Photographer, Family Man, Climber, Traveler; Salt Lake City, Utah
Andrew Burr, Climbing’s Senior Contributing Photographer, never had any professional training. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in geological engineering, he worked as a hydrologist for the USGS. After three years, Burr left the field to pursue his photography dreams. Despite his blind tumble into the shooting world, Burr has received international recognition, including the 2009 Memorial Maria Louisa Golden Asturcon Photography award from the International Mountain Photography Competition in Spain [for a Zion ice-climbing photo he shot for the October 2009 issue of Climbing]. Originally from northern California, the 32-year-old now lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Laurel, and daughter, Kaia, who’s almost two.
I NEVER REALLY understood why people had to go to school for photography. You either have a vision for it, or you don’t. I guess you could learn the technical aspects of it, but that doesn’t seem to make a photographer. I don’t see the correlation between having a college degree and being able to take a good picture.
I STARTED FROM NOTHING. I didn’t know anybody in the climbing industry or anything about being a professional photographer. I started sending four slides a month to magazines, and eventually they recognized my name. But I was shooting blind to start.
I’M AMAZED that it’s worked out for six years or so now. I don’t know if I’ve seen that big break yet. It’s a slow evolution. It wasn’t just one shining moment or contract that told me I’ve made it. Now that I’ve stayed above the red [financially] for a few years, I know it’s happening.
I’M A NATURAL-light guy. I’ll go out and shoot with flashes every once in a while, but I feel like it detracts from the climbing experience. My goal is to document the experience, not be a hindrance.
THE MORE OF A PAIN in the ass it is to get that picture, the more satisfaction I receive from it.
I’M SOMEWHAT ENVIOUS of the guys who can travel around for months at a time, road-tripping and shooting, because I defi nitely don’t have that opportunity. I basically have to go out and nail it when I have that time window because I don’t have the ability to hang around and wait for things to come together.
MY FAVORITE CLIMBING AREA is always somewhere new, whether it’s in the States or overseas.
I’VE LEARNED THAT no matter how beautiful or ugly the climb is, there’s a way to get a cool photo out of it. If you show up with preconceived notions, you’re done.
I THINK ALL CLIMBERS wish to be great surfers, but every time I try it, I drink a lot of ocean. It’s really humbling.
BACK WHEN WE WERE shooting slides, I’d mail in random slides to the magazines, and the majority of the time, they’d come back rejected. So I have a big stack of those. It’s kinda cool.