I met Jerome a few years ago in the backcountry in Switzerland with the Absinthe crew. He had so much stoke and was shooting a million miles a minute- and had never shot anything but digital. Then I open up the Transworld Photo Annual last year and saw an amazing, one of the best projects I have seen in snowboarding to this day. Similar to have Ian Ruther had done projects throughout the past decade, Jerome executed it so well. The project consisted of these double exposure which looked DOPE! So I was interested, and figured he may be down to share a bit about em.
I remember when I first met ya a few years back in switzerland, you were just starting to get into shooting, and were currently shooting all digital. When did you start shooting and why?
-> Directly at the ending of this season, it was in 2009. I took a Lubitel-2 on a Pirate trip in Sweden, and totally fell in love with it. The grain, the different films, the different cameras, this magic feeling that you have when you press the trigger. It forced the digi-kid that I was to think way more before taking a picture, and therefore changed a lot my way of shooting, and even seeing snowboarding.
This project of double exposures you did last year is one of the best things I have seen in snowboarding in a while. What inspired you to do this project? How did you execute it?
-> It was the 2009/2010 seasons, I just had decided to shoot 100% analog and give it a try for a full season. One of the first things you play with film when you discover it is the double exposure effect. If shooting film can be considered “hazardous”, then double-exposure is ten times more random. The first idea that came to my mind was that for me a good picture was a mix between a sick action and some kind of human emotion. What a more convenient way to achieve this than having a trick and a portrait of the same rider on the same frame? But I had to work a lot on controlling a maximum of this uncontrollable process. How the light mixes up, which part I wanted to mix and which part I didn’t want to, knowing that anything bright erases what’s on the other picture. All-this to keep a good reading of the trick and of the face, with the two textures mixing together, which is the interesting and critical part. At this time all I had to shoot it was an old twin-lens MamiyaC33 camera, which means that when you take a portrait you don’t see your actual frame. In those close-up portraits the parallaxes compensation i was so huge that all I could see in the frame was the guy’s hair! For focusing it also can be brain killing. So to get a perfect match of the position of the face with the trick was quite hard. I often had only one try when shooting in the backcountry. Pressure was on, especially because the riders were putting their trust in me. I screwed quite some shots too. When I could have more tries, I tried to make more precise intrication, like in Danny’s or Matthieu’s ones, shot a roll or two and kept the best ones.
As so much photography in snowboarding is so quickly turned over due to constant requests of urgency and immediacy, do you think it’s important to have projects like this one? What do you hope to achieve when approaching something like this? Will there be more similar or other projects in the future?
-> If you shoot on some contests, you obviously can’t shoot on film. But since most of the picture you take in the backcountry get printed the following season in the magazines, it gives you time to shoot film and work out your photos. To me it is now impossible to shoot on digital again. I find it too “soul-less”, but it’s a very personal opinion. Not the picture itself, I love digi pictures and they are as much striking as film pictures; but the base of the picture is entirely different. Film stands on film, there is a unique physical part to it, and especially when you print it in your darkroom. Projects like this one (double-exposures) and the other ones I did and most important the ones that I have in mind, is what keeps me doing this job. Shooting tricks for tricks would drive me depressed I guess. If I can capture even a very small (but priceless) amount of snowboarding’s, what it is that makes is so beautiful and special, to freeze a bit of it’s emotions on a paper that will stand for centuries, then I feel happy and complete.
Why did you shoot this project only on Kodak T-max? What do you like about that film vs. others? Would you have been able to achieve the same final product with digital?
-> I wanted to shoot it all on the same film to have the same grain and contrast, obviously. I choose the 400 T-max back then because I liked it’s style, quite contrasty. But it might as well have been a mistake because now that I know more about films, shooting it on Ilford HP5 would have been safer, since it gathers a lot of information in the darkness and saves the highlights from burning, which is safer for double-exposure. I didn’t know it but choosing Tmax was more risky, but more contrasty in the end. It would have been completely impossible to achieve the same in digital. On a film when it’s burned it’s burned, no more information can come in when you take the second picture; not in digi. And this applies as well with every different shade of grey. The way the two shots mix together is unique and can hardly be reproduced in photoshop, at least not the way it is on film and surely not with the same grain.
What did you enjoy about this project the most and is there anything different you would do in the future?
-> I enjoyed how pricessless those picture were. It took a whole season to gather 8 of them, and I had it in my mind all the time. “Can this spot work? No. Can this spot work? Mmmmmm maybe… if I do this and that…”. This was enhanced by the fact that I was never sure if it worked and how, and had the surprise after each trip when developing the films in my bathroom. It was either full joy or complete disappointment. I also like that for each of those amazing riders; I made a good description of them as snowboarders, in only one shot. I already completed other serial works (you can see some of them on my website too) and as we are now almost in December, turning I circles in my darkroom trying dozens of different techniques; I can’t wait to start the season. I have many new serial works in mind and I hope I’ll be able to achieve some of them!
Are you printing at all in the darkroom these days or mostly scanning?
-> I started learning the darkroom last year and also fell in love with it. For the first time I had this feeling that maybe a painter has too, when you see your work take life on a nice and thick paper that will last for very long time. The hole “dodge and burn” process under the enlarger is a lifetime of learning too, and truly amazing. Every print is unique in a way. I did many prints of my photos and will do more and more in the future. I have to scan most of my negatives to send them to the magazines but after that when the season is done and I have time to do it, I make prints of my favorites and if possible replace the scanned file by the print version. I think that’s were photography becomes a hand-craft work of art, and a unique b&w print has so much more value to me than a digi print.
There are a lot of really good shooters out there right now and I’m really am enjoying your and Matt Georges work these days, as its a different approach then many other guys in the shred world. To me some of the photography in snowboarding is very “fast food” and has no fuckin backbone. How would you explain your approach in shooting that might be different than others? And what is the future plans of Mr. Tanon for this upcoming year besides many long-cold-hard days?
-> I agree with you but in another way, I see a lot of photographer bringing a personal approach to the thing. Those may not be the shots selected by most magazines but there are a lot of awesome photographers out there, with a very distinctive eye, like you for example ;). Matt Georges and I share this passion for shooting action on film, and using random expired films, toy cameras and that kind of stuff. My approach is in fact very very similar than any other snowboard photographer, first you’r there to document what’s happening. That’s the first thing, but you can document it in a specific way. Every framing is a political choice, if you see what I mean. What’s in it, what’s not it in, is the whole game. When you close-up a kicker action in a way that you don’t see the dirty tracks in the landing, for example, is a way to focus more the picture on the action, the dude and the heights; to the loss of many other information’s such as those landing tracks, memories of what happened here before, landscape, atmosphere. It’s just an example. When I get to a spot I think of the infinite possibilities of “angle X framing X film X process X camera” (I often have 8 or more different ones in my backpacks, pockets…) and choose the one that will bring the more emotion to it, or fit the best the scene. I often try two or three different pictures when possible and when many runs of the riders. My future plans beside the snowboarding world is to try to educate myself more and more in all the directions of life, from physics to art, and learn more and more the job of “photographer”. I’m quite only starting to touch this job by the tip of my finger, and I learn it day after day by myself in my darkroom. In the end, maybe one day is able to express my own emotions by this medium, well I hope! Actually there’s no right click on my site so here’s the jpg, you can cut what you want in it