May 23, 2024


Super Art is Almost

Women In Snowboarding’ Is Intimate Look At Top Female Snowboarders

For almost two years, snowboarding industry photographer Jérôme Tanon traveled the world with the best female snowboarders in the game.

Some, like the United States’ Jamie Anderson and Austria’s Anna Gasser, are Olympic gold medalists. Others live outside the competition circuit, choosing to film parts or just follow fresh powder around the world.

But they all have a story to tell, and in his new photography art book Heroes: Women in Snowboarding (ACC Art Books), out now, Tanon gives them space to do just that, in their own words, alongside his stunning photography.

Tanon, who grew up in Paris and learned to ski and snowboard in the mountains of France, has been a snowboarding photographer since 2007.

But that wasn’t always his path; he was studying mathematics and physics but spending every moment he could traveling to glaciers with his snowboarder friends. They were “so much better than me,” Tanon says with a laugh, so he began focusing more of his attention on photographing his friends’ exploits.

“Some of these friends later became some of the best snowboarders in the world, and shooting them and traveling with them the first few years, that’s how it started,” Tanon told me. “Studying seemed really pointless compared to the true life, being out there, traveling, being with the friends. I thought, ‘If I can find a way to make a living out of snowboard photos, then that would be the ideal.’”

As he got his start in the industry—sleeping in the car, traveling to any event or session to which he was invited—Tanon photographed the subjects closest at hand: his male snowboarder friends.

In the last few years, however, he realized how off-balance the industry was—his own photography included—when it came to photographs, magazine editorials and films on female snowboarders.

“I was part of the problem, in a way,” Tanon said. “With my friends and snowboarders, and with other photographers, European and American ones, we didn’t put any effort in trying to have more girls in the shootings. We were just going to shoot whoever is here, and who is here and who had the sponsors to be on those shootings were the boys.”

Tanon decided to make a radical shift: for the next couple years, he would shoot only female photographers, following them around the world as they traveled for shoots and events—some of them with major sponsor backing paying for everything, some of them barely able to afford the plane ticket.

“[Photographers] are just one little piece of the puzzle,” Tanon said. “The brands, the brand managers, the marketing directors, and the riders themselves have all evolved” to give women more opportunities in the industry.

Armed with his medium format Pentax 6×7 (with a fixed lens and manual focus), Tanon traveled to such far-flung locales as Laax, Switzerland; Whistler BC, Canada; Salt Lake City; Helsinki, Finland; Chamonix, France and more to document the women doing what they do best. The private sessions spanned the streets, the slopes, the backcountry and the park.

Perhaps his favorite location to shoot was Helsinki.

“There’s this ecosystem of snowboarders in Helsinki in the wintertime; it’s a city snowpark,” Tanon said. “The girl crew I was with were fantastic. How much passion they had and how much dedication to try again try again try again, especially in the streets, and take a fall every single time—it reminded me exactly the sessions I was doing when I was younger. There’s no one else but us, we don’t have professional means, but we have our friends and a tight crew and that’s all you really need. It reminded me of the good old days and the importance of what we do.”

Gaining the women’s trust and becoming their friend allowed him to access stories that have never been told before in any magazine or article. Many of the female snowboarders are also artists themselves, and the book makes space for their art as well as their words.

The book’s contributors include Estelle Pensiero, Robin Van Gyn, Mary Walsh, Crystal Legoffe, Marie-France Roy, Leanne Pelosi, Nirvana Ortanez, Desiree Melancon, Marion Haerty, Kaisa Lemley, Morgan Anderson, Sarah King, Elena Graglia, Melissa Riitano, Ylfa Runarsdottir, Elena Könz, Ivika Jürgenson, Naima Antolin, Ylfa Rúnarsdóttir, Christy Prior, Jessa Gilbert, Tina Jeler, Natasza Zurek, Anna Gasser, Hana Beaman, Jamie Anderson, Laurie Blouin, Leila Iwabuchi, Annie Boulanger, Alexis Roland, Zoë Vernon, Mia Brookes, Sina Candrian, Klaudia Medlova, Natacha Rottier, Christina “Pika” Burtner, Alicia Gilmour, Margot Rozies, Hannah Eddy and Zoi Sadowski-Synnnott.

Snowboard Magazine editor-in-chief Mary Walsh provided the book’s preface.

In a rarity, the athlete essays are not profiles or interviews, but written in the women’s own words. “I had the privilege of shooting with lots of girl crews over the years, it always inspired me, and made me so stoked to be a woman in a male-dominated sport,” Anderson writes. “…All the women in this book are my heroes.”

“We didn’t realize how—and this is a general trend in any sport—when you a give them a chance and the means to do what they love, you realize how epic it becomes,” Tanon said.

Tanon is also holding an art show of the book’s prints in Chamonix, France, through the holidays. He hopes to bring the show to the United States, but Covid-19 restrictions and sponsor needs are currently making it difficult.

Heroes: Women in Snowboarding (288 pages, 9.8 x 11.92, hardcover, $50) is out now from ACC Art Books.