Accepted paper:

Blurred boundaries: Digitalization and transformation of climbing photography


Guillaume Dumont (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on a transnational ethnography, this paper examines how the work of climbing photographers has been shaped by the digitalization, commodification, and progressive commercialization of the activity.

Paper long abstract:

While climbing is performed either in remote outdoor areas or in artificial setting indoors, the exploits of elite climbers are constantly under the lens of the camera. These visual productions are fundamental to reflect and praise the athletes' performances. Whether being a professional climber embraces consequent self-promotion and marketing strategies and, nor media producers provide the athletes with the necessary visibility to obtain sponsorship and professionalize the activity. In this context, their work is in the midst of complex dynamics and connections, hand in hand with the industry that funds and the audience that consumes digital climbing contents. Constantly in the quest of the ultimate climbing shoot or video, climbing media is shaped by the development of a neo-liberalized activity. Embedded in flows of constant production, diffusion and consumption, it is re-modeling the forms and features of visual contents and climbers' performances. Based on a transnational ethnographic fieldwork in the USA and Western Europe, this paper discusses the transformation of climbing visual media, a field characterized by a niche of privileged professionals drawn by the popularization and commercialization of the activity. It stresses the growth of the specialist media industry and new information platforms that re-define the work of a media producer. In fact, while photographs become less and less the main medium to disseminate athletes' realizations, photographers and film makers are also challenged by the climbers themselves, who are now developing, producing and diffusing their own media content.

panel P01
Anthropology and photography in the digital age