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How Photographer Amy Liu Stays Whimsical

51° talks with photographer Amy Liu about her process and her partnership with the mountains.
Leo 20210129-7-resize

Photographer Amy Liu first picked up a camera in 2016. She had recently moved to the Canadian Rockies and was looking for a way to document all the fun and joy she was having in the mountains. Amy has chronicled many of her adventures in the Rockies, but also her trips to the Himalayas, China, Western Canada and one epic trip from Alaska to Texas. With no expectations and just shooting for “fun," Amy’s work has already been featured in Alpinist, Canadian Alpine Journal, Outside, China Outdoor, Gripped and various books. Her whimsical sensibility gives a refreshing perspective that just radiates joy.   

amysizedwaterThe joys of cold weather. By Amy Liu
51: Tell us about your process and feelings behind you images -  

AL: In ways, the process is more important than the end image, to me. Although, I would say equally important, at the end of the day, because you still want a nice image. But it is in the process where I have so much fun.  

I feel many things when I am shooting. For sure it has many elements depending on what I am shooting, but I think the feeling I feel the purest is happiness. Also I feel like I have to focus 100% and in that way, it becomes meditation to me. I forget about the rest of the world. I just focus on that second in that moment.  

I plan shoots, but really my work is spontaneous. You can only plan so much. Everything else takes off from there. You can prepare, you can't control. Like that water-turns-into-ice image. I always wanted to take a photo like that. That morning I went out with my friend Pat (model in shot), I prepared 10 bottles of water and it was minus 35 ish. And I was so anxious and worried, because I really wanted to get some colour of the water. I couldn't put any colour in the water because I don't want to pollute. But all of a sudden we started shooting and the sun came out and it just added that magic colour to the shoot. We used all 10 bottles for multiple images—only the toughest model could take that challenge.

Lady Mac 20200429- resizeLady Mac. By Amy Liu

51: Tell us about what your work means to you -  

AL: I really feel that my work is a teamwork between myself and nature sometimes.  Even with the mountains or the sky, they're just so pretty. And they are like, ‘Oh, take a photo of me, shoot me! Look at me, I’m so beautiful. You should get a photo of me.’ It's pretty much how I create. I am just part of, something bigger than me. I enjoy belonging to something bigger than myself. 

It's a language to me and I don't mind if people can hear  or understand what I am saying. I just tell the story. I care more about the subject than the audience.  

I would like to invite my friends and people to celebrate life every day. I think everything is kind of beautiful - Sadness can be beautiful too. Beautiful doesn't have to be beautiful to be beautiful.

Screen Shot 2021-03-10 at 3.25.56 PMHighlights of Amy Liu's mountain sport photos. By Amy Liu

51: You are considered a climbing photographer to many people. What is your relationship to climbing? 

AL: Every photographer is different. Every person sees things differently. And to me, climbing, it's more like a form of art and a form of physical movement blended in nature. So what I see in climbing is very much, same as how I see kids play on a playground. I don't look into the grades unless I have to publish something and editors ask me for information about the route. When I'm shooting, I don't care about the numbers. I am more interested in the environment and I care about emotion and passion. I like to shoot everything. To me, climbing, skiing, rafting mountain biking or any movement outdoors, they're all the same - they're all art. 

Magali 2 202002-2-resizeDiver. By Amy Liu