I met Chris Goplerud at Rifle during a photo shoot, when I asked him to spray Josh Wharton in the face with a Super Soaker.
“It would be my pleasure,” said Goplerud, whose nicknames (Gopledanger, Gople Dude and G-Money) are as diverse and eccentric as he is. “This will be payback for all of the times Josh dragged me to the Black Canyon.”
After G-Money, sporting his wide grin, drenched Josh without mercy, he checked out the shots on my camera and offered surprisingly apt critiques of how to improve them. Though at the time I thought Goplerud’s feedback was merely a ploy to hose Josh again, in fact it was expert advice from an ex-professional commercial photographer, with clients as large as L.L. Bean. The more I asked, the more I learned that Goplerud’s photographic expertise was only the beginning of his extraordinary background in which he has mastered skills in music, carpentry, skiing and climbing.
For 44 years, Goplerud has played drums, a passion he developed in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, at the age of 8.
“When I was growing up, music played constantly in my house,” he says. “Everyone in my family plays an instrument. My brother is a well-respected composer, and a great bass player who works at Julliard. He turned me on to the players and tradition of jazz.”
As a student in 1975, he majored in music performance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Goplerud started climbing with his friends at the VCU outing club, toproping bridge pillars on the James River in their hiking boots, and taking weekend trips to Seneca Rocks, in West Virginia. His passion for climbing took him to Jackson Hole, where he worked as a ski guide and a musician, playing all types of gigs in many genres. By 1978, Goplerud, then 21, landed in Colorado and over the last decade has mainly focused on developing new bouldering at Independence Pass and Unaweep Canyon and in his beloved hometown of Redstone, where, in a typical show of grit, he has worked one move on one project for a solid two years.
Listening to G-Money talk about music is fascinating, but hearing him play is flooring. During this photo shoot, he set up his drum kit and fired out a rad two-hour performance despite his recently broken foot, sustained while courting a new girlfriend whose passion is wild dirt-bike rides. He has played internationally for audience members that have included the Clintons and B.B. King.
“The gigs are always different. One night Robert De Niro is in the audience, and the next night you’re playing for six drunks in a dive bar. It’s always good, it’s always music, you play from the heart.”
This shoot took place during the Rock and Ice photo camp (see feature on page 46). Keith Ladzinski, the clinic instructor, showed each student how he sets up and shoots the portraits that appear in this column. To see the students’ shots of G-Money, please log on to www.rockandice.com/gmoney.