Gordon Wiltsie returns to his hometown of Bishop this Friday night an older, wiser and much more famous man.
Wiltsie, an acclaimed photographer whose images have appeared in magazines such as National Geographic, Life, and American Photo, grew up in Bishop and returns to introduce his exhibit, “To the Ends of the Earth,” on display now through Sept. 30 at Mountain Light Gallery.
“I used to consider myself an extreme photographer,” said the highly experienced rock climber and skier whose photography has taken him everywhere from Antarctica to the Himalayas. “But you can’t be extreme forever. I have had a lot of close encounters and a lot of my friends have died.”
Once such friend was Galen Rowell, who died in an airplane crash in 2002.
“I have great respect for Galen and am excited to display in his gallery,” Wiltsie explained. “We were always friendly rivals and I really didn’t escape his shadow until I moved away from Bishop.”
Perhaps even more meaningful to Wiltsie is the symbolic reminder of his childhood that the Mountain Light building represents.
“I opened my first bank account when I was 8 at that building,” he remembered. And that’s not his only memory. Wiltsie claimed it was training in the Owens Valley that enabled him to go on to greater things.
“Inyo County has more environmental variety than any place I’ve ever been;” this coming from a man who has literally been to the ends of the Earth and back. “I couldn’t have done what I have without growing up in the Eastern Sierra.”
These days, Wiltsie is proudest of his photographs that highlight people and foreign cultures. The exhibit is a collection of some of Wiltsie’s favorite pieces from throughout his career. Some of the images have never been published while others are very famous.
A natural born storyteller, Wiltsie will also present a slideshow on Friday evening.
“The presentation focuses on my book, ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ and will have an emphasis on my early career in Bishop.
“It’s a nice homecoming for me,” he concluded.
Wiltsie currently resides in Bozeman, Mont. with his family.
Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery is hosting Wiltsie’s exhibit, “To the Ends of the Earth,” through Sept. 30. The exhibit is open to the public seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A reception honoring Wiltsie is set for Friday, June 17, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and will include time for a book signing. Wiltsie’s slide presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m.