One of the world’s most respected and accomplished extreme location cinematographers and filmmakers, Keith speaks of his life behind the lens.
As a specialist adventure-cinematographer, filmmaker and author, Keith Partridge continues to push the limits of television, cinema and media production while filming at the ‘Ends of the Earth’. His career of over 30 years has taken him on over 80 extreme-location film assignments, to all 7 continents and to the harshest and most specular places on Earth; from the Summit of Everest and the South Pole to uncharted cave systems deep in Papua New Guinea, the world’s most iconic mountain faces and first ascents of mountains and cliffs in Oman, Greenland and the ‘Lost Worlds’ of Venezuela. He has spent time filming with remote tribes in Papua new Guinea, the Amazon and with with the ‘Eagle Hunters’ in Mongolia to name a few.
You will probably have seen his work but not him.
Throughout his personal journey he has had to probe his own personal limits and mindset in order to cast away almost overwhelming self-doubt. Just completing one of his many expeditions would be challenging enough but adding the complexity of filming elevates the escapade to a whole new level. Understanding the challenge ahead, setting yourself up to succeed and taking a stepped approach to problem solving while relishing the play of the team have been critical for success. Against the odds, when things rarely run smooth, it’s sometimes easier to adapt and go-on than give-up. For most of his professional life he has had to navigate a pathway through the uncertainty of adventure. He has learnt to live and to succeed within the unknown.
Keith resigned from his full-time job with the BBC to follow a dream of being able to film in the wild places. Selling everything he owned seems like a high-risk strategy but he knew that the only way to realise the dream was to be fully committed. Now out of a job and after answering an advert on a climbing shop’s notice-board, he found himself on a 2-person Winter expedition to Europe’s largest icecap – the 8500 km2 Vatnajokull in SE Iceland.
He returned two years later to co-lead a team where in the first 19 days they experienced 14 days of blizzard and ferocious storms. They often felt lucky to survive. But the lessons learnt were to play a pivotal role in the launching of Keith’s adventure filmmaking career.
Partridge has since worked on dozens of cutting-edge climbing films and mountain documentaries. He was also invited to be the specialist cinematographer on the ground-breaking film ‘Touching The Void’. This went on to win the BAFTA Outstanding British Film Award. What followed was an avalanche of documentaries and feature films for the world’s major broadcasters and movie companies where passion, determination, skill and the ability to thrive in the most preposterous of situations become the ‘norm’ and where a sense of humour became a vital piece of personal equipment.
Over his long career Keith has transferred his adventurous mindset and skillset to other theatres of operation. His first caving expedition, with a team of world-class cave explorers, was to the committing Mageni system deep beneath the rain forests of Papua New Guinea. As they pushed into unknown passages filled with raging, white-water torrents and powerful waterfalls there was no room for error or panic. Keith always had a camera in hand, focussed on capturing the action, as has become his trade-mark. Next were expeditions into the world’s biggest cave, Han Song Doong in Vietnam and onto others in Slovenia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Keith is passionate about taking the camera into the heart of those stories of self-discovery and challenge, intertwined with cutting-edge science, the natural world and history.
In May 2012, Partridge reached the summit of Mount Everest while producing inspirational media content for Samsung. Alongside mountaineer Kenton Cool, they fulfilled 90 years of Everest history and 88 years of Olympic history by delivering a 1924 Gold medal to the summit in the run up to the London 2012 games. Keith subsequently carried the Olympic Torch the day before the games opened. He has received an ‘International EMMY for cinematography’ for his work on the BBC’s flagship series ‘The Human Planet’, the Guild of Television Camera Professional’s ‘Award for Excellence’ for the filming of exploratory expedition in the heart of Venezuela and the International Explorers Festival ‘Camera Extreme Award’ for his work on ‘Touching the Void’. Other productions in which he’s been involved have won dozens of international film awards. In 2019 he was awarded the ‘Grand Prize’ for his contribution to mountain filmmaking from the worldwide International Alliance of Mountain Film. He has worked alongside some of the world’s most respected and accomplished adventurers, naturalists and scientists.
His cross-genre work has been shown on the BBC, Disney+, National Geographic, Netflix, Discovery, Channel 4, C5, ITV, Pathe Films, and 20th Century Fox.
He has lectured on filmmaking to the Royal Television Society, HFF in Berlin, ZeLig Documentary Film School in Italy, BAFTA, International Conferences, and the Royal Geographical Society among many others. In a training capacity, he works as a visiting Professor with the Universities of Cumbria and the West of Scotland. He also co-leads the Adventure Filmmakers’ Workshop as part of the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Canada.
Written articles have appeared in many of the UK’s climbing and outdoor magazines and his book ‘The Adventure Game’, charting his experiences in filming at the ends of the earth was published in June 2015 and won the Jury Award at the prestigious Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.