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Healing in the alpine: photographer shows therapeutic story in Canmore

“When we are on a ridge, tears are going down my cheeks … and I never loved photography this much,” said Lemermeyer.

CANMORE – Standing in front of his photograph of Mount Athabasca, Robert Lemermeyer describes turning a rock bottom low point into a new lease on life.

Inching up to about 11,000 feet above sea level, the photographer snapped a shot of the iconic mountain and then broke down.

“I just wept at the fact that I was so dark and so down and ready to give up,” he said. “This was the greatest triumph of my life, other than the birth of my children.”

Before his journey into the high alpine, Lemermeyer spent years travelling around the world with photography, but he slowly lost touch with what’s around him after falling into bouts of alcoholism and mental health struggles.

“The bottle took me,” he said. “All those years I was travelling, I don’t think I was ever really happy.”

Though at the peak that day, in a moment he’ll never forget, he knew this was a new beginning for him.

“I’m just more excited about my art and my life than I’ve ever been. I’m actually happy,” he said.

A selection of Lemermeyer’s photographs are on display at his exhibit, UP HIGH: The Healing Adventures of Photographer Robert Lemermeyer, at the Canmore Museum until Dec. 22.

“People tend to associate museums with very old-fashioned things and history and stuff like that, but Robert’s show really brings very contemporary images that we would have never seen even 50 years ago,” said Mary-Beth Laviolette, Canmore Museum curator.

The exhibit also showcases a short documentary by Ryan Armstrong, which tells Lemermeyer’s story in a visual way.


A post shared by Ryan Armstrong (@rda90)

Through Lemermeyer’s lens, he takes the viewer into the high alpine to share sights not easily seen in the Canadian Rockies

“There are no trees, there’s nothing standing in the way, it’s just you, the big sky and the big rocks,” said Lemermeyer. “That’s pretty inspiring to me, personally.”

Since he and his son, Yuri, began hiking together in 2017, they have checked off 130 mountains.

“When we are on a ridge, tears are going down my cheeks … I never loved photography this much,” said Lemermeyer.

“I’m not coming to Canmore pretending to be a hotshot Jimmy Chin or anything. This is just my story.”

He not only changed his perspective, but he’s also adjusted how he shoots images by taking the camera off the tripod and switching to a lighter camera and lens combination.

“Originally when I got into it, I wanted to do the tripod long exposure thing, but we’re always moving. It’s all handheld with a [Canon] 5D,” he said.

Lemermeyer prints all his photographs for the exhibit in small sections, piecing them together like a puzzle.

Rather than sending it to a lab with a large format printer, he uses the gear he already has at his home.

The alpine photographer plans on continuing his endeavours in the Rockies to experience more of what Canada has to offer.

“I’d love to go to Kazakhstan. I’d love to go to the Himalayas, but there’s so much to do in Canada that for the rest of my life, I’m going to focus on the Rockies,” he said. “(...) And not that I’m checking off all the mountains. It’s just the experiences.”

One way he plans on exploring local mountains is by doing Peak Week, which is an expedition to complete seven summits in seven days.

“It’s a nice way to raise money, do something for someone else and try to push the world forward in some way,” he said.

Last year, Lemermeyer, Yuri and Armstrong raised more than $17,000 for the Impact Society – a foundation for youth mental health. This summer he’s looking to raise $50,000.

“It’s the best week of the year. You’re really tired at the end, and you lose a bunch of weight, but, oh, God, it’s fun,” said Lemermeyer.

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