Interview: Theo Acworth
Photos: Jérôme Tanon
A project two years in the making, Jerome Tanon's Heroes’ is a celebration of women in snowboarding, and is one of the first bodies of photographic work that is dedicated to the passion and drive of female riders across the world. It’s not just made up of his photographs though, the book is also filled with their words, stories, and artwork, and is as much theirs as it is his.
THE JÉRÔME TANON INTERVIEW
What was your intention when you started this project?
I was feeling really sad to not have any epic photos of girls in my archives, so I set up the project to finally make it happen. I had to put aside other projects and focused solely on women snowboarding for the 2019 and 2020 winter seasons. I wanted to capture banger action shots and meaningful lifestyles to build a body of work that would prove how sick girls are at snowboarding. That was the intention at the start, but it quickly became much more than this.
So it turned into something different from what you’d planned?
I became more and more passionate about it because I discovered a sub-culture full of dedicated riders, usually with no budget whatsoever, who were frantically going out to shred and get clips. I could tell right away that it meant so much to them. Their stories and their passion was so powerful that I had to dive deeper and tell a larger story. That’s when it grew into a book project and eventually art shows.
What’s the deal with your printing process and paper?
First I draw, paint, and etch onto my precious negatives. I wrote stuff in accordance to what the girls were thinking when the photo was taken. Then in the darkroom the so-called “Lith” process is a beast to tame, giving high contrast but unpredictable results. It involves weird developer chemicals and works only with a very few silver-gelatin papers still available in the world. The one paper I used for its beautiful sepia tone and texture has been out of production for the last decade or more. I bought the entire remaining stock 5 years prior from eBay, just in case. So at every step of the process I was definitely deep in the “no miss” zone.
Did you notice a difference in the vibe compared to shooting with guys?
Yeah. They are tighter. They support each other even more. They feel for each other. When a badass trick is landed, it’s almost like it’s landed by the whole community. Besides that, it’s pretty much the same you know? You go out, you shovel all day, then you eat shit. But I met very different kinds of riders, from lonesome sponsorless freeriders and teenage parkrats, to established pro figures and Olympic medal collectors. Every shade of it, and still, I was struck by their sense of community.
Any particularly memorable or standout shoots from the last two years?
So many really, but exploring the Whistler backcountry on sleds with Marie-France, Robin Van Gyn & Leanne Pelosi was crazy. It was like a Euro kid’s dream came true. Also the Ms.Superpark shoot in Colorado was insane, and I got to shred with the girls a lot. Then I followed Desiree Melancon & Nirvana Ortanez hitting street spots across Utah & Quebec and loved it. So many good memories, made even more vivid by the fact that I felt like I was doing something important, which really had to be done. Seriously man, I love these girls.
I know there were a few, but what was the heaviest slam that you saw?
Without a doubt Elena Graglia’s scorpion on a rail to bank to gap in Helsinki. Nobody really understood what happened but she fell in the gap head first and her back cracked big time, you know, with that nasty sound. She was knocked-out, thinking her back was broken, and the crew was stressing out for her. The ambulance came and in the end she turned out to be fine and needed only a couple of weeks rest.
You went pretty much all in on this one in terms of budget, how did you feel when your Kickstarter reached its goal in less than 3 days?
So happy! That feeling of community kicked in real hard. It’s all a big family thing, snowboarding. I felt relieved too because without it I didn’t have the cash to get the book printed. So now it’s not my book anymore, it’s everyones! I had worked pretty hard to make it work too, to make the prints and get the design started with Matt Georges, to prepare the campaign. Glad it wasn’t for nothing, now I’m able to get 2000 copies printed!
What did you learn along the way?
That snowboard has still a long bright future ahead. These young talents, so filled with passion and good spirit, are not gonna stop in front of any wall. With male and female snowboarding tighter together with every passing season, always finding a side-track to reinvent itself, finding new ways of riding and new tricks to try. They are building new ways to connect snowboarding to other sports & lifestyles, making it even richer.
What are the next steps for you with this project?
Spreading it as much as I can! Have signing sessions with the book in board stores, doing big photo-shows in cities with fine art prints, also in ski-resorts. If you think you can help in any way, contact me! I aim at selling those 2000 copies too. As of today I haven’t seen the final book printed so I’m excited like a kid before Christmas.
Shoutout to Mary Walsh for writing such a proper preface for the book, out of good heart and passion. All the artists who sent in sketches, paintings, collages, and made the whole project so much more personal and vivid. In the end more than 40 women riders got involved and contributed to the book, so that’s a lot of shout-outs. Thank you, really.
You can also get your hands on a copy of Heroes HERE.
For a closer look into the extensive work that went into this project, check out this vid