Getting Back To The People — Interview With Jeremy Collins

Climber, artist, activist — these are all words that describe Jere­my Collins. If he’s not on a rock face then chances are you will find him with a sketch pad or behind the cam­era. In the past year alone he received 6 Hon­ored Final­ist awards for his films, and he has been fea­tured on the cov­er of Nation­al Geo­graph­ic and Jones Flag­ship Snow­board.

The Clymb: What was it that made you inter­est­ed in climbing?

Jeremy CollinsJere­my Collins: I think just a gen­er­al inter­est in adven­ture real­ly, then one thing lead to anoth­er. When I was 15 years old I went rap­pelling with a friend who was a girl scout instruc­tor. After awhile just going down got bor­ing, so we got some books to learn about climb­ing up. Even­tu­al­ly we could­n’t go on with­out some help — so we got a men­tor to teach us what climb­ing real­ly was.

The Clymb: When did your art­work come into this?

JC: Art real­ly is part of my gener­ic make­up. I start­ing draw­ing when I was five years old, like most peo­ple, only I did­n’t stop. Climb­ing and the out­doors start­ed to man­i­fest in my art as I became more aware of just how impor­tant those things were to me.

Whether it’s emo­tion­al, or just get­ting excit­ed about some­thing, a response to a climb I’ve just done, it always comes out in my art. I’m con­stant­ly sketch­ing on climb­ing trips, as well as when I’m at home with my family.

The Clymb: Would you say you have a role in express­ing what peo­ple feel in cer­tain events?

JC: Yeah, I’d say so. The art does­n’t just reflect my voice, it reflects a uni­ver­sal truth. I put my con­cern in the human con­di­tion in those pieces of art. When I put some­thing on the Inter­net it’s some­thing that I just have to share, but for every­one one that goes online there may be ten more sit­ting on my desk.

The Clymb: What is it like con­nect­ing with peo­ple on that kind of level?

JC: It’s pret­ty sat­is­fy­ing man. I’m an adjunct at a local art school, and so I work with stu­dents try­ing to fig­ure out their lives. A lot of the time we talk about the style of the work, but it all comes down to “what is my con­cern?” It all comes back to the human con­di­tion, and that is what feeds oth­er con­cerns — whether those be envi­ron­men­tal or some­thing else that you are pas­sion­ate about. It opens up con­ver­sa­tions that you can talk about, with words as well as art.

The Clymb: What kind of con­ver­sa­tions have you had with your art?

Sandy Hook ArtJC: The Sandy Hook shoot­ing art opened up more doors to con­ver­sa­tion than any­thing else I’ve ever done. The respons­es to it were so over­whelm­ing I was hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing at night. I’m a par­ent of a kinder­gart­ner, and all the peo­ple going through the sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing kids shot — or just the not know­ing — it was all very painful and mov­ing to me. The con­ver­sa­tions that came from it ranged from “nice work” to a guy from Port­land writ­ing a mini essay about how his daugh­ter fell to sui­cide a year before and how the image is exact­ly what he had been need­ing. No mat­ter how impor­tant it may be as an artist for me to make it, it is that much more impor­tant for the audi­ence to receive the art.

The Clymb: How would you describe what you do to someone?

JC: I met my best friend back in the fourth grade, and he describes it the best. When­ev­er he hap­pens to be at a lit­tle din­ner gath­er­ing and some­body says to him, “So, just what is it that Jere­my does?” He responds with, “He gets up and does what he feels. Not what he feels like, but what he feels.” It’s real­ly a soul­ful expe­ri­ence being a pro­fes­sion­al climber, or a surfer, or a moun­taineer. It man­i­fests itself as fine art, sto­ry telling through film, paint­ing, and it all leads back to shar­ing some sort of a story.

The Clymb: So how does your art influ­ence your climbing?

JC: The way we approach our phys­i­cal activ­i­ties — climb­ing, ski­ing, run­ning — can be just as much a piece of art itself. It’s just as sat­is­fy­ing for me to be on the rope on a first ascent as it is to be sit­ting behind the cam­era. The par­al­lels between the two — climb­ing and art — are astounding.

Jere­my is always work­ing with some­thing on his sketch­pad, and tries to get out­doors as often as he can. Vis­it his site here to see more of his art, videos, and storytelling.

Mount Whitney