Adventure becomes a career
A flock of adventurers are stranded on the Indonesian island of Irian Jaya. It’s been raining so hard that a helicopter hasn’t been able to land to pick them up in four days.
They’ve run out of food and they’re hungry, wet and exhausted.
But they look at themselves and say: “This is better than working, that’s for sure!”
This isn’t a scene out of the TV show “Survivor.” It’s a real excerpt from Corey Rich’s life, a South Shore-based adventure photographer. The 28-year-old was featured in the October issue of Men’s Journal magazine as having one of 50 dream jobs in America.
“Like everyone in the piece it grew out of a lot of brainstorming sessions,” said Eric Messinger, a writer for Men’s Journal. “It started with the category. Photography is a great hobby and adventure. And he was definitely on the short list.”
Rich’s clients include Sports Illustrated, Outside, The New York Times, Patagonia and Nike. The list goes on. He is on the road 250 days a year, from India to Mexico to Death Valley, shooting cover shots, ads, photo essays and portraits of world-class athletes.
But it’s not all glory, Rich insists.
“One thing that people are sometimes misled about is how glamorous it is. I work really hard. I love what I do, but there’s no question about it, I work a ton, I travel a ton, even when I don’t feel like traveling,” said Rich, who moved to Tahoe a year ago because he realized it is an unlimited outdoor playground.
Rich has slept in many a wet tent and eaten at many late-night gas marts.
“It sounds fine traveling on trains and planes to lot of places, but the truth is that you are sick and you don’t sleep a lot and it’s really uncomfortable getting up when it’s 18 degrees outside at 2 in the morning, standing for four and a half hours so that you can be standing in the right spot,” Rich said.
The fruits of these efforts are amazing photos: the silhouette of a climber against a sunrise on cloud-soaked mountains, a kayaker launching off a 20-foot cliff, or athlete Steven Koch hiking bare chested through an Indonesian jungle with a snowboard strapped to his back.
When they turn out just right, the photos are his true reward and drive his passion.
The young photographer – a former gymnast – has a classic light rock climber’s build and a calm and genuine air about him, as if any stress flows right through him.
It could be that it’s burned off by all the fun. On any given day in the field, he could be skiing, climbing, surfing, kayaking, mountaineering, or taking a dip into an exotic and wild culture.
Although Rich estimates he’s one of 10 adventure photographers in the country making a living off this trade, he never refers to it as a “real job.”
“I can say that whether it’s here in the office or waking up in a tent someplace, I’m usually pretty excited,” Rich said. “I think as long as I’m saying that, as long as I feel that this is better than a real job, it’s definitely the right thing for me.”
The defining moment of Rich’s career came when he collected 40 shots of his adventures during a college hiatus, and sent them to the company Patagonia. A photo editor at the outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer called him and asked: “Who are you?”
The rest is history. He soon found himself working next to all of his heroes in the photography world.
He remembers one assignment in particular, when he was sent out to Yosemite Valley for Rock and Ice, a climbing magazine.
“Here I am, 23 years old, and here’s Galen Rowell and all the guys I’ve grown up looking at, and for me it was neat to meet these guys; these were my heroes.” Galen Rowell is considered by many to be the father of adventure photography.
“And at the same time there was the reality factor, I’m now competing with these guys for magazine space,” he said.
“When Galen was doing this, there was one, and that was Galen Rowell,” Rich said. “I’ll certainly say that Galen paved the way for a guy like me, in terms of opening up doors and creating a genre in photography.”
That genre was adventure, and Rich, with no “real job” in sight, gets plenty of it.