First Friday: Jérôme Tanon, Part II
When we began to come up with interview questions for Jérôme Tanon, we had some issues. This guy is almost too interesting — his style, his work, his passion for both photography and snowboarding; essentially, we had too many questions, and too little web-space. Tanon is easily one of the most intriguing, inspiring photographers in snowboarding; to condense his insights and talents into a simply one story is impossible. So, we decided to do a double feature on Jerome— a veritable double header of jaw dropping photographs.
For First Friday round two, Tanon gives us a behind-the-scenes look at exactly what it takes to create such unique work — the camera, the film, the process, as well as the story behind how he became the renowned photog he is today— how he got involved with the Absinthe crew for example, and his favorite moment behind the lens.
At the risk of sounding redundant, one final thought: Jérôme Tanon is an artist by every standard, and his work serves as a pristine example of how snowboarding seems to breed creative talent. That’s enough rambling. After all, Tanon’s work truly speaks for itself.
How did you get your start in photography?
It was around 2007, I was riding a lot my local snowpark with my friends. I started shooting digi while doing hiking expeditions in the mountains, I remember my father got me a nikon D50 for my birthday so I learned with that.
What is your favorite type of camera? Film?
I don’t have a strongly preferred camera. It’s good to shoot film because you can have tons of different cameras for cheap. I love to shoot with the Pentax 6×7 though, it has a magnificent view in the finder, a nice sound and a feeling to it. Film wise I use all kinds, mostely B&W, Ilford HP5 and films similar to it like Rollei RPX.
Can you walk us through the process?
After this I have to scan all my rolls to see what I have in there. I put the strips in the scanner and digitalize them, then select the good ones, contrast, work and undust in Photoshop. I basically dodge, burn and contrast. I’m trying to make moves I know I could pretty much do just as well with my hands when I’ll be in the darkroom later. I do it as fast as possible between two trips and work out on the computer during the next trip, this way I can send photos to the riders and the magazines on time for the deadline of spring. When I have extra time at home and when the season ends, I choose my favorite negatives and take them to the darkroom do make the real prints.
How many prints of each shot do you make?
In the lab I define what technique, paper and chemistry I’m going to use for the print, and go for it. Sometimes the first sheet comes out perfect but most of the time it’s more complicated than that and it takes up to 7 or 8 sheets to get to where I want to be, if I succeed. Especially with the Lith technique which gives incredible grain and contrast when done in certain ways and when you’re lucky, but is very hard to control from one sheet to another.
Where is your dark room?
A couple blocks from my apartment in Annecy. It belongs to the local photo club but I’m the only user of the lab, so it feels like mine.
Have you ever done a photo show?
I’ve done a few yes- in shops, venues, on snowboard events and such. It’s great to listen to people’s point of views on your photos hung on the wall and discuss about it. If you take a photo it’s because you would like people to see it I guess. If they can see it with their own eyes it’s obviously better than through a screen. I address a message to people around the world, if ever they wish to exhibit some of my stuff I’ll be glad to come!
What would you say was your favorite shoot of all time? (Who, when, where, why?)
Arg! Very tricky question, not one shot pops out when I think of it. Since it’s in that portfolio I could point that picture of Matt Schaer’s blood spots because it tells a lot about the reality of snowboarding. It’s not an action shot but to me it tells a lot about the passion people have in snowboarding. The framing is well balanced (even though I should have put the kicker a bit further from the top border, but it’s a very tiny detail), it produces a direct link between the blood and the kicker. It was in Riksgransen with Absinthe on a big windlip gap called Trevor’s stepdown because Trevor Andrew opened the spot a while ago. It’s in a desert of windlips all the way to the horizon, accessed by hours of sledding around frozen lakes and hills. Matt went too short on a backside 540, caught the lip real bad and slammed his head on his knee, cutting his tongue almost in half. He stood up, rode down slowely to the flat holding his mouth, stopped for a while to bleed out and just walked out of there towards a sled to sit down. We made sure he was gonna be ok (a few days and stiches later he was), I approched his board and snapped the photo. His absence from the frame forces the reader to think and imagine what happened there. I’m lucky to have shot this one because it doesn’t happend that often in a season (hopefully for them) and when it does you’r usually too far away to get intimately close to the scene. But you should know that this shot has never been picked up by any magazine, so maybe I’m the only one who loves it!
How did you get involved with shooting the Absinthe Crew?
When I was younger David Vladyka called me once for a short session in the french Alps not too far from my home, after he saw some of my photos here and there and needed a photo dude for a few days. We had a good time and he kept calling me up since then, so I did many absinthe trips, mostely with him as a filmer.
What is the coolest experience you’ve had working with them?
It’s not hard to find, this winter I joined them in Alaska for a heli mission (my first one up there) in an amazing new zone that they had fought for years to get a permit. We had two crews with 7 or 8 riders total, slept in RV’s alone on the side of a road and flew around incredibly beautiful mountains, opened virgin faces, documented the riding talent of the boys who where with us. The hole trip was an awesome experience, intense and adventurous.
Looking forward, where do you want to take your photography? Is photographing snowboarding something you’d like to continue doing for a long time?
For sure ! I hope I can keep going on for a long time. When I look back on my past seasons and the photos I took, all I see is the potential for making better photos, documenting better, more, and since snowboarding keeps evolving every year, with new riders, new styles, new tricks, new video projects, it’s neverending. I’d like to get better at it, snap more lifestyles and portraits to tell about the very diverse lifestyles in snowboarding, capture more beautiful tricks and stories. Technically I want to continue to explore the techniques of photography to keep on finding new process ideas every year, it helps me to stay a bit creative. Also, I’d like to get closer to the emotions that bring snowboarding, but that’s by far the most hard.