From comps on sketchy walls to possibly becoming an Olympic discipline: competitive climbing has grown a lot over the past thirty years. Heiko Wilhelm, whom we all know as the Austrian team coach and a talented photographer, dedicated an impressive book to his beloved sport of climbing. Join us as we review Beyond the Face!
Working as the Austrian team coach has enabled Heiko Wilhelm to travel with the World Cup circuit for many years. He has become good friends with many climbers and took an impressive amount of photos around the world. It is these perks that he used to produce a paper tribute to the sport of climbing. Supported by fellow photographer Elias Holzknecht and writers Ben Lepelsant and Stewart Watson, the book contains a diverse range of photography and interviews. When first opening the book, we’re treated to an elaborate overview of the history of sports climbing, after which we get to the really good stuff.
What makes this 300 page book impressive is that it has multiple faces. Spread throughout the chapters are a large amount of in-depth interviews with all the usual suspects of the climbing world. Heiko has managed to put pretty much every legendary climber in front of his lens and voice-recorder: Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, Akiyo Noguchi, Sean McColl, Jakob Schubert, Jan Hojer, Alex Puccio, Daniels Woods and even the iconic Lynn Hill make an appearance with an intimate black and white portrait and a candid interview. Climbers talk about their emotions in climbing, their first steps in the sport and how climbing has evolved throughout the decades. This results in a fair amount of memorable quotes.
Another face of this book are the portraits of literally all climbers that were active in international competitions at the time this book was put together. The pages almost feel like a high school yearbook, bringing similar joys – like seeing how many people you know by name, comparing faces and finding the weirdest poses. In addition to these portraits, the book offers a wide range of photos taken during competitions. Heiko’s photos are sometimes intense and focused on action, at other times they are closer to abstract art and transcend the traditional style of sports photography.
Finally, the book contains an enormous amount of facts on competitions throughout the years. Every single page contains a footnote displaying the results of a competition, and the back section of the book shows another elaborate overview of results and lists, in a sort of hall of fame style. Interviews with athletes show their best results in a neatly formatted fact list. Anyone who loves facts, numbers, and lists will surely enjoy this book. We certainly have enough source material to put together a decent quiz on the history of competitive climbing, should we ever need it.
One final aspect that should be mentioned is the design of the book, which looks very fresh. The neat cover combined with a minimalistic and clean design of the pages in the book really make the content stand out while still making the book look crisp.
Beyond the Face is a very complete and diverse book and a worthy tribute to the sport we all love. This is typically a book you probably won’t read from cover to cover in one go, but instead leave on your table to occasionally browse through, look at some photos, or read an interview. In addition, it is extremely suitable for casually leaving lingering around your house to show any visitors not yet familiar with climbing what an epic sport it is!