Female Snowboarders in Focus: French Photographer Jérôme Tanon on His New Photo Book “Heroes”

Photographer Jérôme Tanon tells us about the vision and the process behind his two-year project to amplify and celebrate the badass women of snowboarding

PHOTOGRAPHY | snowboarding
Photo: Jérôme Tanon

When French snowboard photographer Jérôme Tanon discovered that, despite his admiration for female riders, he hadn’t really captured any on film, he embarked on a photo project dedicated solely to correcting that by showcasing and highlighting some of the many badass independent women riding snowboards. Two years, countless trips and dozens of darkroom hours later, his 288-page book Heroes was released after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Shortly after the October 2020 release of Heroes — a collectable filled with his medium-format b/w film photos, 28 lith prints, notes about his photographic processes, and the stories and artwork of rad women — we grabbed a short chat with Jérôme to get the behind-the-scenes on his motivations and experiences as Heroes was coming to life. 

PHOTOGRAPHY | snowboarding
The Lab // Photo: Jérôme Tanon

Jérôme! Congratulations on the release of your book Heroes. Tell us why you think it’s important to showcase girls and women?

It’s of the highest importance for our next generations of riders. Girls can’t identify when they see only dudes in videos and magazines. We need strong role models — Robin Van Gyn has a good way to put it: “Role models yes, models no!” — to inspire our kids, boys and girls, towards more diversity. Diversity is the richness of our sports, so let’s get to it! We also needed to give them a voice and a space to tell their personal story of passion, of struggle, of dedication. There had never been a photo work on women in snowboarding — which tells you everything you need to know about why this had to happen!

How has the community responded to the project? Both your photos, but also the theme of female representation?

Insanely well! The crowdfunding goal of €10k was reached in a couple days and we ended up with 400 books pre-ordered. That gave me the confidence to print 2000 books and they are selling well! The riders are immensely proud of this community book, because they also participated a lot with stories and artworks. The responses on social medias are great as well. And even the snowboard brands which were more hands-off at the beginning of the project ended up talking about it at its release too. So it’s been great!

Do you think Heroes can kickstart conversations on some of the wider issues women are facing in sports?

Absolutely, and it already did. With two female covers of Method and Pleasure mag already; with the online conference by Evo with Desiree, Nirvana and Robin, all these topics are reaching new heights. Outside of snowboarding, I’m not the one to ask, but I’m sure similar challenges are ahead. At the core of it, I think how brands spend their marketing budget has a huge impact. Hiring a couple models to show off on insta and writing “we support women” on banners is very, very different than giving your pro riders an actual budget that’s good enough to film video parts, photos, and express themselves. Always follow the money! Hopefully things are changing fast — this year alone, the amount of girls having parts in the biggest videos, it’s insane! It’s so damn cool.

PHOTOGRAPHY | snowboarding
Photo: Jérôme Tanon

What can people do to increase female representation on the regular?

What I’m hearing from the girls — they argue that community is key. And for the regular people, they advise bringing your daughters to the parks and events, and having her meet other girls; she’ll make friends very easily and that’s how the hype starts. Get her included in the sessions. Stop comparing girls to boys on a technical level only, just enjoy the damn ride! Let your kids dream big. And that education also stands for boys. When boys understand that girls can make it just as well as them, and play and snowboard together — then everybody can find a space to be free.

Curious about how the prints went from idea to pages in Heroes? Here’s a little behind-the-scenes from Jérôme’s lab:

To see more of Jérôme Tanon’s work, check out his Instagram and website. You can grab your copy of Heroes here.

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