( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Adventure L. Renee Blount is Using Her Skills in Photo and Film to Promote Going Outdoors
ENSPIRE Contributor: Alexandra Rivera
L. Renee Blount is a designer, creative strategist, adventurer, and storyteller. She graduated from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 2017. She is currently a consultant who loves creative strategy and visual storytelling, helping brands grow. She has worked with Elevation, Peak Designs, Outside Magazine, and many others.
Blount has been an ambassador for Chase, Backcountry, Miri, and more. She is the only black woman member of the elite National Geographic Adventure Team and is one of three black team members to date in the team’s history. There are very few women who get invited on the expeditions and for women of color, it is even rarer. She is licensed to shoot photography and film commercially and with her background in climbing which she started doing in college; she has become a great asset to the team on expeditions.
ENSPIRE talked with Blount about her job, and more.
What is it like being the only Black woman on the Nat Geo Adventure Team?
I feel really humbled and motivated. I am doing things with intention & sincerity that come from the soul. With storytelling, I can continually elevate & illuminate others. And there’s a lot of power in visibility. To be there is a push in the right direction, but also a reminder of obstacles to overcome.
The glory of one image may be many years and months in the making and an amalgamation of failed efforts. To adventure is honestly to recognize the amazing privilege to document. I definitely have to figure out how to do it with fewer resources and feeling far less safe in certain environments. I have to think about safety & access more than others as a woman of color, but I know I deserve to be there. I know there are many stories that need to be told. Nothing comes easy.
Many of my amazing opportunities lack funding. Although they are worth investing in, I have to figure out how to get funded in order for my path to be sustainable in the long run, which is a challenge. (That’s where some creatives have a zone of genius and long-standing connections. I hope it becomes a zone genius for me as well). I very much stay competitive amongst a seasoned group. There’s so much to illuminate, I know my POV is worthy and deserves a place.
How did you become interested in climbing and expeditions? And what has been your favorite expedition so far?
I didn’t get to play a ton of sports or camp growing up. I then went to a high school that didn’t have sports, but deeply concentrated on the arts, which was instrumental. College was the first time I got to camp, climb, and learn. I took climbing as a class and I just excelled at it. That was in 2011.
I kept climbing through graduate school and training for fun. Simply, it’s fun for me. It’s social and meditative. I love the grittiness & the laughter. I needed it to get through Harvard for sure.
On my vision board, I wrote down how I’d love to do big expeditions. I think so many adventurers of color have been overlooked. Beyond close-mindedness (and also racism), I think some famous explorers live in homogeneous places where they can put sport first (ex. Boulder, Salt Lake, Bozeman). When you’re a person of color, you tend to live in environments where you’re going to feel more welcomed first. So, we didn’t feel as invited to their circles and invitations were very rare.
So visiting Vietnam’s Son Doong cave was monumental for me. It’s the world’s largest cave. To see it, to capture it – the physicality as well as understanding the power of that visual, that I am now being invited after figuring out how to invite myself.
What are some ways you help brands grow through your consulting?
It’s about whimsy and ideating. It’s everything. I absolutely love being a creative & brand player behind the scenes. I started in creative strategy out of grad school in design in NYC working at super innovative firms. I really loved it. And I had a boss who believed I could consult on my own, which surprised me.
I study the brands, create insights & provoke them to think. I then try to challenge their thinking so we can open up new channels of thought. Sometimes I really work on rethinking their purpose to illuminate how their GTM could work. And then I can actually carry it out – capture & produce it.
Imagery is just an extension of a creative strategy for me that is much more downstream. I only got into it because I didn’t see what I knew the outdoors represented – because my friends and I were out there. Our flavor, our joys, our steeze. Honestly, the creative directing and concepting for me is really natural – it’s so similar to what I was doing already but just adding imagery. And I make it fun. In the coming year, I hope to take on public creative director (vs. opportunities that I cannot talk about because of NDAs) & creative ambassador roles, so I can talk about specifics and my involvement. That’s a big goal for me.
What is a brand you hope to work with in the future?
I’m very much open to staying experimental, but brands that are about being creatively minded while being generosity driven. If I’m the only person that wins, I’d consider it to be a fail. So, brands that share that ethos.
And brands that commit to being carbon neutral. Going to sensitive places, you can see changes. And I’m very much reminded of it with every trip.
I still very much love fashion and where adventure meets innovation – Tom Sachs, Salahe, Comme Des Garcon, Apple, EV (electric vehicle maker), Shinola, Moleskine, Oliver Peoples, and more with Cake Bikes. A carbon-sensitive airline would be huge as an adventurer photographer as well. Last, brands that are open to redefining Americana. I like wearing Stetsons & denim too.
Do you know what your next expedition/ adventure is going to be?
Yes. LOL. Stay tuned for work with Ikon Pass and other cool brands when I’m able to share more. In the meantime, I am working on creating some rad experiences that make the outdoors more accessible to underrepresented groups. My goal is to introduce the freedom it can offer and encourage everyone to try it.
Blount is a driven and creative individual whose goal is to help brands grow while also moving into helping underrepresented communities have more access to experiences outdoors. Similar experiences to how she found her passion for climbing back in 2011. Follow Blount on Instagram for more adventures!
Check Out Blount’s Adventure in Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave!