Jérôme TANON has been a snowboard photographer for the past 10 years. The self-taught Frenchman has long switched from digital to shooting solely on film with old cameras. His latest project, "Heroes", shines a light on women snowboarding with powerful black & white pictures. Following athletes such as Desirée Melancon, Nirvana Ortanez, Elena Graglia, Annie Boulanger, and plenty of others, he tried to capture the energy and talent coming from these amazing athletes.
We asked him a few questions to better understand his motivation and the process of shooting action pictures in analog.
Can you tell us what the “Heroes” project is in a few words?
It’s an ambitious artistic and photographic project that puts the spotlight on women snowboarders. The current level of exposure and support they’re getting is not on par with their talent and dedication for snowboarding. There had never been a photo project focused on women before, so that’s finally done!
You said that the place of women in snowboarding changed a lot during the past 25 years. What was the place of women in snowboarding 25 years ago? What about today?
I wasn’t there to witness it, but despite numerous incredible women pioneers such as Victoria Jaleouse, Tina Basich, Annie Boulanger and others, women were mostly seen in catalogs rather than in action shots. And that’s a shame, considering how talented they are. Now, magazines and brands are finally waking up and giving them more space in media and more budget to shoot video parts. But this shift is just beginning.
The crowdfunding campaign you launched to fund the project collected 22,000 euros, more than double what you requested (10,000€). Were you expecting this much support?
Secretly I was. Ha ha! The 10,000€ I asked for originally ended up falling short of the money needed for printing and, being a small freelance artist, this unexpected support was a real blessing. Big thank you to the snowboarding family!
What made you choose to shoot your project in analog? What was the toughest part of it?
Frankly, it was not even a choice; it was just obvious. I wanted historical icons, pictures that could depict women snowboarding, that one could hang in a museum, so picking a traditional method came naturally. I’m also very much passionate about working on those little pictures in my dark room, with my hands, the old-fashioned way. I only had a few sheets of this Adox photo paper, since its production stopped years ago. I only had 1 to 3 sheets per picture, which is a nearly impossible challenge since you might need up to 10 sheets to get a proper print. But I’m good at working under pressure, so I did my best.
Can you give more details on the process you used; from the moment you took the picture to the final print?
I snap the picture in medium size, so the focus is extremely precise, especially with the speed and blur that comes with action pictures. One snap only each time, of course. But that was the thrill of it: the pressure. Then, I worked on the negatives with a brush, ink and engraver points. I scratched and carved in the negatives to add texture and write the riders’ words and thoughts. I used a technique called “etching” to bring the pictures to their full potential; this is also a technique you can’t miss or the negatives are dead!
You took part in the Zabardast adventure, where you were following a crew. For the Heroes project, it was your idea, you were on your own. What did this change?
I was completely free but I had way less budget! I spent two years investing so much of my time and resources, and now it’s finally out! The images, text, and pieces of art that make Heroes are finally going to be shown to the public. That’s when the real start actually is: the release, the promotion, the exhibitions to set up. And Salomon was the only brand in the industry to take interest in my project and help me with a travel budget. Thank you Salomon!
The book is filled with artworks from the riders. How important was it for you to have them contribute?
It was crucial! All the riders have an artistic touch in them, some of them are even professional artists. It adds a lot to the book to have their work in it, too. It also brings more depth and color, since all my pics are in black and white.
Any exhibitions coming up?
Yes! At Art by Friends from October, 24th to November 5th in Annecy (Saomon’s home town), and you’re all welcome to join for the vernissage on the 24th at 7 p.m. Also at the Chambéry Mountain Film Festival in France from November 6th to 8th. I’m still looking for places that would welcome the exhibition, so if you know a guy who knows a guy, let me know! Thanks!
A final word?
Please buy the book! (here's the link to the book)
Photos by Jérôme TANON