This week, Danny Burrows looks into a Jeff Curtes shot of the board godfather himself Jake Burton.
Photography is the most accessible and intelligible language of snowboarding, understood not only by those who ride but also those who don’t but should. It’s not only a catalyst for progression but also a record of how snowboarding has progressed: It can teach and inspire, as well as set benchmarks to which all can aspire, both in photography and riding.
A snowboard photographer who has upheld the above statement throughout the 90s and 0s like no other is Jeff Curtes, today’s featured snapper for Photo of the Week.
His featured image shows his ex-boss Jake Burton doing time in the greatest, most enviable office in the world - Mike Wiegele Heli, in Blue River BC, to be exact. It’s not a bad job owning one of the most successful snowboard companies in the world but then again neither is shooting it for a living, which Jeff has been doing since ’93.
This is, in the words of Jeff, how it all came about: “Eric Kotch, the Marketing and Team guy, invited me to an annual fall European catalogue shoot in Saas Fee, Switzerland in 1993/94. I was there shooting alongside Trevor Graves, Jon Foster and Vianney Tisseau. I was just a kid and was so stoked but I just shot everything, all the time. I think the enthusiasm and quantity I delivered was unprecedented, especially compared to the calculated honed professionals that I was alongside. I was reckless and carefree, blowing it a lot but with some hidden gems in there amidst the mess”.
Those hidden gems earned Jeff an honoured place alongside the select band of Burton staffers, and for the next twenty years he worked with the Big B, shooting some of the raddest snowboarders, in the most amazing locations in the world. “It's all really memorable and special to me. First European editorial road trip with EK, Tina Basich, Dave Downing, Noah Brandon, Norway missions, Greenland dog sledding with Terje and crew, AK with the Hatchett brothers and Johan. It's all golden” was Jeff’s response when I asked him if there were any standouts in his career with Burton.
Being a pro snowboard photographer had never been his intention. In his own words he had just been documenting what they were doing; which was shredding in the 80s in Wisconsin. “At some point Lee Crane and photographer Guy Motil from Transworld came to the Midwest to document the growing scene that we were leading, and hanging with them left a strong impression... That was cool to be shot by a professional and watch their process. I could do that, I thought!”
It also helped that Jeff’s brother was a professional rider, which according to Jeff gave him subject matter that was worth sharing.
Twenty years on and Jeff and Burton have taken different paths. Not that Jeff has quit shooting snowboarding, far from it, he just won’t be doing it exclusively for Burton. Now with an agency backing him his photography will be gracing plenty more fields of sport, including Jeff’s next biggest passion of cycling. “I love cycling and shooting it is a very natural progression for me” said Jeff. “It’s shooting kids lifestyle and sport, I love that.
Cycling just got lucky and scored one of the best sports photographers in the World!
Camera: Canon EOS 1 D Mark II N
Lens: EF 70-200
Shutter speed: 1/1250th
F stop: 6.3
Rider: Jake Burton
Location: Mike Wiegele Heli, Blue River BC