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'Portraits from Denali' captures climbers' raw emotion

Tim Remick photographed emotionally and physically ravaged mountain climbers just after they returned to Mount McKinley's base camp, still raw from the grueling experience.

So, you think your last business trip or family vacation was exhausting? Trust us, if you want to know what exhausted truly looks like, check out After: Portraits from Denali, a new photographic exhibit on display at the Anchorage Museum Feb. 3–April 15.

Tim Remick

The work of local photographer Tim Remick, the exhibit consists of 20 large-format (44” x 57”) photographs of the faces of climbers on Denali, aka, Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America.

But instead of capturing them on their ascent or standing triumphantly on the mountain’s 20,320-foot summit, Remick chose to photograph them moments after they’d stumbled back into base camp while they were still raw from the experience.

“I wanted to document that point where the human body goes past exhaustion, where people hit that wall and push beyond it,” said Remick, who experienced that feeling firsthand during his own attempt on Denali in 2002.

He returned in 2010 and spent 10 days shooting post-climb portraits at the main base camp/staging area on the Kahiltna Glacier. “There were all sorts of responses based on the environment, the weather, whether their experience was positive or negative,” he told msnbc.com. “It was all reflected in their faces.”

Tim Remick

But he’s also quick to point out that the exhibit is not really about climbing at all: “The climbers’ faces are the subject matter but the body of work is about how the viewer perceives it. We’ve all had that feeling of, wow, I feel like that guy looks.”

In fact, according to Julie Decker, the museum’s chief curator, it’s that universality that’s at the heart of the exhibit. “Just because you don’t climb doesn’t mean you can’t relate to these people,” she said. “Everybody has had these moments when their reserves are gone, their emotions are raw and they’re too tired to pose.”

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.