For almost two years, snowboard industry photographer Jérôme Tanon has traveled the world with the best female snowboarders in the sport.
Some, like the American Jamie Anderson and the Austrian Anna Gasser, are Olympic gold medalists. Others live outside the competitive circuit, choosing to film games or simply follow the fresh powder around the world.
But they all have a story to tell, and in his new photographic art book Heroes: women on snowboards (ACC Art Books), now available, Tanon gives them the space to do just that, in their own words, alongside his stunning photographs.
Tanon, who grew up in Paris and learned to ski and snowboard in the mountains of France, has been a snowboard photographer since 2007.
But it was not always his way; he was studying math and physics but spent every moment he could traveling on glaciers with his snowboarding friends. They were “much better than me,” Tanon laughs, so he started to focus his attention more on photographing his friends’ exploits.
“Some of those friends later became some of the best snowboarders in the world, and photographing them and traveling with them for the first few years, that’s how it started,” Tanon told me. “Studying seemed really unnecessary compared to real life, being there, traveling, being with friends. I was like, ‘If I can find a way to make a living out of snowboarding photos, then that would be ideal.’ “
Early in the industry, sleeping in the car, going to any event or session he was invited to, Tanon photographed the closest subjects: his male snowboarder friends.
Over the past few years, however, he has come to realize just how lopsided the industry – his own photography included – when it comes to photographs, magazine editorials and movies about 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, we made no effort to try to have more girls on the sets. We were just going to shoot whoever’s here, and who’s here and who had the sponsors to be on these sets were the boys.
Tanon decided to make a drastic change: for the next two years he would only photograph female photographers, following them around the world as they traveled for photoshoots and events – some with the support of major paying sponsors. everything, others barely able to afford the plane ticket.
“[Photographers] are just a small piece of the puzzle, ”Tanon said. “Brands, brand managers, marketing managers and the riders themselves have all evolved” to give more opportunities to women in the industry.
Armed with his Pentax 6×7 medium format (with fixed lens and manual focus), Tanon has traveled to places as far away as Laax, Switzerland; Whistler BC, Canada; Salt Lake City; Helsinki, Finland; Chamonix, France and more to document women doing what they do best. The private sessions covered the streets, trails, backcountry and park.
Perhaps his favorite filming location was Helsinki.
“There is this ecosystem of snowboarders in Helsinki in winter; it’s a city snowpark, ”said Tanon. “The team of girls I was with was fantastic. How much passion they had and how much dedication to trying again, especially in the streets, and falling every time – it reminded me exactly of the sessions I did when I was younger. There’s no one else but us, we don’t have professional resources, but we have our friends and a tight-knit team and that’s all you really need. It reminded me of the good old days and the importance of what we do.
Earning the trust of women and becoming their friend gave her access to stories that had never been told before in any magazine or article. Many snowboarders are also artists themselves, and the book makes room for their art as well as their words.
Contributors to the book 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 Boulangeron, Alexis Roland, Zoë Vernier , 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, athlete essays are not profiles or interviews, but written in the women’s own words. “I have had the privilege of touring with many women’s teams over the years, it has always inspired me and made me so happy to be a woman in a male dominated sport,” Anderson writes. “… All the women in this book are my heroes.”
“We didn’t know how – and it’s a general trend in any sport – when you give them a chance and the means to do what they love, you realize how epic it gets,” said Tanon.
Tanon also holds an art exhibition of book prints in Chamonix, France during the holidays. He hopes to bring the show to the United States, but Covid-19 restrictions and the needs of sponsors currently make it difficult.
Heroes: women on snowboards (288 pages, 9.8 x 11.92, hardcover, $ 50) is now available from ACC Art Books.