In a world full of over-sensitized, manicured imagery, this photographer’s work stands out. His portfolio is beautifully raw and gritty. There’s no posing or redoes. No fake moments. No reading between the lines. What you see is what you get. And what you get is very real.
Born and raised in Lander, Wyoming, Jeremiah “Miah” Watt had a strict religious upbringing, in which even the slightest mix-up resulted in a “church event.” His parents told him he’d never go to college and he wasn’t allowed to rock climb. Meanwhile, Miah pored over National Geographic and Powder magazines, dreaming of adventures in faraway places.
At 21, working in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he was accepted to Black Hills State University, and began climbing. Late in his college career he traveled to Ashford, Washington for a marketing internship with Summits Adventure Travel. Shortly after, his life changed as a more transient, adventurous lifestyle became a new, viable reality.
“I watched as the guides had amazing experiences and traveled all over the world,” Miah said. “While I was sitting in a small windowless room attempting to sell people trips that others were being paid to take.”
So Miah returned to college. But rather than finish his last year, he dropped his 21-credit class load and picked up one 3-credit photography course. “I went from the Dean’s List to almost losing my financial aid,” Miah said.
Drawing on inspiration from childhood magazines, he pursued photography as a means of documenting a more adventurous lifestyle. After shooting on and off for several years while also working the odd job —bartender, ski patroller, air medical dispatcher — Miah and his wife learned they’d be having a son. It was then that Miah realized he needed a solid, steady income. So, he pushed his images to larger companies, often working on spec and sending in photo submissions.
Because “authenticity” is a word tossed around and around in marketing and advertising, it eventually loses its meaning. Photoshoots and content creation become contrived versions of what would have been spontaneous human moments and stories. But what separates Miah’s work from the rest is his bread and butter: capturing and sharing with the world off-the-cuff, unscripted experiences. And all it takes is one look at his portfolio — including barbershop scenes in the Middle East to first ascents in Utah — to know Miah’s style to be true.
“If you have to prepare something to make it worthy of being photographed, is it really worthy of a photograph?” Miah said. “I love showing the raw beauty of things like travel, fly fishing, and climbing.”
To make these images possible, Miah pursues a creative storyteller approach to photography. By being a person involved in the adventure at hand, rather than someone looking from the outside in, the photographer is able to capture candid moments that would otherwise be lost in time.
“I love immersing myself in the adventure. I come away with more compelling imagery by falling into an experience with a camera and coming out on the other side being changed or having a new perspective,” Miah said. “It’s way different than just taking one-off pictures.”
Now, Miah’s photographs can be seen in print and are used for marketing and advertising throughout the outdoor industry. Past and current clients include Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Yeti, Jaybird, Eddie Bauer, Rab, Petzl, Black Diamond, and Mountain Hardwear, among others.
And to get to this point, Miah says, takes resilience, drive, and focus. Without a combination of the three, it’s unlikely to make it in the industry. Sure, a good eye and technical skills are crucial. But it’s difficult to get anywhere if you easily give up, take no for an answer, or lose sight of long-term goals.
“I was always told you couldn’t ‘make it’ as a photographer,” Miah said. “But, similar to any worthwhile objective, it takes focus and commitment, and, with a little luck, it all starts to pay off.”
All images are used with the permission of Jeremiah Watt.