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HIGH ART | How climbing photographers get the shots that make us gasp

By Jonathan Thesenga


Dean Fidelman

4 of 7

"I made this photograph in Yosemite for a Stone Nudes men's calendar. Lookouts had to be used because the boulder is near a major tourist trail. The photos were artistically successful, but low sales forced me to discontinue the men's calendar."
—Dean Fidelman

DEAN FIDELMAN | The Nude Dude

"Hey, I'm not complaining," says Dean Fidelman, a 56-year-old self-described hippie who turns heads with his black-and-white images of women (and sometimes men) climbing and bouldering in the nude. "Climbing and naked women—it's pretty cool."

Both climbing and cameras started for Fidelman in high school when he took a photo course taught by a Sierra Club member and one of his assignments was to take a climbing picture. "I shot a girl bouldering and thought it was cool how her body reinterpreted the landscape for me." In the early 1970s he began taking photos in Yosemite and Joshua Tree as a member of the Stonemasters, an elite crew of vagabond climbers who lived on nickels a day and gave birth to the American rock-climbing culture.

He still shoots his nudes exclusively with black-and-white Kodak Tri-X film on a trusted 6x7 Pentax with no tripod or supplemental lighting. He's been producing his annual Stone Nudes wall calendar since 1999 and says it's essentially a money-losing enterprise. As for how he first persuaded female climbers to disrobe and pose, Fidelman says, "My landscape skills weren't that good, but my people skills were."

 


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