Tennessee-native Nathalie DuPré grew up with parents that said, ‘You can’t watch TV, go outside!’ One of Recover’s photographers, Nathalie is a leading climbing photographer in the Southeast, and a living example of taking the leap to work doing what you love. We sat down with Nathalie to learn more about where she’s been, where she’s going, and what this experienced recreationist does to get outside in summer.
Nathalie, how did you start with everything in the outdoors?
I grew up in Chattanooga. Growing up, my parents always said, ‘You can’t watch tv, go outside!’ Instead of staying home, we went camping a lot too. The town is really growing in the outdoor industry, and we’re starting to get more publicity for the rock climbing here. I started climbing when I was 14, and for a couple of years, I was in and out of it and trying to find groups to climb with. I got back into it when I was 21, which is 9 years ago now.
How did you take the leap from a more secure job to pursue your passion as a photographer?
Two years ago, I was working in sales for Budweiser, and really I was dissatisfied with where I was going in life. I had been shooting photography for over 12 years, and took the leap to pursue it as a career with the encouragement of friends. I quit my job and looking back, I had no idea what I was doing, but it worked. I’m in my second year of official business with Nathalie DuPré photography, and it’s growing every year, which is amazing to see- it wouldn’t have been possible without friends and I’m working my butt off for it.
Tell us more about your photography and why you love it...
Growing up, I was exposed to photography a lot through my parents. My mom always took pictures everywhere we went, and my dad would show us things in the developing room. Both my mom and dad had photography in their souls a little bit, and for me, being able to visually remember memories through taking and developing photos was really appealing.
I was home-schooled, so I didn’t get to take an official photography class in high school, but I would meet up with a girlfriend who was in a photo class at a private school and she would teach me everything she was learning. I got my first nice camera when I was sixteen, and I just wanted to document everything that I was doing. First, I started shooting climbing right when I got back into it, and was taking photos of the T-Wall, a Chattanooga trad area. There are some people in the community that make guidebooks in the southeast and they really encouraged me to pursue it and keep taking photos. Kelly Brown, Chris Watford- big names in climbing that didn’t even know me excited encouraged me to continue because they were excited to have a female doing climbing photography.
Now, I shoot for the guides books and some companies. I also shoot a ton of architectural stuff. It all happened organically- I shot real estate, for local magazines, city scope, and I’m working with a lot of other stone companies and concrete companies that work within houses, and that’s been a lot of fun. I shoot food in local restaurants, I shot one of brand new brewery’s canning process, and I really love photography for active lifestyle brands and clothing. In terms of clothing brands, I was really drawn to Recover because of their sustainability practices and general mission.
Why do you work with Recover?
I love working with Recover. That sustainability and big picture thinking and actual action was something that drew my attention to the brand. I first got connected with them when we all went out west on a big trip and captured it in photos. Bill connected with me and upon hearing about the Recover mission, I wanted to work alongside with that. It’s such a fantastic idea and I really want to support and push it in Chattanooga and connect it with different local non-profits. There is one- Green Steps- and the mission is to clean up litter in local public areas. The south is known for litter- it’s actually terrible, but Green Steps is coordinating events to have volunteers go out and get trail days done, where literally right outside of town, there is generations of litter out there.
Now, let’s hear about climbing and the outdoors...
For me, climbing and climbing photography is something I just really enjoy. Five or six years ago, I worked in wilderness therapy. At that time in my life, I didn’t know what to do or what to do about it, but working in NC with troubled youth, I realized being outside is what feeds my soul. Now, every weekend we go out fly fishing, camping, climbing... Weekend warriors, we are always going out and doing something, climbing local crags or bush whacking and finding something. As long as it’s outside, we’re happy.
What about the documentary you’re working on?
I’m working on a documentary on Southeastern climbing. It’s a documentary collaboration, started by Elaine Elliot of Steep South, and Rich Moore, and the film discusses the ways climbing works in the south. Out West, there’s much more open lands and BLM. Here, it’s a little tricky because a lot of the climbing potential is on private land. We have to talk to landowners, and pass it off to see if the climbing organization or local community can make it public to people. The film is bringing awareness about how much potential we have here, but how tricky it is. In Tennessee, we are working on paying off opening up Denny Cove, and can’t tap into the next climbing zones yet, even though there is so much there. The documentary is airing this fall, and we are going to show it at film festivals and climbing gyms, hoping to spread awareness and gain support to open up more climbing areas to the public. Recover is a sponsor of the film and we have a limited edition Steep South climbing Recover Tee coming out this fall - stay tuned for more on that!
It’s summer! What are your favorite ways to get outside around Chattanooga?
Around here, my favorite thing to do in summer for a day trip, is to go to the swimming holes and go creeking. The water is clean up in mountains and it feels like you’re in heaven. I also love paddle boarding. A lot of people hate the Tennessee river because it’s not clean, but it’s what we’ve got. I love paddle boarding all the way from downtown to a creek downstream, a full day mission, which is so fun. I also love going up there close to Ocoee where people kayak and raft. We like to tube and float the river, and stay overnight in the campground there that we can literally float right to.