His images have come to describe Squamish Bouldering. Although Jacob Scharfman offers extreme strength in his own right, that which he has become most nationally recognised for originates in his images’ intensity. You can almost hear the forest.
Scharfman’s photography grew alongside his long-term love of climbing. “I think my grandparents gave me an old camera right around the time I started climbing. It made sense to incorporate those passions where I could. I think that’s a natural evolution.”
Unlike many of climbing’s photographers, Scharfman offers an intricate knowledge of the sport in each of his images. As an experienced competition climber, a seasoned outdoor boulderer, and a persistent projector, Scharfman has come to know why a boulder problem offers the challenges it does. He notes that this was not always the case.
“Initially, when I didn’t know as much about the sport, I was shooting climbing as though it were a landscape. I would largely ignore the climber. They were just a little part of the photograph. As I’ve gotten better as a climber, I have become able to understand what is difficult in a movement and incorporate it into a photograph.
“What I really found I like to shoot the most is trying to incorporate these beautiful settings with these artistic positions that we end up in as climbers into one image.”
Capturing these positions has provided Scharfman with an escape from the consumption of a single love. “I think it can be intense and draining to focus the entirety of our energy into one passion.”
“When the sport and my relation to it is becoming a little less healthy, for whatever reason, photography provides an outlet for me to engage with this activity that I truly love and have passion for all while taking a step back.”
By taking the focus off of oneself and placing it onto another, Scharfman notes that it becomes easy to see the beauty in the sport.
“It’s really satisfying to take a picture of someone doing what they love. Showing it to them and watching the light in their eyes, that’s really wonderful to me.”
What is it that Scharfman aims to capture? He says it depends on the image. Although he enjoys capturing the complexity of a climb’s crux, sometimes that occurs lower to the ground and does not capture the boulder’s profile. Sometimes he finds himself shooting down through a dark hole. Suddenly, picking out the most ideal moment becomes difficult to discern.
In those moments, he looks to his subjects. Referencing a recent image of Jeff Yoo on Perfect Cave, Scharfman reflected that the emotion of the movement might offer the best subject for the photo.
“I really like trying to capture the essence of a climbing scene. If it’s a big scenic crag, I try to capture it in its entirety. If it’s a dark little dank hole, as with some boulders, I try to capture that. There’s a certain energy that invokes too. Trying to bring that into a single image is really enjoyable.”
Although Scharfman will certainly continue in his bouldering and its related images, he has also determined to bring a focus to routes this season. While these shots have remained elusive due to the rigging required in their execution, Scharfman is excited to see that which will come in on the other side of his camera.
View Jake Scharfman’s website here.