First Friday: The life and lines of snowboarding through Jake Black’s lens

Snowboarding is not a sport; it’s an art form. It makes sense, then, that snowboarders are some of the most creative humans around. The films, photographs, and music that dominate the industry’s attention are simple proof that at its core, riding is about self-expression. Even on a surface level— think board graphics and goggle detailing— this industry is devoted to inspired originality.

IMG_5384_web copy Panthiesm | Red Mountain, BC | “While riding up the chair I took this photo. In the detail you can see characters, skulls… Anything your imagination allows you to see.”

Born and raised in Breckenridge, CO, snowboarding is in Jake Black‘s blood— along with a hefty dose of ingenuity. Groomed by the contest scene, he soon broke out of the pipe-jockey mold to take on backcountry booters and powder lines.

Black is well known for his stoke for all things snowboarding— the riding itself, of course, but also the lifestyle that shapes, and is shaped by, a passion for shredding. Black has been lucky enough to chase the snowfall around the world, and in doing so, he discovered and honed yet another art: photography.

Black describes his photos as raw; snowboarding pre-photoshop—the daily grind of traveling, hiking, building, and crashing hard before crushing new tricks. This is life, through the eyes of a snowboarder.

IMG_0874 copy_K Celia Seeing Double | Breckenridge, Co

How did you get your start in photography?

I started shooting some film work in High School. The first photo class I ever had was in my sophomore year, and I hated it. I disliked the darkroom and basically the whole process. Maybe it was the teacher, but I really just didn’t like it.

What changed?

I wanted to enjoy photography because I was traveling around a lot for various snowboard competitions, and, as we all know, photography is a fantastic measure for memory.

When I graduated High School I spent all my money on a new digital DSLR camera. It was all I wanted, besides snowboarding. Just like a video part, it was awesome to look back and see what happened over the winter. Also, at the time, I wanted to see my friends and myself in the magazines. So I decided I could take matters into my own hands.

How successful was that?

It’s funny, because to this day I haven’t tried shooting action shots. I wanted to show much more than just that moment; I wanted to capture everything along the way: the little details— the lifestyle. Like hiking the halfpipe for the billionth time with no visibility and still enjoying it because you’re with your friends and learning new tricks.

A photo can be so much more than just a trigger for personal memories. That was what I wanted: aesthetics. Not only a snap shot of memories.

IMG_0886_K copy Ear | Encinitas, CA | “One of the many series I have going in my mind. This is an extension of our surroundings and life.”

How does snowboarding influence your photography, or vice-versa?
Snowboarding and photography have a lot in common for me. Both have given me absolute freedom to experiment. If you are familiar with the concept of ‘flow’, photography and snowboarding are the two mediums that I would associate with that mind set.

A lot of the time my ideas branch from mishaps. If I made a mistake in my shooting or developing I strive to work within these new boundaries to see where they can go. Just like in snowboarding, there are variables; the terrain is never the same. The most important lesson, for me, is learning how to fail.

Has photography had an effect on the way you snowboard?

A photographic eye doesn’t hurt when being a snowboarder–by knowing the photographer’s limitations, I can conform to their capacities to create.

The challenge for me with shooting is the excess baggage. When snowboarding I rarely stop for water and food, so to slow down to set up a process that slows down and steps back from today’s social pace of the here and now. Also factoring the size, weight, and fragility of extra gear on the trip slows the process even more.

Since you bought that DSLR way back when, have you switched up your methods at all? New modes, new mediums?

A couple of years ago I wanted to work with a new challenge and a new medium beyond my understanding–4×5.  Large format photography is nothing new at all. In fact many of the world’s greatest photographers work or worked within this medium. The 4×5 medium slows the photographic process down.  The concept takes more time: the focus, the readings, the light, the angles, the swings, the tilts—so I bought a Toyo 4×5 field camera from a friend, Mike Basher.

More of Jake’s mind-bending work:

The Day We Left Earth | Whistler, BC | "Fogged out of our jump session in the backcountry I found the verge of vertigo." The Day We Left Earth | Whistler, BC | “Fogged out of our jump session in the backcountry I found the verge of vertigo.”
The Holy Truss | Green River, UT | "On a road trip through Utah I saw this massive statue. I had to divert off course to investigate. Each of the blocks are bigger than a refrigerator." The Holy Truss | Green River, UT | “On a road trip through Utah I saw this massive statue. I had to divert off course to investigate. Each of the blocks are bigger than a refrigerator.”
POLES_IN_WATER_WEB_blogroll Poles In Water | Washington/Canada Border | “I admire characters like Ansel Adams. This picture reminds me of the piece “Moonrise Over Hernadez”. The moon adds distortion to the symmetry.”
IMG_5491_PRINT_blogroll The Cloud Maker | Trail, BC | “Stopping in after a day at Red Mountain, the towns center site is the Zinc and Lead Smelter. The smoke stacks spew out 24/7. If only this was how we could make more powder.”
img037-Edit_web_blogroll Untitled 37 | Melbourne, Australia | “This photo represents a balance between nature and industrialization.”
IMG_4875_web copy_blogroll Relativity Hotel | Denver, Co | “At a rooftop party, the night and the city lights drowned out the chaos. I saw the famous M.C. Escher lithograph piece in my mind.”

Line across the page:

For more of Jake’s photography, check out his website:

Impressed? So are we, which is why we’re going to shamelessly promote Jake’s photography. Vote here to help him win the ‘One Life’ photography contest.


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