By Brandon Griggs
As a girl growing up near San Diego, Carolyn Guild was into horses, not photography. That didn't stop her father, a doctor who snapped photos in his spare time, from trying to pass his hobby along to his daughter. "It was his passion," Guild says. "He was always giving me cameras and saying, 'Take pictures. Bring memories back.' " It took decades for Guild to fully heed his advice. But after her dad died in 2001, she used part of her inheritance to buy professional camera equipment. And in recent years, as she's camped in southern Utah's deserts and climbed peaks across western North America, she's brought along her new cameras to capture striking scenes of nature - many of them inaccessible to Mountaineer-photographer Carolyn Guild, climbing in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia. (Whitney Guild) the casual photographer.
Now Guild, who lives part of each year in Big Cottonwood Canyon, has assembled these photographs for her first solo show, on display through Jan. 10 at the Kimball Art Center in Park City. The exhibition features some 30 images, all in luminous black and white. Some subjects, like Bryce Canyon or Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, will be familiar to most Utahns. Yet as seen through Guild's lens, with her eye for composition and penchant for 3 a.m. shoots, they appear fresh.
"Her photos struck me immediately," says Pamela Crowe-Weisberg, the Kimball's executive director. "They're so artistic and so sculptural. They're not just landscapes. She takes scenes that you've seen photographed [before]...and gives them this interesting perspective. They're like works of art."
If you told Guild 20 years ago that she'd be earning a living as a photographer, she might not have believed you. Her passion then was training thoroughbred racehorses and competing in show jumping, an equestrian event in which horse and rider traverse an arena course, leaping over fences. When she wasn't riding, she was camping somewhere in the wilderness.
Carolyn Guild's photographs will be on display through Jan. 10 at the Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave. in Park City. Admission is free. Guild will be at the center to discuss her work with visitors Dec. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. during Park City's Gallery Stroll. For more information, call 435-649-8882 or visit www.kimball-art.org.
Then, in the mid-1990s, she went back to school to study geology. She was planning on teaching when she met mountaineering guide Whitney Guild while surfing in Encinitas, Calif., and fell in love. Thrilled by his love of adventure and the remote outdoors, she married him in 1997. "He's the first man I've ever dated who says he loves camping and really does. The others would want to stay in campgrounds, which to me isn't camping," Guild says. "I'm a hermit, and I like being out in nature with just my husband and my camera and my dog."
With her husband's guidance and equipment, Guild discovered far-flung locales - some reachable only by helicopter - that provided her spectacular new scenery to
A moon over Bryce Canyon, shot by mountaineer-photographer Carolyn Guild, whose work is on display through January at the Kimball Art Center in Park City. (Courtesy Carolyn Guild)photograph. She climbed the rugged Bugaboo Mountains in British Columbia and the Selkirk range that extends from northern Idaho into Canada. One of her best-known images depicts Pigeon Spire, a jagged granite peak in the Bugaboos that required an entire day to climb.
"I'm willing to climb or hike or be late at night at a lot of places most people don't get to," says Guild, who splits her time between Utah and a beach house in Baja, Mexico. "That's what makes my photography different."
Although Guild shoots digital images, not film, snapping photos in frigid temperatures on windy mountaintops presents its challenges. She shoots at high shutter speeds and steadies her camera on logs to minimize
Bugaboo Mountains in British Columbia, shot by mountaineer-photographer Carolyn Guild, whose work is on display through January at the Kimball Art Center in Park City. (Courtesy Carolyn Guild)blurring. And she can't get any moisture on her lens, because it'll freeze.
Guild's photographic career took off after friends and acquaintances began asking to buy her prints. Inspired by Ansel Adams, whose work she has studied, the self-taught photographer shoots in black and white because she likes how it brings out nature's stark beauty.
"There's no color to distract your eye," she says. "I try to see in black and white. When light shines on a peak or breaks through the clouds, it does something to me. It's a feeling that's hard to describe. I just hope that [viewers of my photographs] can see the beauty in what I've tried to make."
People have told Guild they can "feel the cold" in her mountain photographs. She hopes people will be inspired enough by her photos to want to help preserve the wilderness areas they depict. Perhaps most importantly, she knows her late father would be proud of her work.
"When people ask me what my photography makes me feel, I tell them it makes me feel my dad. He was my best friend. And I just know that he knows what I'm doing," she says. "I've actually felt him telling me, 'That's it! You've got it.' "