When photographing an elite athlete, it would be easy to focus on their muscles. That’s what makes them champions, right?
To some extent, that was my goal while capturing Olympic climber Brooke Raboutou, who is extraordinarily strong. But more importantly, I wanted to convey her warmth and her tenacious spirit, which I believe are the hallmarks of a true champion.
It was an honor to photograph Brooke for Southwest Airlines Magazine’s latest cover story. Brooke will be competing for the USA in Tokyo this summer for rock climbing’s Olympic debut. She was the first American to qualify from a fierce field of competitors—a huge accomplishment at age 18.
Brooke comes from a family of professional climbers. I grew up following the feats of her mom and dad, Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou, both climbing World Cup champions.
The past year has seen a lot of heartbreak for many exceptional American climbers, as only two men and two women, max, can compete for each country in Tokyo this summer. To qualify, you have to beat out all but one of your fellow countrymen or women. And you have to excel at each of the three Olympic climbing events: bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing.
Two additional U.S. climbers have also qualified for the Olympics so far: Kyra Condie and Nathaniel Coleman. I’m excited to see these stars represent USA Climbing this summer!
Finally, keep scrolling to check out some of the behind-the-scenes action from my day photographing Brooke at Mesa Rim Climbing Academy in San Diego, CA. Thanks to Brooke and the Southwest Magazine team for an amazing shoot!