Media Release

For immediate release
April 13, 2006

Banff Mountain Speakers’ Series hosts a look inside the world’s most spectacular caves

Stephen Alvarez: Under the Map – Wednesday, May 3 – 7:30 p.m.
Max Bell Auditorium, The Banff Centre – Exhibition opens 7 p.m.
Tickets: $8 at the door – Free for Mountain Culture members
For information: 1-800-413-8368 or 403-762-6301

In 2004, photographer Stephen Alvarez was awarded a Banff Centre Mountain Grant for a project that took him deep underground with his camera. He descended into some of the deepest vertical pit caves in Mexico and the United States to photograph a little-seen world — the sheer cliffs that drop into Mexico’s Golondrinas pit, the 600 feet of striated wall that sink into Ellison’s Cave in Georgia, and the rugged underground of Belize’s Cebada Cave.

On May 3, Alvarez will open an exhibition of his cave photographs with a Banff Mountain Speakers’ Series lecture on the experience of climbing into and capturing the subterranean world. “My work is about the unknown wonders of the world,” Alvarez says. “The views are often hidden until photographed, but breathtaking when revealed.”

With a home in Tennessee, Alvarez grew up near some of the continent’s most extensive cave systems, interlocking caverns like Mammoth that extend for hundreds of miles underneath the earth’s surface. He photographed many of the more remote sites in well-known caves close to home, and branched out into spectacular underground sites all over the world. He took his camera into the world’s deepest cave, Krubera in the Caucasus, followed speleologists in Sarawak on the island of Borneo, captured the spotlight of sunshine that illuminates part of Oman’s Maljis al Jinn, and trekked into the longest cave in Central America, Chiquibul in Belize.

“There are few stretches of terra incognito, those blank places left on the map,” he says. “It seems that it has all been done. To meet this challenge, I have been photographing the blank places underneath the map. There are still caves that no one else has walked in before, in fact scores of them, and many are spectacular.”

Since 1991, Alvarez’ work has taken him on expeditions around the world, specializing in stories about indigenous cultures, exploration, endangered places, and archeology. His work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Time, Adventure, Outside, Men’s Journal, Delta Sky, and Travel Holiday, and his commercial clients include Toyota and Patagonia. Currently, he continues to work on a series of photographs shot in southern Sudan and Uganda. He lives on the fringe of the Appalachian range in Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau district.

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Print-ready, downloadable image from Under the Map

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