DANO Pendygrasse

odds and ends from an unusual life

Hard times for young photographers

I mentor a few young photographers and more and more, I'm hearing how tough it is to break into the photo world. This isn't news and it isn't surprising, but this post today on A Photo Editor really drove it home. Today I feel lucky to have some solid clients and diverse interests.

I used to tell anyone who asked that snowboard photography was the best job in the world, and at times it can be, but the truth of the matter is that to make it, you have to get published, and the magazines in the snowboard world are in a state of semi-panic as their page counts drop and their corporate bosses tighten the belts. They are forced to do more with less, and since there is little money to develop the web, it becomes underfunded, even though it is clearly the future of media.

Young photographers have always been taken advantage of and it's hard to say no to someone when you are hungry, but these days it's not even like the rates are too low, it's more like there are no rates. I wouldn't mind so much, because everyone can just say no to a bad deal and walk away, but when editors at magazines bully young photographers into giving away their shots for free with threats of blackballing them, things have gone too far.

The stage is set for the demise of paper magazines. At the very least we will see the herd thinned down to one or two titles in snowboarding. Evolution is coming to the shred media and it will come, like all good things, from the bottom up. Behind closed doors, photographers, designers and writers are already planning the next step. We'll soon see the day where publishing bullies are left impotent at the helm of a media ship that has sailed. Then they will have to take a long hard look at how they have treated their young peers.

I've never believed in the theory of stepping on heads to get ahead. I think that today more than ever, the idea of coopetition makes more sense. Also, the idea that poor young photographers should be funding multi-million dollar publishing conglomerates is just abhorrent. I hope that young shooters will stand up for themselves and not get bullied into giving away their shots for free. There is a time and a place for that, but it's called charity, not career. And you magazine editors flexing on these new kids should be ashamed. Especially the ones who were photographers first. This is straight out of Orwell's Animal Farm. Power corrupts eh boys?


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"How to start a Home-Based Photography Business"
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showtime


Hey folks,

On March 21st I'll be having an opening at the Blake Jorgenson Gallery in Whistler. I've decided on most of the photos I'm showing, but wanted to leave a spot open for you guys. Take a minute and look through the galleries and leave a comment or shoot me an email and let me know what you think should be included or what shouldn't. We're keeping it to winter shots, and mostly action. If you remember a shot that you always loved and isn't up here at www.danopendygrasse.com let me know and maybe we'll bring it back for you.

Thanks for all the support. I love that so many of you are visiting this website and following the blog.

-D.

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Snowboarding

I like this photo. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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A black and white snowboarding photo. Of Mark Landvik. In the Kootenays.

There isn't a lot of demand in the snowboard media for photos that have an emotional depth. People focus on the "trick porn" a lot and although you may see lots of well executed portraits and "lifestyle" shots, they are more often than not staged, plain, soulless images made to emulate the photographers favourite technique instead of capture anything transcendent or intimate. That's fine, it's just snowboarding and there really is no need to aim high...

I've always liked photos that evoke a feeling, especially one of familiarity. I like when you can look at a shot and know what it feels like to be there, to feel the snow, the cold on your face, the wind. I like when a photographer stops wanking off with their technical ego and starts to pay more attention to what is going on in front of the camera. I guess I'm tired of seeing technically perfect and creatively anemic snowboard photos.

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Protect our Winters

Over the holidays I donated some photos to a collab between Origin Design and POW (Protect our Winter), the environmental charity promoted by Jeremy Jones. I like working with the people at Origin, they are extremely professional and in the action sports industry, that's a refreshing change.

I'm an opinionated guy but I don't preach often. I feel like unless you are a perfect example, it's very hard to tell anyone else what to think or do. I'm pretty far from perfect. I use transit, I walk and bike, I recycle, I try to get my food from local sources, but I also take planes to far off places several times a year, drive a 2 stroke snowmobile (although less and less), and I'm sure that if someone took a good hard look at my life they could find a lot of ways that I could live a better, more environmentally responsible life.

So I donated some photos to people who are working harder at it than I am. If you have time, take a look at what they are doing, maybe you will find something
worthwhile there.

D.

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Cal B.C. becomes Westbeach



Westbeach grew out of Canada's fascination with California and everything it represented. If Chip had decided to sell shorts with an Eastern European theme we wouldn't be talking today.

Here are some things from the archives. First is an article clippped out of the Calgary Herald from Chip's personal stash from about 1983 or 84.

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Next is one of Chip's early business cards.

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And finally an old sticker. This sticker is significant because it is a snapshot of the moment in time when Cal B.C. became Westbeach. It's cool to see the single surfer logo that preceded the "three surfers" that everyone knows. Also, Westbeach was never really known for its involvement in skating despite having sold the product for years so it's cool to see the "Westbeach Skate Lounge".

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Finally, here is an excerpt from the book that talks about some of those times. Enjoy:

As the kids started to pick up on snowboarding, the retailers inevitably followed—even if they were a little skeptical about the new sport at first. Scott Sibley worked with Chip for Dome petroleum and he also had a business selling sailboats in Vancouver. He was the first to sell Chip’s shorts in BC and as they became more popular his business changed from sailboats to surf and skateboard brands. He and his partner Richard Mellon had a little pink house on 4th Ave. that they called Cal B.C. and they eventually formed a partnership with Chip and the store became Westbeach. Scott remembers his first impressions of snowboarding:

It was so good for us, because all the young guys [were] coming into the store going, “Oh, have you heard of snowboarding?”—you know, bringing input to us—and we’re going, “Oh, really?!” There was a kid called Kelly Alm and he was just on us like crazy about this new thing called snowboarding. He brought in this—it was the Burton with the medical-hose bindings and all of this stuff—and he goes, “Check this out!” And you look at it and you go, “Are you serious?” But, you know, that was my first discussion about snowboarding. And it comes through a kid.

Of course, once Westbeach started to carry boards, things really started to pick up steam. I asked early Westbeach team rider Paul Culling about discovering snowboarding and the role that the shops played in the sport’s development:

I went to Cal BC, which was a little pink house [on 4th Avenue in Vancouver]. It was a California-inspired clothing store, and then downstairs in the basement there was a skate shop, so we used to go over there. It was probably just a matter of hearing that there was a shop in Vancouver that sold some kind of snowboard…When you were a kid and you were skateboarding, you would take the bus clear across to—I mean it—two hours to go to a skate shop, not even if you had any money, [but] just to stare at the new decks on the wall, right? And that’s the kind of feeling of this passion that you have, and you want to go in and you want to talk to somebody else. Back then if you were to see somebody else on a snowboard, anybody to do with snowboarding, you would immediately just talk because you wanted to share experiences—“Where have you gone? What have you done? What are you riding?”—because it was all so new. I mean, everything was new.

In 1987 Cal BC officially became the Westbeach Surf Company, and the store moved out of the little pink house and into the spot that would be the center of the Westbeach brand for more than twenty years: 1723 West 4th Ave.

- From the soon to be published "Out West: Snowboarding, Westbeach and a new Canadian dream"
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David Rouleau snowboards for my camera.

Dave Rouleau. Gap to frontboard. Whistler.

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Mountain Photographer, Portrait Photographer, Snowboard Photographer...

I've had a lot of feedback to a recent article I wrote for Snowboard Canada Magazine. The funny thing about my career as a photographer is that it came out of my desire to be a writer. In the end I'm doing both but I've met so many good writers over the years that I can't take that side of my career as seriously as the photography.

In any case, SBC had been asking me to write something for their "RANT" column for a long time and I had been trying to avoid it because as I get more experience I realize that I don't want to invest in negative energy and would rather keep it positive. They persisted and one day one I was feeling particularly snarky I pounded out 750 words or so for the column. Now when I write something for a magazine, I do it so that it will be an excuse to run one of my photos. That's a dirty little secret in our world, if you can write, you'll get published more. That's all there is to it.

Anyhoo, the article came out and John Scarth used his own shot to illustrate it. Irony.

Here is the article in case you missed it:

Keep it to yourself.
 
For a long time now I’ve been known as an opinionated guy. Part of the punk rock chip on my shoulder still survives from my teens and as much as I mellow with age, there is a bitter cynic lurking just below the surface. I don’t really let that guy out much anymore. I’ve come to realize that when you invest in the negative energy, all you get is negative results.
 
But sometimes things just Piss. Me. Off.
 
I’m working on a book right now, and it’s about the history of our sport, and about the Westbeach company. It’s been really interesting to dig into the vaults and get to know where we came from a bit more. I mean, I lived it, but I was also a teenager and some of those years are a little blurry. So I’m looking at the pictures and stories with fresh eyes and let me tell you something - our history is something to be proud of.
 
But then somewhere along the line things changed. In the late 90’s there was a lot of consolidation of brands. Little guys either banded together with bigger guys, or they went out of business. Ski companies smelled money and moved in. People with real money, like
Trump money, started looking at snowboarding like it was the next big, great investment. Some of them bought in too.
 
So what pisses me off? The culture that killed the Westbeach Classic pisses me off. It was the best snowboard event in Canada. Some people think it was the best event in the world. And it went away. Why did it go away? Because Westbeach got bought, sold, cut up into pieces, and eventually two groups of people who had nothing to do with the original company, snowboarding, or the heritage of the sport, and only cared about bottom lines, signed an absolutely horrendous contract and pulled the bloody pumping heart out of the company. And they didn’t even know that they were doing irreparable damage to Canadian snowboarding. Didn’t even care. It pisses me off that they were ever even
allowed to be in a position to make decisions that affected our sport and our future. Of course they are going to do the wrong thing, they have no vested interest in the sport. So how in the world did venture capitalists and corporations get control of our future? We gave it to them.
 
When a company reaches a certain size, it becomes too expensive for them to keep doing business without outside money. Outside money doesn’t just grow on trees so when you get big enough and want to take it to the next level, chances are you will have to make a deal with the devil. Lots of snowboard companies made these deals to try to grow into a bigger company, but take a look around the landscape of Canadian snowboard history and you will see it littered with the bodies of companies that couldn’t make it work. Storm, Treeline, Rev, Or:g, Limited, Luxury, to name a few, and that’s just some of the board companies that come to mind.  So why am I mad? Am I some sort of class warrior socialist hero? No. I’m not that guy. But I am patriotic, and even more, I’m a snowboarder who cares about the future of Canadian snowboarding.
 
We need more Canadian snowboard brands. And we need companies that can say no to a bad deal and manage their growth. Anyone can go buy snowboarding culture at the mall every day, and instead of being a reflection of the people who live it, these days it’s just being force fed to them. I don’t want focus group tested colour ways. I don’t want 5 companies selling the same red and black striped jacket year after year. What I do want is individuals to make things that are unique. I want for them to get noticed for that, maybe get a little credit for that, and not get ripped off by some multi-national corporation. I want regional diversity. I want the people I meet on the road to look different from the people I meet at home. I want arrogant heroes and unapologetic badass locals. I want them to invent trends, grow them, and then when they're ready - unleash their culture on the clones.
 
Mostly I want riders to care enough to buy something local, something Canadian or even better I want you all to quit fucking buying “cool” at the mall and start making it yourself.
 
- dano

A photographer and sometimes social commentator, dano has been called both unapologetic and arrogant.
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Vancouver Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver's downtown eastside is rough. I spend a lot of time walking down there and I've seen all sorts of madness from the bottom end of humanity. Drug abuse makes people into husks. One dimensional creatures with a simple agenda; get more, do more, by whatever means. Crime is rampant and the streets are full of characters that you don't want to meet in an alley after dark. I don't make eye contact often.

There is, however, a lot that I want to take pictures of. I've begun to get a little braver with the camera, and it comes out pretty much every day now, but I'm still not ready to take a picture of an addict in the middle of a psychotic speedball episode. It's not really what I'm interested in to be honest. It feels a little cheap to go looking for the truly depraved so that middle class folks can point at the pictures and say "that's the problem."

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power.
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cranes/lights.
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rooms.
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Recent Work, Westbeach Heritage book, Grenade Games 5.

It has been pointed out to me that I should maybe showcase some of the things I've been up to lately. As you can see from the last blog, my last year has been really busy as well as really diverse in terms of the projects that I've taken on. I'm still waiting to get the hard copy of Whistler/Blackcomb's media kit to see the portraits I shot for it, but I'll show you some of the other things going on.

Go here to see the Westbeach Heritage blog. We'll be leaking bits and pieces from the book in the next six months as we lead up to the publication, as well as some things that didn't make the book that are super interesting.

Of course I'm
charging hard on my new project with Monster Energy and Grenade to bring the Grenade Games to Whistler for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. I'm really impressed that after voicing what a lot of people were thinking last year, that the TWSSF has taken an active stance to make a better festival and let me be a part of it. It's very much a "put up or shut up" situation and I've turned my focus to this for the season. Join the Facebook group here for updates.

I've had a bunch of work getting published in the last month or so too. Here is some of it that I like best:

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The word "legend" makes me feel old. Snowboard Canada Mag.
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Landvik rules. I'm glad Anon picked this shot.
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Devun Walsh's interview in Frequency Mag is pretty great. It's a good issue and you all should pick it up.
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12 months

In the last 12 months I:

Got married.
Bought a condo.
Wrote a book.
Spent 20 (though not nearly enough) hours underwater.
Watched the magazine I helped start, end.
Sold photos to magazines and companies around the world.
Did the highest paying photo job I’ve ever done.
Was offered less than I ever have been for photos.
Took huge chances in my career.
Worked on a deeply satisfying personal project.
Worked too hard, but not smart enough.
Lost my priorities.
Found them again.
Fell further in love.
Started to put the pieces together.
Was humiliated.
Was proud.
Was intimidated.
Got over it.
Rode a bus.
Rode a bike.
Rode a boat.
Rode a helicopter.
Rode a snowboard.
Rode a plane.
Rode a (sky)train.
Rode a snowmobile.
Wakesurfed.


Sometimes I have absolutely no idea how I make it through the years. My life astonishes me.

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Wind. Olympic Village. Vancouver.
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Several steps

My life is getting torn in several directions lately. It's exciting to do new things and have new challenges, and it's also difficult to let other things wait.

Yesterday was the beginning of the media campaign to promote Grenade Games 5, this spring and it went very much according to plan. As the days move on we'll be bringing more information out and continuing to work to make sure that the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler is the best it has been in years.

On the other hand, the winter in BC has being very difficult and isn't cooperating in the making of snowboard photos. I find that to be frustrating. C'est la vie. Life moves on. Mine continues to be very, very interesting and unusual. As I shoot more and more in my neighbourhood, I am starting to really "see". Themes start to become obvious and I spend more time developing the ones that speak loudest to me. This is a long process and It's very interesting. The best part about it is that as you live longer, the things you see change. How you see changes. What is important to you personally and photographically change. This means I'm often dismissive of some of my past work as I move past it, and also some things from my past that didn't resonate with me immediately grow on me over time. My work evolves even after it's in the can.

As my snowboard photography suffers in a bad season, I become a better photographer.

Here are a couple shots from this week.

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s canoe
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dog run
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casino bird
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