When I first met photographer Garrett Grove, I was a sophomore just starting into an eight-year run at a five-year environmental journalism degree.
Garrett was recently graduated and married, just starting to bring his new digital SLR camera up to Mt. Baker, Wash., during the winters. Good snowboarding partners are a valuable thing, and since we had both recently been hired at REI and I’d been dorm-mates with his brother at Western Washington University, the three of us spent much of that season exploring Mt. Baker’s many hidden zones. I still remember the first photo I saw him take: of his brother slashing a wind lip in the Baker sidecountry on the Shuksan Arm.
It’s been nearly a decade since that first snapshot, and in the meantime we’ve both jumped full-on into action sports media, facilitated in large part by Garrett’s skill and generosity. Even setting up this interview, I was late calling him because I was editing a ski magazine; he was late to answer because he was editing photos from that day’s shoot at Retallack, B.C., with some of the best mountain bikers in the world. From our beginnings as fellow snow junkies, I’ve watched Garrett grow into one of the most talented, creative and hard-working photographers in the industry.
Today, his portfolio hosts shots published in Powder, Bike, Rock & Ice, The Ski Journal, Backcountry and Skiing, among others. In 2011, he won the Salt Lake Shootout in Utah, and later that year, got his first Powder cover.
For someone whose style developed from skiing, climbing and trail running, mountain biking provides a fresh challenge, mixing elements from the others. Light, movement and powerful landscapes have always been Garrett’s forte—add dirt and knobby-tired wheels, and he excels in a new way.
“I find mountain biking somewhere in between skiing and rock climbing,” he says. “I see skiing as the most dynamic. Because of the snow, you essentially only get one chance; also because there are so many lighting variables. Climbing is very static—you can have someone do a move a hundred times, but there’s no dust; there’s no snow; there’s no movement. I think biking is somewhere in the middle; you can have someone do it over and over, but it’s also got this element of dust and dirt, movement and speed.”
The most rewarding part of the job for Garrett has nothing to do with the sport or its grand locales. Of course, travel is fun, he says. But it’s the humble and passionate people with whom he works, who make the job. And capturing them at the pinnacle of their craft, focused, as everything comes together—that’s magic.
“It’s pretty obvious when there’s that spectacular photo you’re going to want to look at for the next few years of your life,” Garrett says. “When you can say ‘Wow, everything lined up. Everything is where it should be. Everything in the picture has a purpose, and there’s nothing that takes away from it’—it all pushes towards whatever it needs to say or do.”
Just as Garrett’s subjects have been the most enjoyable part of the job, telling the story, he says, is the most intriguing. In fact, he sees himself headed further into the documentary-side of things in the future. But one thing will always remain for Garrett whether he’s biking in Mongolia, exploring the slums of Mexico or just hanging with old friends in the mountains: the search for the meaningful always is the focus.
“I’m constantly looking for beauty and balance,” he says, “and light drives a lot of it for me, whether it’s a ridgeline with the mountains in the background and the biker ripping up a trail of dust, or just where you are and the people you’re with giving you the stoke to take the photo.”
Eight years and hundreds of powder and trail days since sitting behind the counter at REI, I count Garrett as one of my closest friends, and oldest and most inspiring colleagues. Garrett is infamous as an instigator—“Yeah, it looks sketchy…but it’d be such a rad photo!”—and as both a skier and a writer, I owe much to that often-dubious goading.
Over the last decade, I’ve watched Garrett develop from a snowboarder who stopped to take the occasional photograph, into one of the most impressive up-and-comers in the photo world. But—taking cue from his photographs—more than anything, I’ve watched a friend find balance, light and beauty in the people and places around him.
Garrett Grove - The Photographer's Story as originally published in Freehub Magazine Issue 3.2