I recently came across the social media hash tag #youdidnotsleepthere. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a feed of nothing but photos being called out as bullshit. I see this stuff all the time, we all do. It drives me crazy. To see a kayak on a lake in the Alps with views of the Matterhorn is beautiful. But when you know the lake is high in the mountains, and in reality the size of a kiddie pool, you know damned well it is all fake. Then I imagine some joker hauling his kayak up there for that perfect shot. In a pathetic kind of way, at least it’s humorous… But, is a beautiful photo of a subject you care about still impressive when it is entirely fake?
Last year, with my friend Brody Leven, I ran the Hardergrat for the umpteenth time. But that day we decided to push the ridge further, another 16km to truly finish the ridge line at its logical endpoint. We started at 3 in the morning, topped out on the ridge’s highpoint at sunrise, and discovered three different photoshoots going on. They were shooting hiking, cliche person in a landscape, and all the other stuff that everyone copies from one another. I asked if they were actually hiking the Hardergrat since that is what they are shooting. I was pretty sure I knew the answer, and I was right. We kept running, making photos, and having a very rewarding day in the mountains.
In today’s world of social media fraud, where so much of what you see is utter nonsense, it’s very rewarding to be making images that are both real, and the result of real effort as a photographer and athlete. Of course as a commercial photographer, I’ve had my fair share of set ups, but the vast majority of what we do is of what we do; run, climb, ski and live in the mountains.
This summer, we are making a book on trail running in the Swiss Alps and have about 40 runs on our list. Runs we’ve carefully crafted to be the perfect combination of running trail, scenic loop, engaging terrain, and of course photogenic. We’re not just mapping them out and showing up to snap a few pics before moving on to the next. No, we are running the whole thing, shooting the route, making endless notes, considering options, bailouts, what ifs, and possibly doing it a second time to make sure we got it all right.
I am very proud of the work we are doing for one simple reason. It is real.
I can say that #youdidnotrunthere cannot be applied to our work. We ran there.
By Dan Patitucci
Next up, The Trail Running Athlete Photographer Balance.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Run the Alps Switzerland book project, when it will print, where you can find it, and even how you might get involved…, you can sign up at Helvetiq.