategy and commitment are my best attributes on the wall. A lot of people can climb high grades, but not every hard climber will be a smart climber too...The best climbers in the world don’t know if they’ll catch the dyno, but they go for it anyway. To me, that commitment is what separates the elite from the recreational climbers.


Nicole, Director of Life Science, Years Climbing: 13

I climb to feel grace and beauty. To push myself. To overcome fear. And, of course, because it’s 100% addictive.    

I've been climbing since 2004 when I met my (now) husband Laurent.  He’s been my personal coach and climbing partner ever since.  

When Laurent and I lived in Europe, we’d come back to the States for vacation and stay for weeks in Bishop, CA. It was long trips like that where I managed to do harder projects (like Junior’s Achievement in the Buttermilks). On one of those trips I was invited to my first (and only) dumpster dive dinner with some climbers we met. It was quite good in fact (!)  

I like crimps and flags. I’m light, flexible, have narrow fingers (good for crimps), and manage to lock off pretty well with my small biceps.

My goal in climbing is to stay on the rock as long as possible.


Ash, Media Wrangler, Years Climbing: 5

Climbing keeps my brain and body working together. I’ve been dealing with mental illness for a couple of decades. The puzzle solving nature of climbing requires that I stay in tune with myself and makes it easier to keep from dissociating.

Also, it’s simply fun. You get the same endorphin/dopamine kick after you send a route now as you did you when you made it to the top of a tree or a wall when you were 7…

I’ve got decent balance and a fair amount of functional flexibility. I’m not the strongest, and I can’t lock off for days, but I can usually get my feet in the right places to hold myself for a minute while I figure out the beta that isn’t just throwing myself up the wall.

I enjoy technical slab, and funky slopers. J-tree was my first outdoor experience, and I spent a good deal of time fearing for my life on run-out slab problems. Somehow, that’s endeared me a great deal to them.

Sport climbing is my favorite. It incorporates some of the technical aspects that you’ll find in TR, but offers some of the more interesting and challenging moves that you find in bouldering.

Heel hooks for life! One of the things I was taught early on was that if I couldn’t figure out the beta, it’s either a drop knee or a heel hook.

My main goals are longevity and travel. I’d like to travel more, specifically for climbing, and I want to make sure that I progress in such a way that I don’t completely destroy my body in the process.


Laurent, Physicist, Years Climbing: 17

Climbing provides me a lot of peace of mind, and I need this.

I started climbing I think in 2000, if I remember correctly.

I’ve experienced bouldering, highball bouldering, sport climbing, ice climbing and one time traditional climbing (scary). My favorite is sport climbing, because it’s a good compromise.

...Checkerboard (Bishop), Soul Slinger (Bishop), and La Baleine (Fontainebleau, Petit Bois)...

I try to do everything, if I can, except jumping. I’m better with crimps, but I don’t really care. I like slopers more and more, less traumatic for my fingers.

I’m mentally strong I think, and I have a good ability for instant reading of the climb.

No ambitions.  No goals. Just keep climbing as long as I can.


Emilie, Student, Years Climbing: a bit less than a year.

With climbing, I could let go of some sort of control that I am otherwise not able to.

I always have moments where I'm completely disconnected from everything else in a climbing session: the only thing that matters is how to do the next move – not to reach the top anchor, not to climb any specific grade, but just how to best place that foot, how to grab that next hold or where to position my body.

My ability to find joy in those small things is also what I think is my strength as a climber: I am hard on myself, but I still find joy in simple, small things.

I enjoy long sports routes with an even difficulty (no major ”cruxes”). That is how I get the most intense climbing experience and also the most adrenaline – in such routes you have to stay focused all the time in order not to fall. For me that is almost meditation.

One experience I often think about is a long vertical route in Margalef in Spain that was slightly more difficult than I had predicted. I was at the edge of falling all the time, but I stayed calm the whole route and forgot to think about whether I was on belay or not. I just kept climbing, breathing and clipping and when I got to the top anchor, the sun was about to set and I sat down in my harness just looking at the beautiful mountains and I remember thinking something like ”no matter what happens in life, at least I have this”.

I started climbing in Denmark which is completely flat and basically has no outdoor rock climbing. All climbing happens on artificial walls. I recall sport climbing sessions on outdoor walls in the middle of the city before sunrise. After some hard routes, I just lay down on the ground, listening to the distant sound of the city slowly waking up. Those experiences of climbing in complete silence in an urban environment were valuable to me.

Copenhagen is very special to me and I am glad I started on artificial walls. It makes climbing more about the movements for me – I don't find artificial walls boring and the outdoor experience is just an awesome extra that I'm always looking forward to get back to! Besides, in Copenhagen, one never needs to enter a car. You can bike everywhere!


Culinaria Show at HealdsburgSHED

Photo:Eric Wolfinger

Photo:Eric Wolfinger

I'm happy to announce HealdsburgSHED will be showing prints from the Culinaria project during the month of June!

Cindy and Doug describe their place as a modern grange; a market, cafe and a community gathering space located at the wonderful town of Healdsburg. It won the James Beard award for restaurant design in 2014 and deservedly so. When you walk in, everything in the place, from the design of the building to the smallest product sold to the delectable menus created by culinary director Perry Hoffman, feels just right. Cindy does such a wonderful job curating and sourcing quality items from dinnerware to Japanese rubber boots and the curation of events at their grange is equally well thought out.

It is for this reason that I feel especially honored that Cindy and Doug feel my images worthy enough to be shown at their space. Twelve large prints will be shown, including the portrait of the Schmitt family. The artist reception is on June 7th from 6pm-7:30pm. If you are in the Bay area or in Sonoma County, please stop by and say hello.

Culinaria Opening Reception
Wednesday, June 7
6 PM - 7:30 PM

Healdsburg SHED
25 North Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448



Two Days in Disneyland with Larry Sultan

Last week during a trip to San Francisco, I took time to see the show dedicated to Larry Sultan's editorial work at Casemore Kirkeby Gallery. I love his work and looking at them took me back to the two days I spent assisting him in 2008.

My friend Amy called me and asked me if I could do her a favor and assist Larry Sultan(!) in her stead as a schedule conflict came up. At the time, I was largely phasing myself out of being an assistant, trying to make my way solely as a photographer. I knew it was time. I wanted to shoot, not assist and I had become that surly assistant with a bad attitude, having hung around the game a little too long. So I turned down assisting gigs even though it was a tough going and money was tight. But when Amy called about Larry Sultan...Sure, I guess I could help her out. What are friends for?

When I started out in photography, I worked for a period at A&I film lab. During the time I was working there, Sultan was getting images from his "The Valley" project printed for exhibitions. Every now and then, I'd see images from the work mixed in with other jobs coming through the pipeline. I remember the large print, about 4'x5', of "Tasha's third film" just hanging out for months. I'd go back to get an order and always take a moment to look at the print, transfixed at the multiple narratives contained in that one frame: the vulnerable expression of the young girl trying hard to look like a woman, the napping grips, the cameraman pointing the lens at the disembodied intertwined legs of the adult actors lying outside on the grass. I'd be staring at the print thinking "wow, that's a Larry Sultan photo!"

Sultan came to fame with his book "Evidence" a collection of photographs co-curated with Mike Mandel. The book showed the strangeness of America and modern industrial society by showing archival photographs gathered from various industries stripped of context and captions. The viewer's reception and understanding of the photographs and their meanings changed without the necessary context.

His next book was "Pictures from Home" containing portraits of his parents along with old family photos and home movie stills. The book showed how memories of our lives are constructed by photographs, photographs that might not necessarily tell the "truth".

The book following that was the aforementioned "The Valley", a series of photos chronicling the use of middle class houses in the San Fernando valley for porn shoots.

The shoot I was to assist Sultan on was for Cookie magazine, a short-lived parenting magazine published by Conde Nast to illustrate a memory piece about Disneyland. Apparently, the editors wanted him to photograph Disneyland in a "Larry Sultan way".

What does that mean? Larry didn't know either. "What are you looking for", I asked him several times. "I don't know", he'd say. "I'll know it when I see it." So to find "it" we traipsed around Disneyland on two very hot days carting around a Sinar 4x5, Mamiya RZII, Mamiya7 rangefinder, a Nikon dslr, host of lenses and film for each format, speedlights, and battery powered strobes, accompanied by an impossibly difficult minder from Disneyland whose sole purpose, it seemed, was to deny us permission and access.

He had his wife Kelly there to help him produce the shoot. It was wonderful to see how gentle and affectionate they were with each other. Almost heartbreakingly tender. They still treated each other as if they were still on their third date. I could see why he was a beloved teacher at CCA.

The second day of the shoot, we were having lunch when Kelly told a story about a family she saw that morning. The father was trying to take the obligatory "family portrait at Disneyland" and the boy was not having a good day, whining and generally being grumpy. "Smile" the father barked at the boy, according to Kelly's imitation of the dad. Then when the boy did so, the response was "Not good enough. bigger"

I wish I was there to see that. If there was a Larry Sultan moment at Disneyland, that was it.

After two long days, we said our goodbyes. He emailed me some photos from the shoot. I emailed him asking for some advice about a book project I was working on which he helpfully replied to. Later, in a PDN article he said the Disney shoot was an interesting experience but didn't get much in the end. Oh well.

Then just like that, he was gone. A year later, he passed away from cancer. Gone far too soon. I had never been to Disneyland prior to the shoot and I have not gone since. If those two days are the only time I visit that place, I'm fine with that.

Out of respect for Larry Sultan's copyright, I won't post an image from from the shoot on this post. Instead, you can see one of the images by visiting his website. And be ready for some wonderful photographs when you go there.

Laura Chenel

Laura Chenel started a small farm in the Sonoma county during the late 70s and among the bees, chickens and vegetables, raised goats. She needed to do something with all the milk the goats were producing so she started making cheese. In doing so, Chenel became the first in America to commercially make goat cheese and is considered by some to have started the artisan cheese movement in the states. Soon, her chevre became a big hit. At Chez Panisse, where Alice Waters was an early booster, the Baked Goat Cheese with Salad is such an iconic dish, it's the only item they cannot remove from the menu without incurring the wrath of the diners.

But that was another lifetime ago. Chenel is now retired. She sold her namesake company in 2006 having grown tired of raising the goats and running the company. She now lives a quiet life in a beautiful house on top of a hill in Napa.

I photographed her in January during a week of torrential downpour. It seemed as if California was trying to make up for the past five years of drought in one week! It rained during most of the drive from Santa Rosa to her place in Napa valley so I was planning on photographing her inside. Just before I reached her place, the rain slowed to light mist. One obvious benefit from the much needed rain was the lush green landscape. Next to the front gate to her place runs a creek. The contours of the creek bed with the rocks and trees all covered in green leaves and moss with the water churning through from the rain made it seem like a setting from a woodland fairy tale or an Andy Goldsworthy installation. We walked around her place to look at other possible settings but my mind kept going back to the creek. By sheer luck of timing, the rain stopped just enough to make it possible for me to photograph Chenel there.

Once we were done with the shoot, the rain started up again and continued for the drive back to Santa Rosa and throughout the week. But somehow, that one moment when I needed it to stop, it stopped. Just dumb luck, I guess.



Noam Pikelny

Noam Pikelny is the preeminent banjo player of his generation. He is a member of the progressive bluegrass band, The Punch Brothers, a supergroup of sorts. Each member share a common background of being young prodigies in their respective instruments, growing up in the small, insular bluegrass circuit. Together, they push the boundaries of the genre and cross over into classical, rock, jazz and anything in between. Prior to the Punch Brothers, he was a member of Leftover Salmon and played in John Cowan's band; Cowan of the New Grass Revival fame, the early progressive bluegrass band that is perhaps the progenitor of the Punch Brothers. Pikelny also has the distinction of being the first recipient of the "Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass". Yes, that Steve Martin. And no, not a joke but a pretty serious and prestigious award established by Martin to recognize extraordinary banjo players.

On March 5th. Pikelny made his debut at McCabe's Guitar Shop playing a solo performance to a sold out audience. Two days prior, his solo album "Universal Favorite" was released. UF isn't a solo album in the sense of an individual from a band recording an album apart from his band with another group of musicians. This is a SOLO album; Noam and his instrument. That's it. Anybody who plays an instrument knows that solo performances are very taxing mentally. For an hour and a half, it's just you. There's no coasting. There's no laying out while others take a solo. There's no sharing of the weight. JUST. YOU.

Pikelny did a long soundcheck that went close to the start of the show and needed to get ready. So he requested that we shoot the portrait after the show. Ideally, I like to shoot the portraits just before the performance. Waiting till after the show can be a crapshoot depending on how the show went, how many friends are at the show wanting to hang out and other factors that can easily lead the musician to say, "maybe not tonight."

He was playing his fourth show in as many days in as many cities. And with the new album out, he was doing lots of interviews in addition. He played the show (now mind you he's not strumming three chords and singing but playing some very complex stuff) and met his fans and signed albums. After talking with his last fan, he just deflated from fatigue. He was tired! He said he hadn't been that tired in a long time. He could have easily begged off from the shoot but pressed on without complaining.

Thanks Noam!