Acceptance. That’s the most important thing Irene Yee wants to inspire from her photographs—in the least dramatic sense of the word, of course.
“I think being there as somebody is struggling and, you know, trying to get their bearings, and being right there to encourage them is really a beautiful and empowering thing.”
It is not every day that you find a photographer who wants to capture the events leading up to the unforgettable moment.
Irene Yee is a climbing photographer that has been creating buzz on social media and the national climbing scene. She has a massive following on Instagram (her handle is @ladylockoff) where she posts all her distinctive work. What’s different about her, apart from her crimson hair and bright, colorful outfits, is that she captures photos of mostly amateur women climbers in their most genuine and relatable moments.
“The best feeling is being at the top of the chains with a female climber on her first sport lead, you know 5.7, and giving her a high five at the top,” Yee said.
“It’s amazing to give a climber, who just climbs for the pure joy of it, something back. To be like, “Oh look! This is you!” Like, “Here’s your first lead.” It’s an amazing feeling to give a woman a solid memory of what she just achieved,” she added.
Although she wields the camera, she is hardly the person who stays quiet and just shoots photos. Not by any stretch of the imagination is she’s just a photographer. She’ll be your ego booster, your cheerleader.
“I am not a person who documents climbing photography. I am a person yelling and encouraging the climber as they come up to me,” she affirms. “It’s amazing to see anybody, no matter what their limits are. Whether trying to lead their first 5.7 climb or finish their first 5.14 climb to, you know and be at the celebration at the top with that person. I think that’s a very different feeling that almost nobody gets. And it’s one that’s hard to describe because it’s so incredible. And so, being up there, and perhaps capturing that moment, is an amazing feeling.”
Capturing the most authentic photograph of her favorite subjects, women climbers, is the quintessential form of acceptance. Accepting that women are not discounted from male-dominated sports, that you don’t have to be the best at it and that you don’t have fit the lifestyle and the culture to do what you want.
“You can be colorful. You can wear makeup. You can be a dirtbag. Whoever you are, that doesn’t prevent you from climbing and whoever you are, doesn’t prevent you from doing whatever you want in your life.”