Terumi is a sustainable stylist and outdoor activist.L is an adventure & lifestyle photographer and founder of the Elevation Grant.
Together, we create and can make our projects fun. We believe in making local adventures epic days. So, we celebrate adventures whenever we’re in close proximity, even ones close to cities like this one– just outside of Los Angeles in a place that has been formative for our climbing. And an important reprieve for the soul– climbing and friendship.
L: What’s been your favorite experience with together?
T: I’ve had the joy to work with L. on so many projects at this point, and they’ve each been memorable in their own rights–filled with dance parties, rap battles, delicious baked goods, and tons of climbing and adventuring. But the one that stands out: I recently went through some tough personal times. I showed up to shoot in tears, my eyes and body puffy and tired, and morale pretty close to zero. Without skipping a beat, she flashed her infectious joyful smile, told me I looked beautiful, and told me to take as much time as I needed. All those beautiful laughs and positive energy you see in her photography comes from the heart, and it’s the most amazing gift to all of those around her. We went on with the day, we had a blast shooting, the photos were magical.
L.: When did you start integrating adventure with style?
T: I was an extremely shy kid growing up, and I used my personal style as both armor and a way to express the things I was too afraid to verbalize out loud. When I started to adventure in the outdoors, I was visibly “other” demographically, but it was important for me to own my differences instead of conform to the muted colored hemp material and birkenstocks style. I wear a lot of color, a lot of oversized genderless pieces, but they always allow for swift movement and flexibility. I mix technical outdoor gear with thrifted handkerchiefs and fanny packs, and vintage workwear.
T: Refreshing. First, there aren’t enough female, Women of Color (WOC) professional photographers. Second, there aren’t enough of them in the outdoor space. And third, there aren’t enough of them who seamlessly flow between the gritty outdoors, the big city, heady conversations about technology, and goofy banter. We both have the same favorite podcast (Pivot, a tech and business podcast by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway), we love the same sports (climbing, surfing, long boarding), and a love for sushi and the finer things. We’re in sync and it’s really lucky to get to work together.
L: I think it’s important to elevate my friends. And you’re one I feel very grateful for. Is there a way you’d like to be better supported as a friend and creative?
T: Right back at ya! I’d say we have to keep supporting each other by “punching up”, being the change we want to see, and dreaming bigger and bigger. Egging each other on to pursue our wildest ambitions. We have to keep being each other’s crazier partner-in-crime!
T: How does collaborating with close friends change the flow and final product of your work?
L: I got into this work out of passion to see things reimagined for everyone, especially for those who had not seen themselves. Our POVS really haven’t been seen since the dominant outdoor storytellers (photographers and filmmakers) are men. I didn’t see the fun, the flavor, the drip that I experienced. And the many campaigns with ice beards didn’t feel galvanizing in any way for me or my community. Those types of campaigns aren’t making our friends join us.
So, having someone that deeply understands my POV and supports makes the work I do makes it much sweeter, much easier. There’s less of an explanation. And just pure support and stoke. For me, the flow is quite easy. It is working with a friend but the foundation is respect. I want my work to uplift her. It starts with that. And I think that feeling is shared, which gives me so much gratitude.
A few years ago I created a booklet, a guide for brands to reimagine their approach in storytelling while working in a consulting firm (before doing photography full time). Terumi was one of the very first people to see it. Her kind words gave me so much confidence in that moment when you’re holding something that you’ve spent hours on.
T: What do you like most about working with me?
L: Simply, there’s an ease. It’s rare to find someone that truly enjoys the things I love (adventure, climbing, waves, innovation, fashion, cities) and understands that innate need to roam and explore. I love that I don’t have to explain. I love that she can enjoy working with me and that we bring different strengths to the table. When work feels less like work but experimental and play, I really cherish it. (And most importantly, she laughs at my jokes. That’s the real key.)
T: How do you envision your friendship evolving in the future?
L.: I think these types of projects are an example of what can come. As women that have been in front of the camera, I think we both know that the horizon for women is shorter. To be frank, you don’t see women adventurers and outdoor athletes continuing to get ambassadorships and campaign dollars like our male counterparts. Where are the lady Conrads? I want to see that. I want to support that. So, having an entrepreneurial spirit and hustle is integral. Dreaming is so important. In a field where few like us exist, the move is to always elevate and create opportunities for others.
Perhaps, business partners. Perhaps, purely confidants and collaborators. In whatever way, I want her to be seen. I want to support the person first. I always support someone who is badass, selfless, and kind. I’d love for us to do rad things, big things.
T: What is your dream project to work on together?
L.: So many dream projects! And I can’t give all the secrets away. I’d love to do something that involves more ocean and walls for sure. I think everything is on the table to redone. SO much hasn’t been seen from a diverse perspective.
You can find follow us on IG @urbanclimbr and @meru_turao
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