The runner looks like how we have been trained to imagine Jesus.
Thin, long hair and beard, solemn, lonely, monastic. He’s shirtless, bony. His shoes are thin, his thin legs are bare.
He’s surrounded by rocks and sky, thousands of feet up, huge, desolate peaks, boulders and crags, way above the treeline, the thinning air, dirt and stones. He’s never stopping, running, walking when he can’t run, like he’s being pursued through the mountains. Or searching out a deep eternal exhaustion, a punishment, or a state of meditation in the pain.
“In The High Country,” a film about iconic ultra-runner Anton Krupicka and his gruelling and epic excursions through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is ostensibly a film about running. But the sheer art of it feels more like Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man than anything you’re likely to see on ESPN.
In The High Country has been called “impressionistic,” and a film that blurs the line “between human and mountain.”
It’s the work of West Virginia filmmaker, photographer, writer and outdoor adventurist Joel Wolpert, based in Bellington, Barbour County, whose unique, arresting photos and films are now highly sought after by the world’s largest running and ultrarunning magazines.
Joel will be one of the many Appalachian media makers, artists and digital entrepreneurs featuring at New Story in Morgantown, June 16 & 17. New Story is a festival of innovation and creativity. It’s free. You should come.
And though he is renowned by his peers across the country, Joel is relatively unknown in West Virginia outside of a small but immensely talented group of photographers and filmmakers who, just like him, are just as comfortable hanging off the side of a mountain or running desert trails as they are behind the viewfinder.
Joel is a central figure in what some are calling a new gang of West Virginia’s adventure filmmakers and photographers, a loose but formidable crew who are rapidly making a name for themselves for their singular combination of art, bravery and adventure.
They are friends as well as colleagues. Through Joel you follow short threads to people like Gabe DeWitt, Dylan Jones, Tara Smith, Matthew Shreve and Emily Hughes Corio. They spend as much time shooting on glaciers in Chile or mountain tops in Colorado as they do at Coopers Rock.
And an exhibition of some of their collected work, which as yet has never happened, would be a magnificent demonstration of the talent and unique strain of creativity flourishing here, in this time and place.
And so that’s what we’re going to do at New Story in Morgantown, June 16 & 17. We’ll meet this new gang of adventure artists and take a look at some of their most brilliant work.