Garrett Grove (1982) is a photographer based out of Leavenworth, Washington. He has spent the last seven years as a freelance photographer in the editorial and commercial world of travel and adventure sports. Up until last month he was a self-taught photographer but is currently enrolled in the Hartford Art School’s MFA in Photography program (2017). His work and clients have included Patagonia, Outside, National Geographic, ESPN and others. Today we share our interview with Garrett, discussing his three year series titled Snow Dome photographed in Hokkaido, Japan.
Snowdome (Hokkaido, 2012 – 2015)
“This project began over the course of my first trip to Hokkaido in 2012. I was enamored by the juxtaposition of Hokkaido’s dense population and the sheer volume of snow which falls throughout the winter. During my second trip in 2013/14 thirty feet of snow fell between December 14th & January 14th. I found some of the most magical times were when I would wake with the residents at 4am and observe the nearly robotic gestures they made in order manage the accumulating snow before the city would populate.”
AB: Hey Garrett, tell us a little about how you started taking photos and how it influences you today?
GG: I began shooting with more consistency when I started climbing, skiing and generally spending more time in the mountains back in 2001. Being in an open and mountainous environment begged me to grab a camera and it has only crept in to other aspects of my life since then. Over the years it has directed my life and created opportunities I would have never imagined.
AB: What gear did you use to shoot this project? Are you shooting on film?
GG: This project began with a Mamiya 7 and a Contax G2 but when I returned home and looked over the film I realized I needed a camera I could shoot at higher ISO’s with and was generally quicker for me to operate. So when I returned the following year I shot only with my digital camera.
AB: How did you become interested in this subject matter?
GG: Japan, specifically the island of Hokkaido, has interested me for many years. I don’t think there is any other place in the world that receives the amount of snow they do all while supporting a very dense population of people. The infrastructure that is needed in order to maintain a daily existence in that kind of environment is very extensive. The project really clicked one morning around 3:30am when I was dropping my wife off at the train and I saw hundreds of people already up running snow blowers, tractors, dump trucks and shoveling the multiple feet of snow that had fallen that night. It was this beautiful cold harmony.
AB: Did you fly to Japan solely for this series to be created?
GG: No. All three years I was on commissions to photograph skiing in the nearby areas. I would stay longer or wake up early in order to shoot Snowdome.
AB: I’m surprised to hear that this area can undergo that much snowfall. How do they manage all of it?
GG: It’s really quite phenomenal. Mount Baker Ski Area is renowned for their world record snowfall in 1998/99 (1140 inches) but this entire island gets a similar amount yet still has to maintain a huge population of people. The first year I was there 30 feet of snow fell in 30 days, it is unreal. There is a huge infrastructure in place to deal with this but it is the diligence of the citizens who shovel and move snow around their property that really enables everything to fall into place. The other aspect which allows a city to still operate is the natural hot springs which runs underneath everything. Throughout the town there are gates which can be opened up so that snow can be dumped into the drains, melted and washed away.
AB: How long does the snow fall last? Are there longer winters on the island of Hokkaido?
GG: Typically consistent snow falls in the metropolitan areas from late November through late February.
AB: Is there an image in this series that you feel speaks for this series as a whole the most?
GG: My favorite image is of the man holding the chainsaw walking away from the wall of ice. His body position speaks of the burden the snow holds over him through the winter months.
AB: What was the biggest difference for you working on this project when it came to walking around these areas at night vs. the day?
GG: During the day most of the streets are already plowed, driveways shoveled and citizens are at work or in their house. It is primarily at night or dawn when everyone is up for 1-2 hours trying to manage the new snowfall before the normal day begins.
AB: Do you have any new projects you’re working on?
GG: I just started an MFA in Photography through the Hartford Art School and I will be focusing in on Washington, specifically the eastern side of the state. I don’t have any more nuanced ideas in mind quite yet.
AB: Do you have any interesting stories from your time in Japan? Specifically from shooting this series? Did you have any memorable interactions with these men photographed?
GG: Due to the language barrier and my taller stature (6’2″) there are plenty of interesting stories and interactions that came up as I walked through the streets taking photos of people who generally stand no taller than my chest and didn’t understand what I was trying to say. Most all of the pictures I took ended up being of men because the woman really hated having their pictures taken and would hide their faces. Consequently I would spend a decent chunk of time trying to convince them they actually wanted their picture taken but somehow that message was lost in translation.
To view more of Garrett’s work please visit his website.