Photographer Ben Moon Follows Up Denali Film With New Memoir

The book follows the photographer’s journey of illness, companionship and survival.

WORDS Jordan Blumetti
January 2020

Will Stanhope dangles by one arm while climbing “Passport to Insanity” in the Grampians, Australia. / Courtesy Ben Moon

Ben Moon was photographing a big-wave surfing contest in 2010 when he was pitched off the back of a jet ski into 50-foot surf a mile off the Oregon coast. After battling mountains of whitewater for an hour, he finally made it to shore. “You have no choice but to stay calm,” he says. “I was not in control.”

The source of his calm that day was the fact that he’d faced death before. In 2004, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and endured a harrowing recovery. “You can only focus on what’s in front of you: the next move, the next treatment,” he says. “You have to believe something is possible that seems impossible.”

Ben Moon and Denali in Indian Creek, Utah, in 2002. / Photography by Lisa Hensel

Moon, who made his name as a photographer specializing in surfing and rock climbing action, chronicles these stories and others in his new memoir, Denali (out Jan. 14). The book’s roots go back to 2015, when he captured the hearts of the internet with the release of his short film Denali—an elegy for his beloved pit-bull-husky mix, who comforted him through his devastating illness. He returned the favor when Denali himself declined from cancer and eventually passed away. “He did so much for me,” he says. “I was going to be there for him no matter what.”

After the film, Moon chose to dive even deeper with the book. “I knew I had to be really vulnerable to help others who might be experiencing something similar,” he says. Without spoiling the ending, Moon has recovered, adapting to life after a colostomy. He also has a new companion: a sprightly rescue named Nori.


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