Sponsored North Face climber, skier, adventure photographer and one of People’s most eligible bachelors in 2003, Jimmy Chin discussed his unconventional career path, the thrill of his job and the need for an open-minded attitude toward life, in White-Gravenor Hall Thursday evening.
Chin, who has been featured in magazines such as National Geographic, Adventure, Outside, Men’s Health and ESPN Magazine, engaged the crowd of about 65 attendees, who listened attentively to anecdotes from his climbing adventures. Known for crossing Tibet’s Chang Tang Plateau on foot and skiing down the North Face of Mount Everest, Chin traverses the globe for more than eight months of the year – climbing, skiing and taking photos.
The event, co-sponsored by the Lecture Fund and Georgetown Program Board, featured over 50 photos of his adventures, including climbing Mount Everest in 2006 and 2007, the previously unclimbed towers in the Kakakoram and the peaks in the Himalayas.
Without any predetermined postgraduate plans as he neared the end of college, Chin said he opted to spend a year pursuing his passions for climbing and skiing. His year of exploration soon evolved into a career of adventure photography.
“Because that’s where my heart was and that’s where my passion was,” Chin said.
Travis Smith (MSB ’13) was particularly struck by Chin’s personal motto to follow one’s passion.
“I loved that he kept that college philosophy of being open to new things throughout his life, [since] I feel many people lose that philosophy [after they graduate].”
“I think his perspective is something every college kid needs to hear,” Bettina Bergöö (COL ’11) said.
Chin fell into a photography career after living off of a variety of jobs for a year while climbing in Yosemite, the “mecca of rock-climbers,” he said.
“It became my role to work with these world-class athletes so people could see [their talent] . The athletic prowess and mental capacity to do that is unthinkable, so bringing back stories like that is what I got involved with,” Chin said.
Chin was paid $500 for his first photo (he has never taken a photography class), which he then used to buy his first professional camera. He kicked off his adventure photography career on his next trip to Pakistan.
Chin often takes his photographs while he is in the middle of the action. The views he captures in photo form are often visible only from high-risk altitudes and in “no-fall zones.”
“The biggest challenge for me is shooting in really uncontrolled environments and many difficult situations . my job is to shoot under physical, mental, and environmental stress,” Chin said.
Chin also discussed his respect for the climbers and skiers with whom he works regularly. “I realized a lot of the people I was shooting were world-class athletes, and if they were in a well-known sport, they would be making millions of dollars, as we love seeing the human potential and what people can do under the pressure,” Chin said.
Addressing the extreme physical stress on the body during his adventures, Chin said one can be gone for over two months on one particular climb, working in the earliest hours of the morning, intensely rationing food and bearing with severe, freezing temperatures.
He explained that all the team’s supplies are weighed to the ounce in order to accommodate weight and space considerations, adding that he and his team are constantly seeking to lessen the weight of their packs.
Despite such challenges, Chin said he loves his lifestyle.
“Climbing is one of those things where you enjoy it afterwards . it gives you a sense of insignificance, a good perspective,” Chin said.
When asked about his next steps, Chin said he would be headed to Turkey, Chad and Antarctica.
“You never know where things will lead you,” Chin added.
Onni Irish (SFS ’12) first heard Chin speak at a National Geographic workshop for college students. Afterward, starting in October, she began working with the Lecture Fund and GPB to bring Chin to Georgetown.
“We have so many speakers from politics and international relations, and this is international relations in a totally different form . it’s the wild world,” Irish said.