Photo: Sean Sullivan
Modern snowboarding was born in the streets of Salt Lake City and the mountains that surround it. Legends such as Branden Ruff, Tonino Copone, Jason Murphy, JP Walker, Jason Brown, and Jeremy Jones have all been riding here since the beginning and photographer Andy Wright was there to document it. Wright, like most other snowboarders born in the 70s, was first introduced to the mountains on a pair of skis but switched to snowboarding in the mid 80s. In Wright’s estimation, “Snowboarding is like skateboarding … it’s an individual sport. You have to find your own limits, do your own thing, make your own jumps, and decide what is possible.”
It wasn’t until after he graduated from Westminster College that he received his first camera. With no formal photography training, Wright honed his eye through years of riding in front of the camera. “It’s our job to show or convey [the feeling of snowboarding], and not make it necessarily important that you know the back story. You’re just taking a close moment and making it larger than life,” says Wright. Wright credits luck and being at the right place at the right time for capturing snowboarding from his own unique perspective.
Wright gained valuable experience in the mid 90s running Medium, his own quarterly shred mag. Medium covered the local snowboarding scene and was run out of the back of an SLC Kinko’s. It was a learning experience that lent itself to the refinement of his photographic eye, helping him ease into his current job as Transworld’s Senior Staff Photographer.
“I don’t think there has ever been a day that Transworld hasn’t been the number one snowboarding magazine,” says Wright. With the scarcity of snowboarding magazines for such a relatively insular sport, Wright feels that there is a divide between the reader and the representation of snowboarding in the magazine. “When the flavor of the week isn’t coming through but all these other kids are, you can start steering the sport in a way,” Wright says. “There is definitely a disconnection in the sense that [the snowboard magazines] are all down in Southern California and snowboarding doesn’t happen in Southern California … there is more to snowboarding outside of Grenade, Mammoth and Travis Wright. If you are a fan of those three things then Snowboarder Magazine is for you.”
As a photographer, Wright feels that action speak louder than words. He feels that he continues to be faithful to the idea that he has of what snowboarding is in his head. “To me [snowboarding] is about cruising through the trees with my friends, riding powder and having fun … not performing like a ballerina with a bib and a helmet on.” For that reason, Wright is unlikely to be caught shooting contests. “[Contests like X-Games] were started with good intentions, but they’re really just an excuse to sell banners and advertising space to modify the sport … when I watch [the X-Games] on TV its not even the same sport that I do,” says Wright. “Regardless of what obstacles and stuff you jump in contests, you can’t decide who is the best based on that. Snowboarding has never been about that.” By staying true to that ethos over the years, Wright has hiked, flown, climbed and crawled to capture his signature attention-grabbing photos.
On November 16th, Wright teamed up with local photographers E-Stone, Rob Mathis and Stan Evans to create Hustle and Snow, a show exhibiting their snowboarding photos at the Circle Lounge. In Hustle and Snow, Wright and friends become their own editors, taking their photos out of the context of a magazine. In essence, Wright takes a close moment and makes it larger than life. “When you see at that scale, framed up, on the wall, it just becomes something a little different … It really doesn’t have that kind of life in a magazine. A lot of photos I picked for the show, I picked because they come to life when you see them large,” says Wright.
Wright’s photographs portray his love and intimacy with snowboarding. They move beyond his editorial work for Transworld and transcend his commercial work with Nike Snowboarding, Mack Dawg Productions and Nitro Snowboards. Ultimately, Wright hopes that his photographs affect change in people’s attitudes towards snowboarding. “If my photos inspire people to take another approach, as opposed to getting a coach and riding a park everyday to get down a winning run, then I know I am doing the right thing,” says Wright.
To get in contact with Andy Wright and to see more of his pictures in the privacy of your own home, go to: www.andywrightphoto.com or better yet, stop by the Circle Lounge to see his larger than life works in person.