Adam Borrello grew up in Perth, he spent his 20's between jobs and playing in bands whilst finishing his degree. After uni he fell into a career promoting nightclubs and training in martial arts. He was 25. He didn't know at the time but it was here when his life would change forever. We chat to Adam about how he went from club promoter to photographer ahead of his exhibition "Nørge", a collection of images from Norway.
You’re now a full time photographer. What were you doing before this and was there any defining moment where you decided you needed to make the change?
I spent a lot of my twenties jumping between jobs, playing in bands and doing the general misguided youth thing, yet still dedicated a lot of that time studying and ended up with a bachelor of design. I dabbled with shooting and assisting while in my early twenties but never really took it seriously enough to commit. I somehow fell into a career promoting club nights even though I’m not really a nightclub guy, this worked for me because I was training pretty seriously in martial arts, competing around Australia.
When I was 25, my then girlfriend, now wife got diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. As a 25 year old dude kind of doing whatever you want, this was a massive shock to me and pretty much shut down my creative brain so I could dedicate my time and energy to supporting her in what was the biggest battle of her life. I am pleased to say that she is now 7 years clear of any signs of cancer and we are living life. My wife Rachel @chi.borrello is also a freelance designer and was a massive help setting up my latest project. Everything from zine layout and print management, to setting up placement cards for the images was set up by her. Full creative couple goals right here haha.
It wasn’t until she had come through the other side of that chapter of life that I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress and clinical depression, those years had taken their toll on my emotional energy pretty hard. I found turning back to creativity was a big help for me in this time and it was then that I decided to start making a real go of being a full time creative, as I had never really given it a proper crack. Now I am travelling around the world shooting stuff for awesome clients and living a life that I constantly get stoked on. It’s weird how things work out.
Your most recent project “Nørge” is a collection of photographs from the Norwegian wilderness. First up, congratulations on the exhibition. Your photographs are wicked. I had a lot of fun reading through the commentary. Sounds like you had a pretty challenging adventure?
Thank you so much, I didn’t really even go out with the intention of this coming together as a body of work, to be honest. Whenever I go somewhere new I take my camera regardless, I also knew the scenery in Norway would be epic, so I had an idea I would be capturing some cool stuff. It wasn’t until I started going through the images post trip that I realised that it all had a level of cohesion to it which in turn inspired me to do something more than just put on Instagram.
As for the challenging level, we really didn’t know what we were getting into from the start. It wasn’t until about halfway through the first day of hiking that a park ranger at one of the lodging huts told us that it was some of the heaviest winter snow in the past winter in the last 50 years, but we took the typical Australian mentality of ‘yeah, she’ll be right’ and just kept on with it. To be honest I wouldn’t have changed it either way as it is still one of my life highlights.
Did anyone come back with any scars?
No scars so to speak. A lot of the falling over was in soft snow, so we came out relatively unscathed apart from a couple of near death experiences. We were pretty beat up after though and spent the majority of a day in a sauna in this small town just outside of where we hiked.
You only took the essential gear with you. Is there anything you wish you had brought but didn't?
Probably about five more pairs of socks. When you are trekking through mush and snow it has a tendency to creep into everything, gortex hiking boots included. When you are only equipped with the bare essentials it’s the little comforts that make all the difference. Apart from that maybe some of that super tech lightweight outdoors wear that you see fully equipped snow bros wearing. At least I would have looked a lot cooler while struggling.
It’s a big trend right now, “Off The Grid”. What was it about this lifestyle that inspired you to take a journey like this?
The trip actually came together through a combination of good timing and a group of close friends wanting to do something wild. We were all set to be in Europe for our good friend’s wedding in Italy a few weeks later and decided it would be a great idea to meet up early and hang out, since we were now all living in separate parts of the world and hadn’t seen each other in a while.
As for what inspired me, I am a big believer in being comfortable in discomfort. I feel we as humans should challenge ourselves constantly in order to truly know ourselves and what we are capable of as individuals. Becoming mentally conditioned to digging deep when things get tough brings the best out of you, whether it's throwing yourself into a completely new situation or pushing yourself on your daily run, that little bit of challenge you bring to yourself I think strengthens you bit by bit. Being out in the wilderness in complete isolation with just your closest friends will bring this out of you and I knew from the inception that it would be so beneficial to myself and the relationships I had with these people.
There’s a great photo of your crew naked in a field. Who did you go on this adventure with?
Yeah, the nakedness really becomes a non issue when you are completely detached from existence in the middle of nowhere and are forced to bath in freezing cold glacial water, to be honest. Seriously the biggest group of legends I know and such a different combination of people that it just worked. We actually all knew each other from growing up in the punk/hardcore scene as young kids but have kind of all gone our own path as we have become adults.
Adam @adam.j.crowe - One of my oldest friends, lives in Berlin being a really good looking academic, whilst also playing guitar for Miles Away and Defeater.
Nick @rhythmhealth - The most zen dude on the trip, actually chose to bring healing tonics and powders in his pack over actual hiking essentials. Spends his time on the east coast of oz surfing and teaching people to live healthier lives.
James @jameshvxley - Tattoo removal legend who lives in Melbourne, also one of the most thoughtful and philosophical people I know.
Alex @alexturoy - Relinquished his Australian citizenship recently to become a citizen of Denmark, also just had a little bub of his own who he will probably take cross country skiing in a backpack.
Daniel @danielwjameson - Currently farming medicinal weed just outside of San Francisco and professional life liver. Pretty much works so he can afford to go surfing around the world.
Kain @wander__boy - Recently got married to a Danish wife so he is now a full time Scando living in Copenhagen. Also just finished a thirty day solo hike through Greenland, a true next level adventurer.
Can you tell us about when your friend fell through the ice?
On the third day of hiking, we crossed the summit of an unexpectedly snowy mountain range, we were then confronted with the north face. The record snows that I had previously mentioned, had completely concealed our path and we were left with nothing but surface patches of terrain to navigate the descent. About a third of the way through, Alex; who was the most experienced of all of us, fell straight through the ice while stepping off a patch of land into the snow, as we rushed to pull him out he calmly yet firmly told us to stay back due to the fact his legs were dangling into nothing, if we were to break the ice with our weight he would have more than likely been lost in an underground river flowing beneath. We then had to slowly drag him out back onto safe ground using our walking poles.
After this, the mood changed to an extremely eerie affair and we realised we were all in a fair bit of trouble. The next few hours were spent tracking a path by poking the snow in front of us and hoping it wouldn’t fall through. Step by step we travelled, backtracking and replanning, through creaking and melting ice, until we reached the base. We were sunburnt from underneath due to the suns reflection on the snow and completely exhausted, but the rush we felt knowing what we had just dominated by defying certain death more than made up for it.
Was it at this point that you realised this trip was as mentally challenging as it was physically?
To be honest, it actually wasn’t, that happened on the very first day. We left Copenhagen and drove up through Sweden and across Norway to an area near Ølen where we were to begin our hike. Running off pretty much zero sleep and excitement, it started raining within a couple of hours of us setting out. The rest of that day was spent trudging through soaked marshland and looking for a dry area to camp at the end of the day. We ended up having to break into a holiday cabin so that we could dry our stuff off ready for the next day.
I’m really curious, what did you guys eat during the trip? Seems like you were in the middle of nowhere most of the time.
We actually spent a full day prior to the trip rationing out everything so we had an equal distribution between everyone’s packs. We mainly focused on light, flat food that kept well. It was a combination of deli meats, oats, eggs, coffee, energy bars, chocolate, candy, flat breads, crackers and this weird tubed cheese spread called 'bacon oost' which made everything really tasty. Water wasn’t a problem because we had constant access to glacial springs which was seriously the freshest water I have ever tasted. I’m actually convinced it made me more youthful from drinking it because it was so pure.
Once the hike was done and we were back to our cars we ate day to day just buying stuff from shops and cooking. A couple of the guys in the group are actually sneaky shoplifters too so we ended up eating like kings a lot of the time haha.
And even more importantly, did anyone have a flask of whiskey for when it got cold?
I list this under ‘travel essential’. That and a couple of sneaky cigarettes to unwind after a long day of hiking.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to go on a similar adventure?
Be prepared, do research of where you are going, check the weather constantly leading up, pack using lots of layers instead of big jackets and bring only the things you know you are going to use as you don’t want to be kicking yourself when your pack is too heavy.
Being away from home in Australia can also have its challenges, not quite the same as trekking through rain soaked marsh land, but what do you miss most when you’re away?
I always say the same thing about Perth to people who have never been, ‘it’s a great, relaxed place to live, but you have to leave it constantly before you go too crazy’. I love it here but I find people can tend to be caught in their own bubble too much, hence why I like to get away often so that I can appreciate what I have when I get home. I love coming home to my little pug Brooklyn, having a routine, training, hanging out with my tight group of friends and getting things done so that I know I’ve earned it when I leave the next time. Then I just come back and do it all again.
And lastly for all us camera nerds out there. What’s your choice of gear?
Ok, this is a weird one. I’m a firm believer that the best camera is the one you have on you and that it's not about the best gear, but about just having the right tool for the job when you are working professionally. Make of that what you will. I could seriously discuss this forever.
For me personally, I have a mix of Canon and Sony stuff. Canon mainly for stills work and Sony for video work but also not exclusively as I jump between each system depending on what the task requires. I also have a bunch of old film cameras and bits that I play around with also.
Nørge was shot on a Sony A7ii with a couple of lenses. Ended up being a great travel kit for this project but I have now since sold and moved on from.
Adam, thanks so much for getting involved and we look forward to seeing your next adventure!
Thank you! It has been a blast recounting all the little facets of the journey! I’ll finish with the point of saying just go out and do something, throw yourself into something new and love every minute of it.
Adam’s “Nørge” exhibition opens 29th September at iThrive Creative Space, Perth. Check it out here
Interview // Daisy J Crawford @daisy.crawford
Words & Photographs // Adam Del Borrello @adamborrello