A Sense of Belonging
A small, silhouetted figure arcs across a blank canvas, carving inspired turns into the snowy backdrop. Aaron Schwartz follows the scene with his lens, shutter whirring, documenting an ethereal simplicity with the approach of a minimalist painter. Since his early days as an illustrator and designer, Schwartz has preferred the stripped-back essence of black and white line work. Through a process of reduction, his photography whittles down snowboarding to a core essence: the art of the turn.
Aaron, a 35-year-old Canadian born photographer and graphic designer living in Switzerland, doesn’t tend to plan for specific shots. He jokes that he plans, often, to not have a plan. His introduction to photography didn’t include lofty sets, light fixtures, or weeks of pre-production. Whether shooting in the streets or the alpine, there’s a spontaneity to Schwartz’s approach. And its thanks to that inherent malleability that he’s afforded time to see subtle details and unique perspectives that might otherwise go overlooked.
Born to immigrant parents in North Vancouver and then raised in Switzerland after his family moved when he was six years old, Aaron spent time between the staggering peaks of the Alps and Coastal Range his entire early life. It was natural then that a serendipitous encounter in Switzerland, years after another stint in Canada to finish university, connected him with Korua Shapes, a European start-up snowboard brand that was just then defining a black and white visual language. From their initial meeting in 2014, to Schwartz’s full-time position today, the brand and photographer grew together, pushing the limits of a grayscale aesthetic, often in direct contrast to the flashy, vivid direction snowboarding was evolving. Shooting stills on a number of Korua’s films, Aaron adopted their run-and-gun, embrace the flow approach. The team works best in a spontaneous environment when the only true goal is to find the best turns. Over the years, Schwartz and Korua’s joint creative vision set them apart, and defined a fresh look in the industry.
Though he is now a household name in snowboarding photography, Schwartz still finds himself searching for ways to continue to refine his vision. His riders often become silhouettes—shrouded in anonymity, they come to represent the individual less, instead evoking an amorphous feeling and energy associated with that style of riding. At times, the riders are removed completely, with only tracks left in their wakes. The result is an experience at once more relatable and more imaginative for the viewer. Aaron’s work is an alchemy of the barest essence of the sport and all the minutia that we feel but do not see when riding.
Beyond the camera, he still has a deep love for design and illustration. Whether behind the lens or with a black marker on one of Korua’s signature graphic-less, white base boards, Schwartz interprets the blank canvas like a fresh field of powder. One might see irony in a graphic designer working in a creative role for the board company that made its name with graphic-free designs, but, perhaps, that’s the ultimate realization of their relationship. Aaron uses clean composition and defined contrast to draw the viewer’s attention to simple, yet powerful elements of shape and form; the boards set out to accomplish the same. Together, Korua and Schwartz have cultivated a style that reduces snowboarding to its purest distillation: the art of the turn.