Bouchra Baibanou, a software engineer from Rabat, is working her way toward being the first Moroccan to summit the highest point on each of the world’s continents, known as the “7 Summits”. She hopes to use this project to continue inspiring young Moroccans to rise up and accomplish their goals. To date she has currently summitted: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Aconcagua, Mt. Blanc, Mt. Kosciuszko, Mt. McKinley (Denali), Puncak Jaya, Mt. Everest. She has her sights set on Mt. Vinson for the end of 2018. Bouchra also runs boot camps for young women and girls in Morocco – helping them build self-confidence and empowerment through the outdoors and trekking. She is a force of nature, changing perceptions in Morocco and bringing about greater gender equality through mountaineering and adventure sports.
In October, I visited Bouchra in her home in Rabat to continue documenting her journey as part of my Women Rising project. This project documents women using adventure sports, adventure travel, and the outdoors to promote gender equality and change perspectives on what women can accomplish.
I've been documenting Bouchra's journey the past few years through photos, audio interviews and podcasts. You can follow this project here, read my interviews, listen to the podcasts and look at the photos.
My October portrait shoot of Bouchra was to document her recent completion of Mt. Everest (becoming the first Moroccan woman to summit this mountain) and her upcoming journey to Antarctica to climb Mt. Vinson (she will be the first Moroccan to summit all 7 Summits). In December she traveled to Antarctica to climb Mt. Vinson.
During my visit, Bouchra and I discussed her recent successful climb of Mt. Everest, her upcoming climb of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica (which would be her final summit for the 7 Summits project) and what has motivated her to tackle this multi-year project. In this portrait shoot I wanted to capture both Bouchra the climber and Bouchra the woman - both of whom are strong and determined. These photographs document the success of her Mt. Everest climb and the beginning of her next journey - embarking on the last leg of this project - climbing Mt. Vinson.
Whatever the outcome - Bouchra reminded me that's its the journey which matters most. When I asked her what's her biggest advice for anyone tackling a hard project - she said to simply believe in yourself and your dream.
My vision for this shoot was to capture photos of Bouchra in an intimate setting - her home. Often mountaineers are portrayed in their climbing environments, out in the mountains. But with this portrait shoot I wanted to strip away the armor of the climber and their gear. Instead, showing the woman underneath and her personal strength and fortitude. For non-climbers, there can be a distance or disconnect when thinking of mountaineers. What mountaineers accomplish can see out of reach, almost super human. What amazes me about Bouchra is she is the exact opposite - she is warm, personable, down to earth, and an "ordinary person" who accomplishes extraordinary things through simple determination, patience and perseverance.
You can view more of the photos from this shoot and read more about her adventures on Mt. Everest, how she is bringing about gender equality and empowering women in Morocco and her upcoming climbing of Mt. Vinson here.