Jimmy Chin, man behind Oscar-winning documentary 'Free Solo', visits Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Film director and adventure photographer Jimmy Chin is a master of suspense.

He won an Oscar for the documentary 'Free Solo,' but his path to the top was one he didn't even plan.

Chin's parents were understandably worried when he took a year off after college to enjoy the outdoors. One year became five.

He ended up living in his car for seven years while climbing in Yosemite and other places.

But Chin's thirst for adventure has allowed him to see the world.

He doesn't find photography interesting unless the stakes are high.

"When we watch 'Free Solo' obviously it takes our breath away. When you watch it, is it with a more critical eye knowing how difficult to get some of these shots and how dangerous some of those shots were? Well yeah, I mean I've watched it so many times I'm kind of immune to it but you know what I do enjoy watching is the audience watching the movie. It's kind of meta but I get a lot more satisfaction watching people watch the movie," he says.

People packed into the sold-out Saroyan Theater to hear Chin's story.

For 20 years, he's flown into Fresno on his way to Yosemite.

Chin lives to tell stories of human potential. He forged his career path doing the things he loved. Climbing, skiing and taking unforgettable photos which he learned companies would pay for.

88-year-old George Whitmore of Fresno got the town hall started. In 1958 this climbing pioneer was part of the first group to scale El Capitan.

"We had no idea that particular climb would become known around the world. People come from everywhere to climb that route," Whitman said.

Alex Honnold is the only man to free solo El Capitan - no ropes, no safety gear.

The documentary 'Free Solo' earned Jimmy Chin an Academy award.

"How has winning an Oscar changed your life? Well, there's a lot more opportunity but in some ways, it hasn't changed my life at all because I'm still the same person," he said.

Chin met with local honor students and helped give away a new camera.
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.