Photographer Forrest Smith on Life Adrift and His New Book “Wilder"
Reflecting on a thoughtful project spanning four years of photography, nine states, a handful of countries, and a lifetime of experience
"The goal in all of this was to find vulnerability," says photographer Forrest Smith of his new book Wilder, publish this past week via Thought Catalog. "I wanted to share my experiences in a way that people could feel them deeply and truly. Life is less than perfect but there’s peace to be found in these spaces."
Though now based in New York City, Smith's spirit and roots lie in the American West, having grown up in the tiny ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado. The son to "hippie dippie" parents, he learned from a young age to carve his own path, to appreciate natural beauty, and seek out adventure. Wilder actings almost as a lifelong retrospective, sharing insight and images from trips and times in life that have left most lasting impressions.
"I was taught that home is where you hang your hat for the night, less is often more, and that little dreams can grow a beautiful life."
Rather than write a traditional book report, we tasked Smith with reflecting on his new project—photographed over four years in a total of nine states and across five countries—to select and annotate five images from the book that mean the most to him.
Read on for Forrest Smith's most meaningful images from his new book, Wilder, described in his own words.
Childhood + Family
My parents raised me in a small ski town with no stop lights and mainly dirt roads—weekends were spent climbing the numerous 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado and star gazing from an open tent door. As I grew up this was the foundation of my dreams, the roots that grew an untraditional lifestyle and a passion for adventure. I was taught that home is where you hang your hat for the night, less is often more, and that little dreams can grow a beautiful life.
The hills and valleys of my small town became a world of exploration as I grew older. These photographs speak to the light and life that we found in our early youth, running around the mountains completely enamored, completely ignorant, completely in love—raw with reverence for the world and our experience in it. In these mountains we made secret agreements, agreements to be fully alive and not simply live.
The Pacific Northwest
Lush trees, constant rainfall and dense forests became our home as winter drew in. Leaving Colorado and moving to Oregon was my first step out into the world at 19. A new home, a new adventure, a new beginning.
When I was 20 I traveled to Peru with my father. Since he was 20 he’d dreamed of hiking these trails and seeing the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca—a mountain range that at its best stands 23,000 feet above sea level and hardly dips beneath 20,000 feet when slouching. 40 years later he returned to this dream. As we hiked I was able to see a spark in his eyes, the light of youth and the curiosity of the world which it holds. You’re never too old to find this again.
Alaska & International Travel
When I was young I was told of “Thin Spaces”—places where the barrier between Heaven and Earth thins and maybe, just if you’re lucky, you can see onto the other side. My experience has not been simply finding these places, but appreciating them as they are. Everything you see here is real, and everything you see here is too beautiful to capture with a camera. All I can hope is that this book inspires someone, even if it’s just one person, to find these places for themselves.
Wilder is now available in hardcover edition from publisher Thought Catalog for $45.