Andrew Kornylak


If you haven't heard, we are hosting an evening with renowned photographer, adventurer, and filmmaker Andrew Kornylak at the shop this Friday night at 7pm. The Charlie introduced us way back in the spring when I mentioned that we wanted to start using the upper walls to exhibit more local artists. Andrew loved the idea, but wanted to use the opportunity to raise money for the Carolina Climbing Coalition. Osprey has graciously sponsored our Free Adventure Film series this year so we are fortunate to host people who choose to do impressive things. Come and meet the man tonight at TB&C!


What inspired you to pursue a path in Adventure Photography? 

I was always into photography since I was a kid but once I got hooked on climbing in the mid-90s I started studying the adventure photographers of that time. Galen Rowell's work really stood out, and there was a photographer that crossed genres, not only as a an adventure photographer but also doing in-depth work for magazines like National Geographic, which is what excited me about photography as a kid. So that's when I saw that Adventure Photography could be an entry point to a real career in photography.


We love what you say in your bio about "focusing on people who live fringe lifestyles in order to pursue their passions." Can you tell us more about this and some of the interesting lifestyles you have experienced though your work?

People who spend their lives pursuing esoteric things like climbing at the expense of everything else end up living unusual lives - at least unusual to the rest of us. Poor as field mice, following the seasons, living in campgrounds, spending their last construction job money on a sack of potatoes and climbing chalk. That kind of true vagabond approach is becoming more rare I think, but you find that kind of single-mindedness in a lot of other realms. I think about paddlers, surfers, but also artists, musicians and small-business entrepreneurs. These are people with clear focus and drive, but sometimes to the neglect of fortune or even happiness. It's a gamble for the soul. 

What drew you to the Carrboro/Chapel Hill community and what values have you found in this area? 

My wife's work - as a Policy Analyst for the EPA in the Triangle - brought us to this area. Chapel Hill has been a great place to raise our three young kids. It's a progressive community but still quiet and low-key. It's a nice place to come home to when I travel. We both grew up in small towns so the rural area suits us.

What about your job satisfies you and what are some of the obstacles you have overcome to pursue this dream?

I wake up every morning excited to get to work and go to sleep wanting to do more. I don't think you can ask for more from your job. And there are moments of transcendence, which come from the process of creating something by combining the world with your mind, alone. But It took many years of toil and tears to get to the point where I could even think about making a living in photography. It also took patience and support from my wife (and kids, I should say) and most importantly trust in myself that I could do it, because in the end, that's it, you alone are responsible for the whole thing. I think that process, all leading to a self-awareness and trust is a lot like the personal journey you go through in climbing actually.

What led you to Townsend Bertram & Company and how do you identify with this shop?

I do a lot of work in the outdoor industry and independent retail shops like TB&C are the heart of the outdoor community. The local shops are always the first place I go when we move somewhere new. The outdoor community is still small enough that you can walk into a local retail shop and find common connections there. 


What piece of advice do you have for people pursuing an adventure lifestyle? 

Start locally. Get involved with local organizations and groups and explore what's right around you. Yosemite, the Alps and the Himalaya might be in your future some day but in the meantime there is high-adventure to be had in your back yard and with people in your community.


Bonus question

What's your favorite beer right now?

Just was in Bozeman and had a beer called Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR. It might have been the most refreshing beer ever. Locally, I really dig Fullsteam's Carver Sweet Potato Lager, which is a nice one for fall and thankfully contains "zero ounces of pie spice"