In the winter, I interviewed Louis-Phillipe Leonard, co-founder and marketing manager for Leon Lebeniste, for an article in about-to-land Coast Mountain Culture magazine.
Now that summer’s here, and I’m man-handling my bike onto its wall hooks in the garage after every ride, I’m coveting their signature bike rack even more.
Here’s the story behind it.
Jon and I had always dreamt of doing Leon Lebeniste in BC someday, though I had taken a couple years in a different direction from Leon Lebeniste and was starting a new career in TV hosting in Montreal.
Jon had shipped all the machinery out to Squamish and set up shop there. He called me from BC and told me to come for a few days and even offered to pay for the flight. He said: Come. If you like it, you stay. If you don’t, go back and do the TV hosting in Montreal.
It took me 3 days to realize that Squamish was the best place in the world. I decided to stay and that was the best decision I ever made.
The story behind those racks – after moving to BC to room with Jon we ended up renting a new place in Amblepath. The landlord, when we visited, was pointing our each little tiny scratch on the walls from the previous tenant and was asking us to sign everywhere on the lease so that we’d be responsible for any new damage..
After that, owning 4 bikes myself, Jon 2, skiis and snowboards (all leaning against the walls), I was like, how am I gonna do this without ever scratching anything. So then I thought, Okay, I have access to the coolest woodworking tools in the world… Let’s make a bike rack.
- Load 4 bikes
- made of Europly (multi-layered baltic birch)
- easy to assemble and disassemble
- no tools required
- flat pack so I can store it in a closet or underneath the bed or ship it easily all over the world, and it doesn’t take to much space to store in a bike shop
- Lots of hanging on both side for gear and equipment so you’re not looking for your helmet of pads all the time when it’s time to go for a ride, it helps drying wet equipment and keeps everything off the ground.
So it started that way. I made a few prototypes and improved all kind of details on it and I can say that they work really well now.
Usually when I explain all these details, people look at me and say that’s very smart.
The bike racks are cut with the CNC machine. We’re on to the 9th version of the original bike stand. I would say, especially for “LE GARDE” our most popular one that is made for 4 bikes front loading, there’s maybe 150 hours of design time in it.
A work of art and a talking point all by itself. Eric Goodwin
So nice I didn’t want to put it into the garage. Graham Bolenback
I love my stand, and my neighbours comment on it all the time. Chris Kiely
I recently had the chance to profile the design wizards – Louis-Philippe Leonard and Jon Hewitt – behind the Squamish woodworking and finish carpentry studio, Leon Lebeniste, for the upcoming summer issue of Coast Mountain Culture… and we digressed into a conversation about labours of love and honouring the life-force with our work.
Co-founder Jon Hewitt shared these images of what he refers to as “the more meaningful work we’ve done,” including a mantle for Rory Bushfield to remember the late Sarah Burke and a maple vessel for Jon’s late grandma.
We’ve had a few personal projects that have been labours of love. Those that stick out are those that have meaningful stories attached to them. Last year when Sarah Burke passed away, Rory and Gordon Burke dropped by a week or so after. Rory brought us some wood that he was gonna use to build a mantle in their home. Ryan Westfahl and Jon made a beautiful piece to hold the urn that Gord made. We were pretty honoured that they would come and see us for something important like that.
Here are a few other notes from an edifying back and forth with Louis-Philippe on behalf of him and Jon…
LR: We’re living in an era of disposable cheap furnishings and super contemporary design. Where does woodworking and traditional handcrafted furnishings fit into that? Is it a tiny niche? A growing one?
LL: I would say it’s a growing one. Now you can buy good looking furniture that is made for cheap overseas in stores all over the world. The purist will see the difference from miles in between a real handmade, crafted high end piece versus one made quick and fast. A well designed + made piece that can last for generations is an investment. Lots of people don’t know the difference but that’s the way it is. We educate them if we can. Our niche is definitely growing well and fast.
LR: What type of person seeks out custom work?
LL: We have a lot of fun working with our clients. They’re people who are looking for something that they get to participate in creating. They get something that has a story to it, and we put so much passion into each piece we create that it kinda gets a little of a soul of its own.
Often they have unique functional or aesthetic requirements so custom work is the obvious route.
LR: I’d like to believe there is a slow renaissance of craftsmanship brewing in the world, as a reaction to the extreme impacts of globalisation and the hyperkinetic pace that our world and economy operates at. We can only have the pace of growth we’ve sustained over the past 20 years, if most of what we consume is disposable. But we can also slow everything down and sustain craftspeople, working on products that are meant to last forever. What do you think it’s going to take for the model to actually shift in that direction?
LL: That’s a big question. I’m curious to see what direction we can take things in the future. Clearly pursuing our current direction has some significant issues that come along with it.
And just in case you were thinking about dropping by and asking for Leon, here’s the story behind the name.
LR: Who is Leon Lebeniste?
LL: The Leon Lebeniste name came to be on a cold winter day on the St-Lawrence River in the 1000 Islands (where we started the company). Prior to starting Leon Lebeniste, Jon and I were roommates while studying in Montreal.
Sitting around a wood stove at the end of the day while having a couple strong Quebec Unibroue beers, Jon + I were having fun and trying to come up with a name for our company. A few beers deep we were having a blast hanging out but we were still without a name.
At first we were considering the obvious names to do with architectural millwork, fine furniture, woodworking but nothing that really spoke to us..
Jon has a really nice tall black Labrador named Leon. Leon is a really fun dog, a very animated character. Leon was hanging with us in the original workshops on that night. After trying so many names, we looked over at Leon chewing a large piece of wood and said looks a Leon L’ebeniste.
The french word ébéniste was one who worked with ebony, a favoured luxury wood for mid-seventeenth century Parisian cabinets.
We kinda both laughed thought that it could be cool, different and nice to name the company with his name in it.
We decide to tweak the name a bit by adding the L in front so it looks more uniform and we removed the accents on the “e” so it would be more multi-lingual.
It’s funny ’cause people often call or drop by and ask for Leon. We say sure! We call Leon ’cause he’s always with us every day, since the first day. He’s been part of the crew for almost every single of the thousands and thousands of hours that have gone into Leon Lebeniste.
The most amazing thing about working as a journalist is the chance you get to have great, insightful, curiosity-stoking conversations with people – conversations which you document.
(This has turned me into the kind of person who hates to let a funny or insightful comment go unrecorded – I am forever reaching for my notebook through tears of laughter, to capturing a witty quip or hilarious moment. My workmates are so used to it that they have developed this collective Pavlovian twitch. When something comedic is said in the studio, they jerk their heads around to see if I’m getting it down. My husband has become desensitized to my pen-reaching reflex, although every now and then he’ll yell, “No! no! Don’t write that down. You’re just going to use it against me.”)
I write stories about mountain life. And people. In this small way, I’m doing my best to stop time. Or at least, slow it down, just a little. And when people die, as they are sadly all too wont to do, I am so grateful for the chance I had to sit with them, our attention completely focussed on the single conversation at hand. I think of the late Florence Petersen, Doug Deeks, Bruce Edmonds, Wolfgang Klautt, and Sarah Burke – and feel grateful.
The one year anniversary of Sarah’s passing has just passed, and the twittersphere and interwebs are abuzz with remembering and news of the foundation launched in her honour.
I interviewed Sarah back in 2008, as I was starting to do a bunch of pre-Olympic stories. She was 26 and one of the most recognizable skiers in North America, having won every major competition in superpipe and slopestyle in the previous two years, with golds from the X Games, the Nippon Open, the World Skiing Invitational, Japan World Cup and the FIS World Cup. Powder magazine had named her one of the most influential skiers of the past 35 years, FHM magazine named her one of the hottest women alive, and she was the first skier ever to win an ESPY award for Female Action Sports Athlete of the Year 2007, from the American sports cable channel ESPN.
As for me – I was pretty much a nobody, writing for little publications and grassroots magazines and constantly hustling for another story, another byline. Sarah returned every call or email or request I sent her on frantic deadline, from wherever she was on the road, without any suggestion that my bona fides were less than A-list.
She was a star, but her sport wasn’t yet an Olympic discipline. Going into the winter of 2008-2009, the 2010 Games was a year away and buzz was building about lobbying attempts to get halfpipe recognised as an Olympic sport, something that was looking increasingly unlikely for 2010 because of the molasses-clogged machinations of the IOC.
Sarah, a veteran at accomplishing the improbable, (at 18, she had begun a lonely campaign to have women included in the X Games, competing against the men in order to be part of the field, and then saw women’s competitions added to most of the major events), was 100 per cent behind the campaign to take bring ski pipe into the Olympics.
“All of the top pros would be honoured to compete in the Olympics,” she said. “X Games is great, and a lot of fun, but the Olympics has something to it that makes it pretty special. It’s all the best athletes in the world. You can say to someone that you have an X Games medal and they’re like, ‘Oh cool, what’s that?’ People know what an Olympic medal means.”
Sometime in early 2011, my hard-drive was wiped clear and I lost everything. The first decade of my career, vanished into the ether. All I had left was a couple of notebooks and a box of magazine and newspaper clippings. I channelled Annie Dillard: “Process is nothing. Erase your tracks.”
But yesterday, I pulled out my old notebooks to see if I had any transcripts from those interviews with Sarah. I found 2 pages of my hard-to-decode handwriting with Sarah’s name scribbled across the top and re-read a skip-around-conversation that was rooted in a long-gone time and place. It didn’t amount to much, really.
Just one golden pull-quote, and an enduring sense of admiration for a true trailblazer. Hail the Queen.
“The mountains here at Whistler Blackcomb are a big place. It’s easy to fall into the habit of skiing the same terrain over and over. I came here in 1994 because it was the best. I knew you could ski a lifetime here without getting bored. And the beautiful thing about the mountain is it’s got a little bit of something for everyone. That’s what makes Whistler Mountain such an amazing teaching mountain. The terrain offers endless challenges.”
Finally, as Hobson told me for a Vancouver Sun story this week:
“If you’re happy with the way you ski, that’s great. Go slide around and have fun. Ultimately, that’s what really matters. But if you’d like to ski with less fatigue, better poise, and more grace, try a lesson. It’s such an easy sport to do badly, but it’s a lot more fun to do with finesse.”
Starting January 7, Whistler Blackcomb offers Discover Whistler Days pricing – 30% off Max 4 lessons with any of Hobson’s crew of pros, stacked with the highest concentration of Level 4s on the mountain. (Think skiing’s black belts.)
As Whistler Blackcomb announced today in a press release:
Whistler Blackcomb’s snow school is one of the largest in the world consisting of over 1,200 professional ski and snowboard instructors. Combined, they speak over 26 languages, originate from all over the world and more than 50 of them are certified Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) Level 4 instructors, the most in a single snow school in North America.
On January 12 and 13, Whistler Blackcomb is also offering Never Ever Days, with beginner lessons (plus rental gear and a lift ticket) for just $25 for the first 500 newbies to take up the challenge. They’re even offering a free beer at the end of the day, so you can get a start in the art of aprés. (Register online at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/learn to nab one of those 500 spots.)
*Full disclosure: Dave’s my husband. Call me a lazy journalist for going for the easy interview. But he’s been “fixing” my skiing for almost 17 years, so I can say for sure, he’s the real deal.
The failure of the world to explode in cataclysmic fireballs on the end of the Mayan calendar means those New Year resolutions you didn’t bother with suddenly demand a little attention. (It’s not too late!) Today, I told the Liftopia community that any Self Improvement journey should begin with a promise to go skiing. With a group of girls.
For all those she-skiers willing to take up the challenge, here’s the one piece of wisdom I developed after coaching the Roxy Women’s Clinics for a couple of years – all it takes is one simple trick to Ski Like A Man (and it doesn’t involve cojones implants.)
Evolutionary biologists say that women are trained by 10,000 years of vulnerability to saber tooth tigers and cumbersome babies, to avoid risk. Men, to protect aggressively. At the top of a double-black diamond ski run, therefore, the female will go around, and the fella will bash, flail and roar his way down.
Further, the male of a species must out-compete his fellows, in order to attract a willing and receptive mate. Hence, at the top of a double-black diamond run, the male will suddenly be driven by his limbic brain to strut, puff, prance, and throat-call, completely blind to the fact that the once receptive mate is cursing his name to the heavens.
But I do not want women skiers and riders of the world to be dictated to by Neanderthal prehistory. I want us embrace our opposable thumbs, linguistic superiority, and the way our ancestors out-witted the wild.
Do not ski around! Do not curse your beloved!
In the spirit of reportage that has seen journalists don fatsuits, change their race with make-up or go undercover as the working poor, to see how different the world is from inside a different body, I donned a mansuit and a moustache for the day.
I discovered that:
- I could park.
- I knew exactly where on the mountain I was, even when I had no landmarks or signs.
- I didn’t apologise to anyone who bumped into me or nearly cut me off.
- I took a warm up run in steep trees.
- I gave my girlfriend some tips on how to improve her technique, which basically involved, getting forward, being more aggressive, and generally “givin’ er”.
But seriously, the bottom line is that skiing like a man means one simple trick. No facial hair required. It’s just a question of managing your risk strategy.
Step 1: Determine the given risks on any run – the rock, the cliff band, the cornice, the landing, the run-out.
Step 2: Assess whether your combination of skill (with or without the added edge of bravado), makes this fundamentally do-able.
Step 3: If YES to step 2, commit. Risk analysis phase is over. ‘Assessment of risk’ button must be switched to “idle”. Not to be revisited until the run has been completed. Definitely not to be re-engaged halfway down the run, or just before the technical bit.
These are 3 distinct phases that must be kept separate. No bleed is permissible. That’s what the mo’s know. So here’s to Lucy, and her innate wisdom that keeps us alive on a daily basis. And here’s to being able to switch into override when there’s fun to be had on the hill.
Now, go skiing.
Why my enduring crush on Mike Douglas, Jeff Thomas and Blair Richmond, the crew at Switchback Entertainment?
Because I write this:
And they respond with this:
To which I say: Exactly.
For more on the Wonder Reels campaign, and our membership in the Church of Story, check out this blog post at Origin Design + Communications HQ.
A few years ago, Gerhard Gross wrote the best article I’ve ever read in a snowboard magazine, The Science of Stoke, digging in to explain what one of the most over-used word in our mountain culture actually means, endocrinologically-speaking.
His revelations about the ebb and flow of the chemical high that keeps us so addicted to our pursuits stuck with me, and as I sat down to write a feature for SBC Skier magazine about a girls’ trip to Revelstoke, my brain kept insisting on connecting the dots.
Because that trip, the ebb was at a low.
Avalanche conditions were sketchy, half the crew had just come out of a storm-soaked dude-dominated photo shoot, while Tessa Treadway and Laura Ogden were taking their first turns together since a fatal avalanche in 2010 that had killed Laura’s husband Jack.
Small talk, Kodak moments and powder turns were constantly butting up against some serious shit. Jim Jack, Johnny Brennan and Chris Rudolph had just been killed in an avalanche, and other friends passed while were were skiing in Revelstoke that week – Nik Zoricic and Jackson Hole’s Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer. The truth was, every single one of our crew was skiing with a kernel of loss sitting on their shoulder.
As one of our athletes, who’s ridden her own highs and lows (brilliantly captured by Tess Weaver in this Powder mag story), Izzy Lynch, founder of the Live it. Love it Foundation, said:
This trip had a big impact on all of us- Tessa Treadway, Laura Ogden, Tatum Monod, Lynsey Dyer and Leah Evans and myself. We battled avalanche conditions and light – trying to make the most of the opportunity to ski and shoot together, and got to know ourselves a little bit better in the process. Lynsey and Tatum and I had just finished a week of shooting together, making fun of ourselves with #shitskiergirlssay video… and as Tessa and Laura traveled to Revelstoke from Pemberton, they realized this was the first time they would ski together since Jack’s accident in 2010 (see article for more details). As a result the pendulum swung from silly to heavy, and back again, as we spent time together shredding lines and hitting dongers, cautiously tiptoeing around a heavy avalanche cycle in the Selkirks, laughing till we cried, and working to capture the essence of Revelstoke in the rain. The result of the trip was this — an article in the latest SBC SKIER by Lisa Richardson with photos by Robin O’Neill... an awareness of the multiple dimensions of our skiing universe and a strengthened bond between all of us “skier girls”
It was an amazing opportunity to get to know 7 incredible women who I’d never met before – pro athletes who have also created things like the Rad Boob calendar, Girls Do Ski clinics, and SheJumps, women whose default mode is brave, whether they be on or off the hill.
And I drove home thinking: can I really write about this?
Can I write about loss like a living thing? Can I write about the opposite of Stoke in a ski magazine?
I warned my editor : This might be darker than you’re expecting.
There was nothing I could to do to warn Laura and Tessa.
“Hey,” I had said to them one morning, riding the chair. “I think the story here is you.”
“Tell the story you feel drawn to tell,” they said. So, I had to trust that they meant that.
(Brave or naive? I wondered.)
As it turns out, the answer is brave. Straight up.
Laura emailed me a week ago, after the article ran. “I love it,” the email started, and an immense weight lifted off my shoulder and flew off into the woods. It’s an email I’ll treasure and it’s meant for me, but I’ll share this one small part of it…
Thank you for telling a piece of the story – a big one. I am so glad that it is out there that yes, people survive this shit, and the surviving continues on for their whole life. It is not a static thing.
Here’s the truth about skiing. It can be one of the most joyful, stoke-filled things we ever do. But it can also be heavy. It complicates and deepens as we develop scar tissue, and the experience isn’t always just pure stoke. But the show must go on, as Laura says. We all have to learn to transform the meaning of skiing for ourselves, to evolve past the days when it’s no longer just light-filled innocent fun.
Laura added a post-script to the email:
I am HAPPY, just so you know.
Which gave me a little burst of pure stoke. There’s no one I know who deserves it more.
I think of myself as a yoga-slacker. Headstands intimidate me, yoga wear makes me self-conscious of how anti-fashion my sweat-drenched wife-beater tank top is, and I’m not a big fan of the full length mirror scene either. Despite this, I hope to be sitting, as lotus-like as I can, on the grass at Whistler Olympic Plaza, on Thursday 23 August, to hear Krishna Das do his chanting singing thing, for the kick-off of Wanderlust. Amazingly, it’s free.
I love Krishna Das because at the end of one yoga class, the teacher powered up her iPod, and as we wound down our poses and settled into savasana, the corpse pose, the collapse-on-your-back-and-try-and-catch-your-breath-at-last pose, his voice filled the studio. I heard a friend behind me gasp in happy recognition. The song was familiar and ethereal, his voice is so deep it’s a kind of slow rolling thunder that moves through your body, and I would do anything to find out what it’s called. So I can hear it again.
The New York Times has called him the Chant Master of American Yoga. He’s otherwise been called yoga’s “rockstar.” This does make me feel like a bit of a groupie. But hey, if you’re going to get caught up in something, why not a giddy trip that takes you closer to enlightenment?
Mindful partying is the lovely combination sauce that Wanderlust aims to be seasoned with. I had the chance to chat with co-founder Sean Hoess for this article for the Vancouver Sun. (He’s a fugitive lawyer, too, so I was inclined to trust him off the bat.)
We wanted to create a festival that is literally about balance. Sean Hoess
With his college room-mate and business partner Jeff, and Jeff’s wife, yogi Schuyler, Hoess wanted to create an place you can drop into and possibly have a transformational experience, as well as a lot of fun, in a beautiful place. Sounds like a fine intention to me.
On the corner of my desk is a pile of borrowed books.
I leave them there, taking up valuable real estate, to remind me to return them. Some day. Preferably soon.
One, Ski Faster, by Lisa Feinboer Densmore, sits in a manilla envelope with Doug Deeks’ name pencilled on the label.
I’ve been meaning to return it to Doug for more than two years.
I discovered this morning that I left it too late. He passed away earlier this week.
Doug loaned me the book just before the Olympics when we sat down at the Wildwood after his Rotary meeting so I could interview him for a profile in Enterprise magazine.
He was excited about serving as a volunteer gate judge, and I confessed that I had landed a gig covering the alpine ski racing events for NBCOlympics.com, but had kind of bluffed my way into it.
“Do you know much about ski racing?” went the phone interview.
“I’ve been a ski pro for the last decade.”
(Not a lie. Not strictly.)
“So, Doug, as an aside, what’s the different between Super G and slalom?”
He was not a big man, and there was something twinkly-impish about his face that made me trust him with my dark secrets and complete ignorance.
“I’ve got this book that you might find helpful,” he said.
Talking to Doug that morning made me realise how many talented people concentrate in Whistler… and what a huge number of them are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, enjoying a fine Second Act, skiing around with a bunch of 20-somethings who have no idea just what they accomplished in their remarkable lives.
Here’s the article. Good passing to you Doug.
Late Bloomer, Still Peaking
Senior ski champ Doug Deeks (81) has an enviable seat at Whistler’s downhill Olympic events.
By his own admission, Doug Deeks is a late bloomer.
“A late bloomer and a lousy student,” he says with a good-natured chuckle. Having held such titles as principal flautist in the Montreal Junior Symphony Orchestra, assistant auditor general of Canada and master ski racer, Deeks’ underachieving high-school marks are easily laughed off.
Being a late bloomer isn’t such a big deal either when you’re 81 and “still peaking as an athlete.”
Deeks, who will serve next month as a volunteer gate judge in the Olympic alpine events, hadn’t set foot on a slope until he was 24. He bought his first pair of skis while working as a student auditor with Coopers Lybrand in the early 1950s: “Up until then, living through the Depression, my family didn’t have the money.” Ever since the first time Deeks and a colleague walked up Mount Royal, the highest point in Montreal at 234 metres, and surreptitiously maneuvered to its base, he was hooked.
For almost a decade (until marriage, children and work temporarily suppressed his inner ski-bum) Deeks was part of a group of friends who avidly skied the Laurentians and Appalachians.
Ironically, it was in those eastern peaks that he made his first connection to Whistler, BC. Former ski buddy Jack Bright had been recruited to serve as the then start-up resort’s first area manager. “Whenever I’d come out to Vancouver on business, Jack and I would get together, and he’d keep me apprised of what was going on.”
Deeks and wife Joan had meanwhile decided to retire somewhere fun while they were still physically and mentally active. After a “serendipitous” career, Deeks was comfortable taking chances, but he nevertheless performed due diligence even while planning their retirement move. In 1987, he and Joan hit the road on a downhill tour of the West. “We went from ski resort to ski resort, then went home and said, yep, Whistler is the place to be.”
In the early 80s, the BC resort town was still finding its feet. The North Shore Credit Union had been the only financial institution willing to open a branch after Whistler’s first bank, housed in a trailer, was hitched up to a vehicle and driven away in what might be the smoothest bank robbery of all time.
Jack Bright was instrumental in bringing the credit union to Whistler in 1984, and in 1991 encouraged Deeks to run for its board, a position he held for the next eight years. “It was the first financial institution that stayed and supported many of the businesses here,” Deeks recalls. “A lot of people would have had difficulty getting a mortgage if it hadn’t been around.”
The credit union’s community-building ethos sits naturally with Deeks. He helped to establish Whistler’s Seniors Ski Team to address a gap in services offered by the ski school. The program, which initially left the school’s management nonplussed, now has a membership of over 200, and the organisers are fielding inquiries from other American resorts wanting to know “What’s going on up there?”
Deeks spent last summer mixing concrete and putting together 3300 lbs of playground equipment with his Rotary Club for the isolated First Nations community at Skatin.
This winter, he will volunteer as a gate judge for the Winter Olympic Games, getting as locse to the action as a person can safely be to ensure each skier keeps to the regulation path through the racecourse.
Deeks got into ski racing himself when he was 65. “I figured if I didn’t start then, I never would.” He trains at the gym three days a week and averages 105 ski days a season. In April, he will take that appetite for speed to the Canadian Masters Nationals at Sun Peaks, trading his volunteer uniform for a speedsuit.
Doug Deeks figures he’s been a late-bloomer long enough. This spring, he’s ready to be first out of the gate.
Reprinted from Enterprise magazine, January 2010
Since the article ran, Doug and Joan were featured as local “power couples” in Whistler the Magazine, Doug won the 2012 Kokanee Valley Race series in the 80+ category, sharing the rank with Werner Himmelsbach, and was honoured for his work with the Skatin First Nation by a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
He was truly an inspiring human being. (PS Thanks for the crash course in ski-racing, Doug. I did manage to pull it off. Thanks to you.)
When I sat down this spring for brunch with Blake Jorgenson at Alpine Café, around the corner from his office, he was about to hit the road… Sea Otter, Nepal to shoot for Red Bull on Freeride’s new mountain bike film and then on to Utah.
In addition to owning a worn-out passport, I discovered the man who had been Crankworx’ Official Photographer in 2011, thinks of himself as a mercenary, thanks to Helmet Newton, “I’ll shoot anything if the price is right,” and that he has a soft spot for print.
Last year, he did a coffee table book for Red Bull out of the Art of Flight and they were so stoked on it, they want to do it again. The success of the coffee table book, it’s enduring nature, has made him start thinking about the resurgence of print. Internet/digital content is so time sensitive. It’s relevant now, like a newswire, and then it’s not. But print lasts. It sits on coffee tables, and gets picked up and looked at again… It was an insight that informed our goal with the Crankworx Event Guide – to add some content that would give it a bit more longevity, would warrant the paper it was printed on.
It’s easy to forget, as your friends’ Instragrams fill up your facebook feed, that photography just underwent a revolution. Seriously, 9 years ago, when the first Crankworx rolled out, moments were made on film.
When Jorgenson won the Pro Photographer Showdown in 2001, rocketing himself into the spotlight, his spaceship was made of slides.
You want to talk progression?
“The most exciting thing about these three-day showdowns,” he said, as we started talking about Crankworx’ Deep Summer event, “is just being in the digital age. 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to do that – to shoot, to come up with a creative concept that you can showcase to an audience, in that short an amount of time. You were working on film. I got sucked in to wanting to try it, so I entered Deep Winter and that got me excited to enter Pro Photo.”
For a lot of us, seeing Jorgenson sign on for Deep Winter or Pro Photo, at a peak in his career, was a risky move. Why forfeit the Crown? He’d been on the judging panel for the Pro Photographer Showdown, along with other past winners, but says, he never saw someone’s show and thought, hmm, glad I wasn’t up against them. “I think the only real hurdle is yourself. You’re either gonna do the best job you can, or you can’t. It’s not really a photo contest. People make the mistake of thinking of it as a showcase of your portfolio. At the end of the day, it’s judged on how it communicates to the audience. That’s what makes it Best in Show.”
What intrigues him is the chance to play in a new medium.
“The classical definition of a good photo is one that says it all,” says Jorgenson. But new digital platforms mean that a photographer can transcend that. “You don’t need one photo to say everything. You can tell a story. Photography is becoming so much more multimedia oriented. Once you have a platform to tell a story, people get into it way more.”
“Before, you didn’t have control over who saw your stuff. For the majority of my career, no one ever asked me what photo I should use. It was always someone else deciding. So the fact you can come up with something completely on your own… that’s the game-changer. So I wanted to try it.”
Now that photographers have a platform, they’re stepping up.
But so have audiences. “If you look at old magazines from the 80s, the photos are so shitty. You couldn’t get away with that today. The consumer is more educated. The audience, every year, can tell what is better than the year before. The progression of the digital medium is on a curve.”
That’s why the Deep Summer Photo Challenge will again be one of the must-see events of Crankworx, and why you might just see a resurgence of beautiful curated print coffee table projects, featuring the work of one Blake Jorgenson, coming soon.