By Cindy Filipenko
A psychedelic snowboard supports its rider as it rips across an enormous hazel iris; a skateboarder careens off a back molar on his way out of giant’s mouth; another boarder bursts out of a headless hoodie as if escaping from some unseen beast.
A groovy modern’s take on Land of the Giants ? No, it’s the world of Whistler photographer John Scarth. Or at least the world according to his gallery website at www.johnscarth.com .
While Scarth also shoots what the rest of us see, what separates him from the pack is the surrealism that marks many of his photos. Despite being a recent convert to using digital cameras, the 27-year-old Whistler resident is no digital Dali. His surrealistic imagery is not the result of clever manipulation in Photoshop, but rather the old-fashioned technique of double exposure.
“I guess you can call me a happy hypocrite,” he says of his newfound enthusiasm for digital photography. “What I like about digital is that you know whether or not you’ve got the shot right away. It’s instant gratification.
“Before digital the only real option was large format Polaroid, and unless you were a fashion photographer it was inaccessible.”
Scarth picked up his dad’s old Pentax in his teens and began taking pictures which, when he considers his childhood, almost seems like an inevitability.
“My dad worked for Kodak, so there were always cameras and film laying around the house.”
Around that same time, the Ontario native also discovered snowboarding. By moving to Whistler, he’s been able to enjoy both of his passions. And while he abandoned his plans of becoming a professional snowboarder long ago, he has continued building his photo portfolio, selling his work to snowboarding magazines and fellow enthusiasts.
“I board and shoot in the winter, landscape in the summer and I deliver food… any job with tips in Whistler is a good job,” he says.
Having shot for more than a decade, Scarth is currently enjoying the first public exhibition of his work at the newly renovated Fire Rock Lounge in the Westin. The seven, 20X30-inch prints capture extreme stunts by some of the community’s most daring snowboarders.
So how does he manage to get shots of boarders seemingly flying up trees, cresting on top of pioneer cabins or catapulting off chalet balconies? Friends and colleagues who board will approach Scarth with an idea for a shot and occasionally even he finds what’s being suggested to be a little extreme.
“I have to think, ‘Hey, these guys are professional, they know what they’re doing.’”
All though his website is devoted to snowboarding and skateboarding imagery, he has recently branched out to include portraiture and wedding work — the bread and butter for many photographer. Obviously loving what he does, the congenial Scarth doesn’t make a distinction between the various subjects that cross his lens.
“I want to shoot everything.”
Here’s hoping he gets the chance.