CLIMBERS OF NYC: An Interview with Andrés Burgos

Andrés Burgos spent weeks sheltered behind the walls of the 45 in the mysterious and dusty Lost and Found area taking portraits of various members of the LIC community. Now his project is complete, and the results are stunning, intimate portraits of familiar faces in a not-so-familiar setting. With the help of Adriana Pauly, who curated the show, Andrés' work has been featured in Rock and Ice, and a gallery opening will take place this Friday at 8pm on the Mezzanine of the gym! Free to the public. We hope to see you there!

What inspired you to take photos of climbers?

I’ve been climbing for two years, and I remember I was taking a break here, and I was flipping through the magazines … and to me, there’s this constant visual of people climbing, and the act of climbing, and of course yes these are images of climbers, but I never got anything that was more intimate, or that was more about the climber outside the element of climbing.

So I felt that I needed, and there also needed to be, imagery that spoke about the climber removing them from the action of climbing, and having more of an intimate session with them, so people could understand why climbing is such an obsessive, addictive sport. Because when you see these images, you really don’t get a sense of how they started, where they come from, you really only know where they are, and I think it’s always nice to have an origin story, and more of an emotional thing so people can relate, because at the end of the day, we’re all creatures of pack.

So what’s your origin story?

I was introduced to climbing when I was in Medellín, and that’s when I met this climber, Andrés, who also goes by the same name, and I thought he was so sexy! I was so out of shape, and partying so much, and I was like, ok, I need to get into shape if I want to meet more guys like him! ... He talked about climbing more, showed me his hands, and I was like wow this is incredible, and when I got back to New York, my best friend’s boyfriend was starting to get into climbing, and badabing badaboom!

What drew you to photograph the hands of the climbers?

It’s the basic study of the human form and enjoying that at its essence, but climbers have… have you ever gotten into a play fight with a climber? It hurts. It hurts a lot! When I took the pictures, I made sure to emphasize the chalk on their hands so that when you look at the picture you can see the detail of their callouses. To me, there’s that beauty that no one ever really talks about. No one ever talks about the intimate moments of the climbers hands.
[One of the photos is] the hand of a nurse who climbs here. His name is Craig, and he’s one of the strongest climbers I know here, and one of the sweetest people. But he’s a nurse who works with kids with cerebral palsy, so to me, this idea that he has these strong powerful hands, and yet he can be so gentle with these kids ... it’s a wonderful contrast.
In the United States it’s a little eccentric to talk about, but sex, no one ever talks about climbers' hands during sex, it’s like if you have two climbers together they understand, but if you have a climber and a non-climber, the person who’s not a climber begins to appreciate the ability of the hand to change constantly. 

How do climbing and photography challenge you? And are they related?

That’s a very loaded question in itself. My history is that I love drinking and smoking a lot, and when I really started getting into climbing, I noticed that it really challenged my social life. So climbing really pushed me to get rid of a lot of people that were toxic for me. It's teaching me this wonderful thing of patience, it’s fantastic. 
Photography is the way I communicate with the world. It makes me go really deep into my bubble ... it's a very lonely feeling, but at the same time it’s a really beautiful feeling. When you finish a project, people get to see what you’ve been seeing for so long, and appreciate it, so it’s kind of like having super powers.
The only similarity between photography and climbing (for me specifically) is that they make me happy. Photography and art allow me to express myself without having to communicate with anyone, but if I didn’t have climbing, I think I would have gone completely mad already. It’s this earth element, and then my creative energy is water.

How does climbing influence your photography?

Climbing allows me to be more patient. It’s like I’m a constant chaotic storm inside, it’s exhausting, but it’s who I am, and climbing allows me to calm down, calm the tides for a bit.

How has your background in fashion influenced your personal work?

One of the big reasons the images came out the way they did is because I come from a fashion background. I started off in fine art photography, but I got heavily into fashion because it’s escapism at its best. It’s beautiful.
I still work in fashion, not as heavily. There’s such a saturation of everyone wanting to make it. It’s all fantasy. It’s not real life. So I wanted to get away from that, and climbing really helped.

Can you think of a comical situation you got into on a photo shoot?

I was shooting for Nylon Mexico in Mexico. There’s this place called Plaza de la Revolución, and it's a place with water that comes out of the floor. And I didn’t realize where I was, or what was going on, I was hungover! I was such a cheesy typical idea of what a fashion photographer is in public. And keep in mind, at Plaza de la Revolución there are just kids hanging out on the sides. And out of nowhere, you just hear the ground start to move, and then PFFF! And I have maybe $7000 worth of equipment on me, and we’re trying to run away, but gallons of water keep attacking us! You can hear 500 people just laughing at me, and we were drenched. But then I decided, you know what, let’s just laugh. And surprisingly none of the equipment was damaged!
Self-portrait of Andrés

Self-portrait of Andrés

Take a break from your session check out the gallery opening this Friday, October 2 at 8pm. Open to the public, and light refreshments will be served! Find more Andrés here