Jimmy Chin: A Photographer’s Eye View

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Jimmy Chin. Photography provided by REVO. 

WideWorld sent US writer Nicolette Mallow to Washington D.C., to interview 37- year-old National Geographic photographer and explorer Jimmy Chin at The Madison Hotel. Chin is also a sponsored athlete for The North Face. Throughout his career, he has shot climbers thousands of feet up in the air, glued to ice-capped mountains, with storm clouds billowing in the distance, and, as WideWorld discovers. Jimmy Chin’s ability to capture shadows and light, sunrises and sunsets and nature at its most breathtaking is nothing short of incredible. The interview took place prior to a banquet held in his honor at Nat Geo headquarters to showcase Chin’s career, life stories and photography. 

Nicolette Mallow: What was it about your first trips to the mountains that inspired your career?

Jimmy Chin: Well I always loved being outside. We had a ravine behind our house and I was always tromping around in the woods. When I showed up in Glacier National Park it was just like my ravine on steroids! I just knew then that I wanted to live a life in the mountains. Although the trails were very beautiful I didn’t ever want to stay on the trail. I wanted to explore.

NM: How exactly did you turn all this from a hobby into a lifestyle and a career?

JC: You know, there is a lot of pressure when you’re in college from peers and the professors and your parents to get an internship or to have this goal of becoming a lawyer, a businessman, or a doctor; I think it’s hard for anybody to aspire to them when the title sounds great but you don’t really understand what the day-to-day life of an attorney is. And I had no real connection to any of it. It just seemed like all these abstract ideas and it just seemed really boring to me. For some reason I was struck by the idea that you only live once and that you shouldn’t waste your time being something for other people or being something that other people wanted you to be. It didn’t seem fair. I struggled with that a little bit for sure. Education was hugely important for my parents. They were both librarians at a university and they had come from China and they had made a life for themselves here.

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NM: What got you into photography?

JC: I always loved looking at photography, but I think that everyone does. I am a very visually stimulated person. But while I was visually oriented, I never thought of it as a career. I never took photo classes in school.

NM: So you’re self-taught?

JC: Oh yeah. Still teaching myself. Still learning. But, overall, photography felt really natural and probably one of the easiest things for me to learn or pick up. So in that sense I feel like, perhaps it was meant to happen.

NM: In one article you describe dangling above endangered antelope in Tibet, but what did it feel like when you guys found them?

JC: In some ways it was like we were chasing mythical creatures. It’s so funny because it was like being a kid, again, and trying to follow these animals across the Chang Tang plateau and hoping to find this supposed birthing ground. George Shallow, one of the greatest live mammal biologists and conservationists, couldn’t find these animals or their birthing grounds after two to three expeditions. My crew and I knew this was going to be extremely difficult. We’d been traveling for weeks and weeks and there was nothing. We lost them, once, and then we found them, again. When we finally found them and I saw the first baby chiru: it was a mind-bending experience.

NM: Is there any expedition in particular which you are most proud of in terms of your finished images?

JC: I think shooting Everest and skiing Everest. I was always trying to get this photo that no one has ever seen before and there were a couple photos in there that don’t necessarily have the best light or the best compositions ever but they’re just… Well, there is an image of Kit and Robert DesLauriers skiing down a slope over 28,000 feet. Two people on their skis, on the southeast ridge of Everest. And I just love that photo as there is also a storm cloud coming up in the distance.

NM: Throughout all the places you’ve seen, where is some of the most beautiful light to capture?

JC: Sunset when you’re up really, really high above base camp in the Himalayas holds perfect, mesmerizing light. Any mountain range up high where you can see the horizon line is amazing. After the sun has set and it gets that kind of blue mixed with pink –I love those colours; like pastels in the sky.

NM: In 2004 you had a close shave with death when you were on Everest and the avalanche came down and threw you guys back over 30 feet. Have you had any experiences as intense as that one since?

JC: Not as intense. I think as you get older you start to understand and become much more aware of all the different ways to die. I’m a lot more conservative these days, but there’s always the fluke accident. As a climber you have to take a certain stance in how you look at the world. When you do what I do, you must accept, “When you’re time comes, it comes.” I have to think like that otherwise I wouldn’t get out of bed!

To see a selection of Jimmy Chin’s images, see our gallery below. For more, visit: www.jimmychin.com

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Note: This interview was originally published in Wide World Magazine in 2010. Wide World is an adventure travel magazine based in London, United Kingdom. 

HBO Films presents “All The Way” red carpet event at LBJ Presidential Library

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HBO Films presents “All The Way” at The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on May 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Photography used with permission from Jay Godwin.

On May 21, 2016—HBO Films will feature the grand debut of “All The Way” at 7:00 PM CST. Directed by Jay Roach and Written by Robert Schenkkan, “All The Way” is like an immaculate time machine that takes you back to the 1960’s when former President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) came into The Oval Office after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. The film begins with a powerful start: reliving the intense aftermath of a deeply tragic situation in Dallas, Texas. The audience sees and hears the bloody mess and the Lincoln limousine. And we feel the intimate conversation between LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, while up in the sky on Air Force One. When LBJ gets to office in Washington DC, this is when the story of “All The Way” truly begins. Because the focus of the film is how President Lyndon B. Johnson brought the civil rights moment into legal affect with The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to HBO: “All The Way” offers a riveting behind-the scenes look at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tumultuous first year in office after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. Staking his presidency on what would be an historic unprecedented Civil Rights Act, Johnson finds himself caught between the moral imperative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the expectations of the southern Democratic Party leaders who brought Johnson to power. As King battles to press Johnson while controlling more radical elements of the Civil Rights Movement, Johnson navigates the bill through Congress, winning a landslide victory against Barry Goldwater, but causing the South to defect from the Democratic Party. Following its critically acclaimed, award-winning Broadway run, “All The Way” comes to HBO on May 21, 2016. Actor, Bryan Cranston (four-time Emmy® winner for “Breaking Bad”) reprises his Tony Award-winning role as LBJ for the HBO Films presentation, which also stars Anthony Mackie as MLK (“The Hurt Locker”) and is Directed by Jay Roach (“Trumbo”; Emmy® winner for HBO’s “Game Change” and “Recount”) from a screenplay by Robert Schenkkan (Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Kentucky Cycle”; two-time Emmy® nominee and Writers Guild Award winner for HBO’s “The Pacific”), who has adapted his Tony Award-winning play of the same name.”

Last week on May 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas—HBO Films and The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library hosted a special event and exclusive screening of the film. The delightful cast and crew of “All The Way” strolled the red carpet for the Press before the screening of the film. After the movie ended, a Q&A session took place. (A video of the Q&A conversation is online.) Local Arts and Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended the red carpet event and she interviewed Director Jay Roach and Writer Robert Schenkkan. Both audio recordings of each interview are uploaded onto YouTube.

Director Jay Roach discussed the changes and differences between the making of his many comedy films (ie: “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and transcending into more serious, political topics like “All The Way”. During the interview Roach also shared his insights on the importance of voting and what he hopes that viewers, especially younger generations, will retain the most from this story about The Civil Rights Act and how one man from Texas made history by striving to give all people equal rights and that every vote counts. Writer Robert Schenkkan talks about what he would’ve liked to ask former President LBJ if he were still alive. And he talks about the writing process as to how he developed this story and wrote it so beautifully.

Also in attendance to this red carpet event was Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of Lyndon B. Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. There is one scene that made a writer (Nicolette Mallow) in attendance of this film cry and it was one of the only moments in the film we really connect with the daughter. (In fact, there were many scenes that made Mallow laugh and cry, and she was glad she wasn’t wearing eyeliner or mascara, but this one scene hit home.) Nonetheless, in the midst of White House chaos and political war, there is a moment that LBJ watches his daughter Luci passing by and he asks her not to rush off. As they’re talking, he takes a good look at his daughter and says three words: “You’re getting tall”. It’s in that moment we see that time is moving fast, too fast, and that his energy and dedication to politics has sort of taken away some personal time with family, particularly Luci. Any daughter that had a father who worked that hard to provide a better life can understand the bittersweet feeling of being proud and also perhaps wishing there had been more time.

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“All The Way” focuses mostly on LBJ’s struggles and successes as President and the societal and political injustices that were happening in The United States of America. Many problems we are still struggling with today. The movie doesn’t spend too much time in his family life, even if the audience gets to see very intimate dialogue behind closed doors and his ranch in Texas. During the film, we learn (or are reminded) about how LBJ became so passionate about civil rights, beginning his career as a teacher to minority children. The love in former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s heart is undeniable and the film does a perfect job of capturing this innate trait. LBJ’s fiery passion almost seems to come out of the screen and pour into your heart. Every scene in this film evokes something from within. The audience feels the struggle of it all and we are reminded of the horrors that were going on during the 1960’s to African Americans and other minorities. Ultimately, we witness a humanized version of LBJ: his flaws and imperfections, as well as the deep love in his heart and the powerhouse that he was. The power he had to make changes for the highest good of all. “All The Way” should make all Texans even more proud to be a Texan knowing that LBJ (a man from Texas) brought the Civil Rights Act into legal effect because he knew in his heart it was the right thing to do.

“All The Way” will make its grand debut on HBO this weekend on Sat. May 21, 2016 at 7:00 PM CST. For more information about the cast, crew and synopsis: please visit their official website on HBO at www.hbo.com/movies/all-the-way. 

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in May 2016.  

“The stars at night, are big and bright. Deep in the heart of Texas.”

The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece illuminates The Blanton Museum of Art

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“Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece” – The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin.

Showcased by The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece is a traveling art gallery highlighting an illuminated Medieval manuscript from the 13th century. Traveling to seven different countries in the world over a timeline of seven centuries, this French Gothic manuscript from the Middle Ages is created by seven anonymous artists. Depicting selected stories from the Old Testament, retold in the era and culture of Medieval period, originally this one-of-a-kind manuscript was designed to be a picture-book without any script. These colorful illustrations were intended to portray biblical stories without any annotations, explaining why each drawing is so very graphic, specific and characteristic. However, as the Crusader Bible journeyed seven times from France to Italy, Poland, Persia, Egypt, England and the United States: alterations were made and inscriptions were added in various languages, including Latin, Persian and Juedo-Persian.

Upon entrance into The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece, the rooms of the gallery are glittering with 40 illuminated pages of gold leafs (pure gold that has been hammered down into thin sheets). The gold is still so remarkably shiny that it’s almost hard to believe this manuscript is nearly 1000 years old. Even under dimmed lighting within a museum, the gold leafs on the pages are so prominent and bold that the display cases within the gallery shine similarly to a jewelry display case. Fortunately the Crusader Bible has withstood the tests of time and it comes to no surprise that these handmade manuscripts are very challenging to make, often taking many years to complete. There is a very specific and thorough process to creating illuminated manuscripts, beginning with the preparation of the parchment paper. Parchment paper derives from animal skin and once it’s finished after weeks of preparation. Then scribes would begin inscriptions. Once the scribe had finished their task, the illuminator left its mark on the parchment paper before sending the manuscript over to bindery. An illumniator is the artist whom illuminated the manuscript with silver or gold leafing. They were responsible for lighting up the pages with precious metals.

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Silver, gold and colorful illuminations aren’t the only part of the Crusader Bible that catch the eye. The carbon black inscriptions also carry a dominant presence. Admiring all the various scripts in different languages is quite compelling because it notes the seven foreign locations and cultures the Crusader Bible ventured to. The number seven is believed to be a divine number of truth and mysticism within numerology studies and spiritual texts. Therefore it’s an interesting coincidence that the number seven plays such a predominant and powerful role in the history of the Crusader Bible. Furthermore, the black calligraphy is immaculate in every language and it took scribes endless hours to complete the script; using a quill pen to write the script and a knife to cut away ink errors when necessary. The carbon black ink used by the scribes is referred to as lampblack. And even though most of us cannot read Latin, Persian or Juedo-Persian. With the use of modern technology and an application called Layar, guests can scan the Medieval manuscript and the application translates it for you right that instant.

Additionally, this special exhibit also features European arms and armor, an illustrated book from Persia, and a large display case featuring many of the tools, rocks, metals and pigments used to inscribe, illustrate and illuminate the parchment paper. There is also a video to regard the process from preparing the parchment paper to the final result in bindery. The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece will be on display until April 3, 2016. For more information regarding The Blanton Museum of Art and its hours of operation, admission, upcoming exhibitions or membership, please call 512-471-7324 or visit www.blantonmuseum.org.

“The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece, an exhibition of over forty unbound pages from the one of the most celebrated French illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The illuminations include some of the most compelling visualizations of the Old Testament, bringing Bible stories to life through vivid images that reflect medieval culture and the world of the Crusades. Designed to resonate with thirteenth-century French viewers, biblical characters are depicted as battling knights, equipped with contemporary arms and armor, and situated within medieval French towns. Loans from the Metropolitan Museum, including a shirt of mail, sword, prick spur, and war hat, will augment visitors’ understanding of the weaponry featured in the Crusader Bible. On loan from the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, the Crusader Bible features Old Testament scenes in medieval settings, with brilliantly colored illustrations attributed to seven anonymous artists. To provide historical context for the Bible, the presentation features medieval arms and armor from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also included are sixteenth-century Persian illustrations from the Metropolitan and the Ardashīr-nāma, a seventeenth-century Judeo-Persian manuscript of Old Testament stories from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. The history of the Crusader Bible is fascinating, covering seven centuries and multiple continents. Likely created in Paris during the 1240s for King Louis IX of France— famous for building the Sainte-Chapelle and for leading two crusades— the Bible then passed to the king’s younger brother, Charles of Anjou, who took it to Italy. More than four centuries later, the Archbishop of Cracow acquired and offered it as a diplomatic gift to the great Shah of Persia, ‘Abbas I. By the eighteenth century, the manuscript belonged to an anonymous Persian Jew. After its journey from France to Italy, Poland, and Persia, the Bible traveled to Egypt, England, and finally to the Morgan Library & Museum in the United States. The Crusader Bible, which originally had no text, bears inscriptions in Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian. They function as evidence of its changing ownership throughout the centuries and reflect how each owner used his language to lay claim to the book, appropriating its imagery for assimilation into their respective cultures.”

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in December 2015.  

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is immortalized by The University of Texas at Austin

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Pasaporte de Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1969-1976. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin has become a safe haven of archives in honor of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A magical realism writer that created words of mysticism, beauty, love and tragedy; Marquez, also known as Gabo, had an eternal voice that no other writer will ever replace. When readers begin reading his books, it’s as if all of time stops still and nothing else in the world exists nor matters except his story. Marquez takes readers to another dimension within reality and he is able to evoke heartfelt emotions that linger like the smell of fine perfume in the air that follows like a fragrant, tender kiss on the skin.

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According to the Harry Ransom Center, “More than 75 boxes of documents constitute the archive of the Colombian-born author, journalist, screenwriter and key figure in Latin American history and politics. Researchers will have access to manuscript drafts of published and unpublished works, correspondence, 43 photograph albums, 22 scrapbooks, research material, notebooks, newspaper clippings, screenplays and ephemera.”

Also on display within the library and museum are a few glass encasings for viewers to admire entailing the following artifacts: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passport, edited transcripts, his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, a letter to US President Jimmy Carter, and edited chapters of his book. Within one of the display cases on the first floor, guests can regard the Smith-Corona 250 typewriter that Marquez used to write so many of his stories. To imagine his hands working on all those keys. Touching all those keys thousands upon thousands of times as he wrote stories that would fill the world with magic. It was a remarkable experience to see the typewriter that he used to write. And it was a delight to see his handwriting in Spanish amongst all the edited transcripts, letters and chapters of his books.

Born the year of 1927 in Colombia, last year in 2014 Gabriel Garcia Marquez died of pneumonia in Mexico City. A great artist was lost that day. The New York Times ran an article soon after the writer passed in 2014 that read, “Mr. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal. His books were translated into dozens of languages. He was among a select roster of canonical writers — Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway among them — who were embraced both by critics and by a mass audience. Mr. García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart.”

In order to view the archives in the reading room, guests make partake in an online orientation video before requesting an appointment to visit. The display cases will be open to the public until November 11, 2015. For more information about the archives, the display cases or The Harry Ransom Center: please visit their website at http://www.hrc.utexas.edu.

“Así termino pensando en él como nunca se hubiera imaginado que se podía pensar en alguien, presintiéndolo donde no estaba, deseándolo donde no podía estar, despertando de pronto con la sensación física de que él la contemplaba en la oscuridad mientras dormía, de modo que la tarde en que sintió sus pasos resueltos sobre el reguero de hojas amarillas en el parquecito, le costó trabajo creer que no fuera burla de su fantasía.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (El Amor En Los Tiempos Del Colera).

“And so she thought about him as she never could have imagined thinking about anyone, having premonitions that he would be where he was not, wanting him to be where he could not be, awakening with a start, with the physical sensation that he was looking at her in the darkness while she slept, so that on the afternoon when she heard his resolute steps on the yellow leaves in the little park it was difficult for her not to think this was yet another trick of her imagination.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera).

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in November 2015.