Adventure Prints in Just One Click

Oct 18, 2010
Outside Magazine

Introducing the Adventure Journal. Steve Casimiro has renamed The Adventure Life and added the ability for readers to buy prints from noted photographers like Jimmy Chin, Chris Burkard, and others in just a couple clicks. We love checking out his adventure news of the weird, gear reviews, and insightful blogs—but why has a former print guy who's charging full steam ahead online resorted to selling something as old school as a photograph? He's got a few good reasons.

Where did the idea for a print store come from?
Well, it’s been in the back of my mind for a couple of years, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw reasons to do it. One of the biggest is that the faster the world moves toward digital entertainment, education, and communication, the more we will cherish things we can hold, see, or touch. Beautiful prints are tangible, a physical representation of the environment and sports that stoke us and can continue to stoke us when we turn the iPad off. A high-quality magazine or photo book is to be savored, and art quality prints even more so. Their richness, form, and shape can sustain and comfort long after batteries go dead.

Another reason is that to my eye, there has been no single place where you could find contemporary, creative, or artful adventure photography. Yes, you can find gorgeous hyper-saturated landscapes or an eagle soaring through the sky, but those photos are old school—they’re fine, but they don’t represent the dynamic, authentic adventure photography that’s being produced the photographers I most admire and respect. The web provides the ability to bring those photographers together and find an audience or customers with far less effort than it took even five years ago.

I’ve also been motivated by the success of my friends, Will Pennartz with his Surf Gallery and Clark Little with his surf images. Although Will recently shuttered the gallery to do something different, for 10 years it was one of just two or three entities in the States to nurture and support surf-related artists full time. Adventure Journal’s print store focuses on photos, of course, but his model impressed me that something might be done for the broader outdoor creative community. And as for Clark, he shoots mind-blowing photos of the Waimea shorebreak and has put most of his efforts on building a business around prints; he’s proven that you can make a living creating contemporary outdoor art with a camera and selling directly to consumers, something most shooters don’t do.

See, most outdoor photographers make their living through editorial and commercial assignments and also by licensing images through stock photo agencies. But prints are to the photo business what intervals are to fitness training: certainly beneficial, but a pain to do. Unless you have good representation, you probably can’t generate the traffic or interest to sell many. My aim is to connect the passionate outdoor folks who read Adventure Journal with this collection of fantastically talented photographers — readers will be able to own images they couldn’t before, the photographers can keep doing what they do, and the process is frictionless for both.

How did you choose the photographers?

The hardest part wasn’t choosing, it actually was leaving people out. There are so many great outdoor photographers, it’s ridiculous. But I had a very definite ideas about what I wanted to see in the store. You will find some traditional outdoor imagery there, but it’s a smaller percentage than the darker, moodier, more evocative photos, which I find provoke the kind of emotional response that makes you want to keep them around to look at them over and over again. So, I aimed for shooters who either were the absolute best with traditional style, pushing the edge with creativity, or a mix of both.

Also, I tried not to overlap. We have three surf photographers in the store, but each has his own vision. Jason Murray is the master of classic surfing photography, while Ryan Tatar is leading the way in the use of film, cross-processing, and the retro Holga look, and Chris Burkard (who just won the Red Bull Illume) is stepping back a bit from the action and bringing a new kind naturalism to his viewfinder.

I’ll be adding photographers as appropriate, but only selectively and only to fill gaps in the collection. The goal isn’t size, it’s quality. Oh, and I’m also in discussions with some archives to make very cool historical images available as prints, which as a fan of photography I find super cool.

What is your ultimate goal for this new photography section of the site?
Well, the ultimate goal of everything is to inspire more people to get outside and live adventurously. The store (and the galleries at Adventure Journal) help that by celebrating outdoor adventure photography in all its forms. I’m a photographer, too, and I love everything about sharing the experiences through images. They can be so powerful — worth a lot more than 1,000 words, that’s for sure. So, the idea that I could help get a photo of some beautiful snowfield from Jordan Manley’s camera to somebody’s wall in, say, Boston, where they see it every day and stayed connected to powder skiing, that’s a pretty cool thing.

This seems like a big step in the evolution of your site. Can you talk a bit about how your site has changed over the years and why?
I’ve been in print for a long time, and, though I’m an early technology adopter, I wasn’t convinced of the radical transformation in media through online until three years ago. Well, I was convinced, but I wasn’t convinced it would be a bit part of what I do. When National Geographic Adventure asked me to contribute to their blog back in 2007-2008, I did so somewhat experimentally and tentatively. But I found out rapidly that I loved it and I decided to make it separate from NGA because I really wanted to explore the freedom of voice and form that came with the independence of online.

Sadly, National Geographic closed Adventure last December, but by that time I could see my next step clearly. Traffic had grown at The Adventure Life and I loved almost everything about editing an online media outlet — the immediacy, the connection with the readers (and the fact they can call BS on you), the dynamic nature of it — so I launched it commercially, which is really just a pretentious way of saying I went to the Outdoor Retailer show looking for advertising.

And so yeah, changing from The Adventure Life to Adventure Journal and launching a store are big steps. Readers won’t see a huge change in the site at first other than the new name and dropping the “L” from the icon (the design and content are identical), but it definitely signifies a different level of scope and ambition. Advertising is solid, revenue is good, and now I can bring on contributors, add features, and build it bit by bit into the vision that I have for it. The print store is the first of what I hope will be numerous additions.

Do you have any criteria for picking what stories you post?
Nope. It’s completely arbitrary.

No, I do, I really do. My elevator pitch is that Adventure Journal is designed to merge the core credibility of Powder with the gravitas of National Geographic Adventure, freshness of Outside, curiosity of the New Yorker, and sense of humor of Mad magazine. When I’m looking at stories, I always consider whether an item is adventurous, whether it’s authentic, whether it inspires or teaches or makes me laugh. If I’m not stoked on it, I let it pass. If I am stoked, I go for it and try not to overthink the reader response. To my mind, that’s a problem with print: too much thinking, not enough relying on instincts.

So, I don’t worry much about whether I have too much surfing or too little skiing or not enough gear or too many time lapses. I mean, I do think about it, but one of the lessons I learned from being editor of Powder is that age, gender, nationality and all that demographic stuff matters nothing compared to spirit. Adventure Journal is written for people who have an adventurous spirit, who are curious and open minded and possess a good sense of humor. If you have that kind of spirit, it’s hugely forgiving and allows for a definition of adventure — or adventure and the outdoor lifestyle — that’s extremely broad. I’m often playing around with the boundaries of what’s an Adventure Journal story, and I know I step outside the lines sometimes, but by taking editorial risks that’s how I learn just where those lines are. And since taking risks is in inherent part of adventure, it would be hypocritical if I just wrote about them and didn’t take a few myself.

To view galleries or buy prints from the slideshow above, check out

--Joe Spring

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