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Dean Fidelman, 54, grew up in L.A., learned to climb at age 15, and in the 1970s became a member—and the unofficial team photographer—of the Stonemasters. His black-and-white imagery of Bachar, Hill, Long, Sorenson, Yablonski, and the rest of that hardcore SoCal group might be the most celebrated climbing action-portraiture ever done. (See The Stonemasters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies, by John Long.) But it is a softer theme that has garnered Fidelman the most notice recently: He is the man behind the climbing world’s very own nude calendar. Since its inception in 1999, Stone Nudes has been the subject of wonder, admiration, vilification, satire, and gossip. Ten years later, Stone Nudes is part of popular climbing culture, and now it’s a book, just out from Long’s Stonemaster Press.
I got into making photos in high school. My photo teacher was an old-time Sierra Clubber—he got me into climbing.
I try to climb at least four or five days a week. I really love to boulder and solo easy routes. It’s the movement that turns me on. I never was into pushing numbers.
I was kicked out of Brooks Institute of Photography after one and a half years. Seems I was too much of a troublemaker.
I’ve always made nudes and climbing photos, and I guess I wanted to mix the two passions and see the results. I also was a bit tired of making photos for money and wanted to just make some art.
The calendar barely pays for itself. I’ve had a few benefactors through the years: my muse, Elizabeth U., and also Paul Fish at Mountain Gear, who has been the biggest retailer of the calendars for almost 10 years.
My male nudes calendar didn’t do well at all. The images were great, but I guess the public wasn’t ready for it. Strangely, I sell more calendars to women than men, but they seem to buy them for their boyfriends.
The worst reaction I had when I asked someone to pose was almost getting punched out by a jealous boyfriend. I guess he was insulted that I didn’t ask him to pose nude.
Once I was making a photograph of a girl on a boulder in the Merced River in Yosemite. The sun was in her eyes, so she couldn’t see much, which was good. A tour bus of Asians pulled off the road, and there was a stampede of people with cameras trying to get out the door. My model asked what was going on. I replied, “Nothing’s going on, just grab the holds and flag your left leg.” I couldn’t stop laughing.