21 Feb David Munilla. Pioneer of climbing photography.
Text & Images: David Munilla.D
avid Munilla (Madrid, 1965) is a journalist, photo reporter and mountain guide. Magazines as varied as Altäir, De Viajes, Nomadas, Viajar, Natura, Wild spaces, GEO, National Geographic, etc., have all published his work. His reports have featured on the pages of Sunday magazines and special supplements of prestigious international newspapers. His images illustrate more than a hundred books of all kinds, advertising campaigns and calendars. He has four climbing guides which, as he himself considers, are more a journalistic than photographic work. He is sponsored and supported by Nikon, Julbo, Extrem Isard, Singing Rock and Boreal.
I saw the birth of mountain photography and have watched it grow. I look back and, whilst not that much time has passed, I´ve seen photography mature. It´s moved closer to an art form than simply documenting events, as in the past. With climbing, an even more specific branch, the same thing has happened.
Its greatest growth coincided with the birth of sports climbing from 1986. It was a really exciting moment of creation. We had a new world full of color and passion before our very eyes. “We invented” techniques to capture what that new sport was creating and representing.
Knowing how to look. Photography, fortunately, has returned to its roots of “lines” and “light”. For me, I come from an analogue background, light control is still essential. It´s my challenge. I still try to “nail the photo”, as we say, as if shooting with a slide, with no margin for even a diaphragm of half up or half down.
To have lived through the analogue stage, and in which limitations on sensitivity forced you to work more in outdoor spaces, combine interesting lights and wait for the critical moments of light plasticity, helps a lot. You analyze the overall image. You predict the result because you have memorized it. I hate taking photos in machine gun mode to “see what comes out”. I love listening to the shutter in that moment when you think «I’ve got it».
I´m not demonizing digital photography. I think it´s given us excellent progress and, above all, helps lower production costs, improve storage and achieve faster speeds. I love doing black and whites in the lab and playing with Photoshop when I’m commissioned for an advertising job. Perhaps the side I least like is the excessive intervention in the image that you can find in many climbing and mountain photos.
For me there´s nothing like spending a bit of time studying the terrain, the track and the climber. You need to understand that a photo must tell a story in a frame and summarize everything there. A track may have several interesting points, but surely some are better than others. That is the one to be discovered and photographed. The rest is excess. It’s not a video.
Personally, I try to get away from popular views, because it is precisely what is always seen. I love vertical framing. However, the art directors of magazines and digital platforms are too inclined to fill the space horizontally. Television and computer screens have trained us to look at things differently than from a book.