Corey Rich got into rock climbing and photography around the same time in his life. He was 13, growing up in Antelope Valley, California, when a teacher took him rock climbing for the first time near the Needles, a popular granite-spire climbing zone in Sequoia National Forest, not far from his home.
“I fell in love with climbing immediately,” Rich said. “It was a physical, mental and emotional experience—challenging in every meaningful way.”
A week later, he picked up a camera to capture his next climbing adventure. He’s been doing both things pretty much nonstop ever since.
Rich’s new book, Stories Behind the Images: Lessons From a Life in Adventure Photography, published by Mountaineers Books in September and now sold at REI stores and online, is a photo book, certainly—it contains dozens of beautiful images of legendary climbers and explorers in far-flung locations—but it’s also way more than that. It’s storytelling at its finest. Woven between the imagery is Rich’s personal history and the detailed, humorous backstories behind his captivating images. Included here are a few select photos from his new book, as well as behind-the-scenes stories in Rich’s words.
Rich’s photography career has spanned three decades, and along the way he’s shot nearly 100 magazine covers and worked on global photo and video campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world. When he started telling stories on his blog about some of his favorite images, he’d record a voice memo on his phone, the backstory of how he captured that shot. He typically recorded them while he was on the go—on planes, at hotel bars, while pedaling his mountain bike. He would transcribe the voice recording, and then work with climber, writer and friend Andrew Bisharat to spin that into a well-crafted piece for his website. Eventually, Rich realized he had enough stories to write a book. The result? A 285-page glossy photo book you’ll keep on your coffee table or bedside table and read voraciously in one sitting.
He’s been on tour with the book all fall, including speaking at many REI stores around the country.
The goal of the book, Rich said, is to entertain, educate and pay it forward. “I had a lot of mentors growing up—teachers, older photographers,” he said. “I wanted to help pass what I’ve learned along to others.” He said the book is not a portfolio of his best images. It’s more like a collection of the images with the best stories behind them.
Recently, renowned rock climber Tommy Caldwell and his family visited Rich and his 6-year-old daughter at home in South Lake Tahoe, California. The two dads and their kids got into the hot tub at Rich’s house one night under the stars. “Tommy and I start telling stories. Then our kids wanted in on the storytelling, too. They’re finishing our stories, telling their own. It was the most beautiful thing. That’s what this book is about: The tradition of storytelling and passing it forward.”
Rich said his advice is to read the book and enjoy it. “Then put the book down and go out and make pictures as often and frequently as you can,” he said. “I hope this book inspires people to go outside and make pictures. Because at the end of the day, the experience of taking photos and telling stories has been the most enjoyable part of my career.”