When a young Swedish photographer named Daniel Blom met an unknown Swiss rider named Nicolas Müller in a crowed Whistler bar ten years ago, little did he know it would be a catalyst for a decade soon-to-be spent immersed in the lives of some of snowboarding's most influential riders.
Although Blom dismisses the idea of fate, he won't argue the fact that this random happenstance ultimately allowed him the opportunity to travel the world with snowboarding's elite.
Blom spent ten years shooting the likes of Travis Rice, Gigi Rüf and company in locations like Alaska and Switzerland. Through his imagery, not only has the psychotic behavior of his subjects stunt work come to light, but his insightful approach has captured the raw beauty of the landscapes in which they thrive.
Recently, he gathered all of the imagery into one place: a two-hundred-forty paged hardcover photo essay chronicling his years spent on the road, in the air and the twisted time between. It is aptly-titled "Drifting Decade," and is now available for the very fair price of $65 on his website: danielblom.com.
Your story of how you broke into the industry is pretty interesting.
Well first I should say that I started in snowboarding in '94 and realized pretty fast that I wanted to be in the industry somehow. So I think this just came about through my working towards that. But I ended up going to Whistler for a season in 2002 just to try and shoot in the park and possibly meet some people in snowboarding. One night we were at a bar and my friend recognized people he knew from Europe. It was Nicolas Müller and filmer Patrick Armbrüster.
They didn't have a photographer for the crew and asked me if I was good -- of course I said yes! I knew I should take this opportunity, even if I wasn't the most experienced photographer around. So they invited me to kind of tag along.
I only shot with them for three days, but that first day ended up being one of my best days ever with six different photos run in various magazines -- all from one day! It turns out that was Müller's breakthrough year.
From there it snowballed. Absinthe started inviting me to the Alps to come shoot more and I got in with Method Mag in Europe and eventually on to Snowboarder Mag in the States.
That's pretty amazing. Do you believe in fate?
No, not really. I was definitely lucky on that one. I think that if you try hard enough at something you will succeed. So maybe you earn your fate.
Over the years what riders did you work with?
I worked a lot with the Absinthe riders: Gigi, Nico, Wolle, Travis Rice... Shooting with those guys was so fun and I have so many good friendships and memories to show for that time. Then I started doing more commercial work with companies like Quicksilver and even things outside of snowboarding.
These days I like shooting with unknown riders as much as the big pros. I like to see kids that are hungry and really focused on getting a cool shot. Sometimes when you are with a big production crew it ends up being more about the video shot and not the photo which is can make it a challenge.
Why is it time for a book?
I was doing a job for a paper manufacturer in Sweden and got to looking at some of the books and projects they had going. It just got me thinking about how cool it would be to make a book myself. There are not too many books snowboard photographers are putting out either -- you see that more in skateboarding. So I saw a chance and went for it.
I guess I wanted something that would stand the test of time. After a few years, copies of many magazines are gone and websites inevitably change, so a big body of my work is temporary. A lot of the reasons I did it were personal ones.
Shooting from 2002, you must have thousands of cool photos just buried on a hard drive somewhere that have never seen the light of day. Is part of it wanting to tell more of these stories as well?
Yeah that was definitely part of it. Many of the photos that get run in magazines are what the people want to see, yet I have so many photos that I want to see. So that was a big part of choosing the shots for the book – photos that told a story. This was my one chance to have total control of what I wanted to look at, how I wanted to see it.
What are you doing these days, besides publishing books?
I still do a quite a bit of photography within snowboarding, but I also focus a lot on lifestyle and advertising campaigns. It's fun. I still get to travel and see old friends, but the whole editorial thing where you live out of your suitcase for six months of the year is over.
As someone who has covered the bases in this industry, from editorial to commercial work, what kind of advice would you give a young photographer trying to get in?
I think a good idea is to assist a really good photographer, even if they have nothing to do with snowboarding. You can learn quite a lot of technical stuff as well as how the whole photo industry works, stuff you can really learn from just snowboarding.
But on the other hand, things have changed quite a bit in recent years with the internet and all the options that it provides. As long as you are on the snow, meeting people and trying hard, I think you can make it happen. Also, don't be intimidated if you don't have the same gear as all the pros. That's not what matters.