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    Beyond and Back: Artist, Emilie Lee

    by Jeff Johnson


    The first time I met Emilie was a few years ago in Joshua Tree. She was living in a van with her boyfriend; painting, climbing, dumpster-diving, and working evenings at the Crossroads Café. There was this unique air about her. She seemed very calm and her movements were smooth, as if she were perpetually on run-out slabs. But I could see in her eyes that her mind was full of continuous thought. It wasn’t till a few months later, when I saw her beautiful journals published in Alpinist magazine, that I realized she was an artist. This explained what I saw in her eyes.

    Recently, I was shooting photos in Colorado. I ran into Emilie and her friends in Boulder. After a short day of climbing I asked if I could shoot photos of her in her studio. She said it was a mess because she was in the middle of moving to Utah. We went anyway.

    Situated on the flat outskirts of Boulder, Emilie’s studio was a small, non-descript room in a non-descript building. The surroundings were cold, faceless. Inside were piles of clothes, climbing gear, her dog, and hovering over the clutter like a bright sun rising from clouds, was her art. She handled her work like it was someone’s life -- if she dropped a piece the memory would be gone forever...

    I shot photos of her as she worked on some recent journals. There were a few moments when she forgot about my camera and just looked out the window, thinking. Here was a girl who’s been on the road, off and on for years, having all sorts of adventures and experiences. In a few days she’ll be gone again, living someplace entirely new, having all sorts of new things to deal with. In her eyes I saw that same quality that made a big impression on me years prior in Joshua Tree. I had come to photograph her and her art but it was this sort of depth I had subconsciously sought out.


    That week I had taken photographs of backcountry skiing, climbing, mountain running, mountain biking -- talented people in the outdoors doing what they love most. And my favorite photograph from that trip is a girl looking out the window. She somehow said it all to me right then.

    To see more of Emilie’s work go to:

    [Photos: Jeff Johnson]


    Jeff Johnson is the author/photographer of Bend to Baja. Prints of his photographs are available through his Web site: Stay tuned for more Beyond and Back stories from Jeff.

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