Perhaps the most crucial part of “AO,” Adam Ondra’s new book, arrives in the foreword, where he offers an important directive for how to orient your thinking as you pore through the gorgeous imagery and words in this coffee-table format.
“The book you are holding in your hands is about still pictures,” Ondra writes. “The adjective ‘still’ is very important to me. In my opinion, still pictures are underrated nowadays. We are used to seeing breathtaking pictures on social media all the time, but we rarely take time to really enjoy them. … Sit still and enjoy the stills.”
It’s an important, even necessary call to action in an era of frazzled attention spans, multitasking, and mindlessly thumbing through an Instagram feed filled with photographs, though stunning they may be, that drown each other out.
“AO” features photography by Bernardo Giménez and Lukáš Bíba, capturing moments in Ondra’s relatively recent climbing life and career, including places like Norway, Yosemite, and Indian Creek, as well as bunch of areas in Eastern Europe that I’d never heard of.
It was obvious that it was one of the best climbing days of my life. One of the best days of my ENTIRE life actually. … I failed in my goal, but tried hard.
Interspersing the large format images are short essays by Ondra himself, who explains his love for climbing and training and pushing his limits. Though most of the essays approach topics generally from a 30,000-foot view, some of the essays give specific anecdotes from climbs and experiences. I loved his description of hope and defeat during his attempt to onsight the Salathé Wall, for example: “I was so angry and furious about my failure … We got to the top and I was disappointed, yet not entirely. It was obvious that it was one of the best climbing days of my life. One of the best days of my ENTIRE life actually. … I failed in my goal, but tried hard. It is hard to be disappointed about it if you take a look at it from the right perspective.”
Though these essays are never super deep or very revealing, all together they do impart Ondra’s searing passion. It’s inspiring, and it becomes infectious. Then, suddenly, all of that sitting still becomes quite hard. You just want to put the book down and go climbing yourself.