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Idaho photographer reimagines iconic ski photographs to boost representation

Sofia Jaramillo photo shoot
Geneva Mayall
Sofía Jaramillo, from Sun Valley, recreates historic ski images on Bald Mountain for her project "A New Winter"

An artist from the Wood River Valley is re-envisioning iconic skiing photographs as a way to challenge stereotypes in winter sports.

The project, “A New Winter,” by Sofía Jaramillo, is a work-in-progress, and it involves recreating old-time photos with models wearing historically accurate clothing and gear. Many of the photoshoots have taken place in Sun Valley during the past two winters.

Jaramillo, a Colombian-American filmmaker and a National Geographic photographer, will speak about her project at the Community Library in Ketchum on April 23 at 5:30 p.m. The talk will also be available via livestream. The Sun Valley Museum of Art will be exhibiting the work from Jan.-March 2025.

Rachel Cohen spoke with Jaramillo about “A New Winter.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On growing up in Sun Valley 

I was really lucky to grow up skiing all around Idaho because my parents lived in different places, but I learned to ski [in Sun Valley] first. As a young Latina, I didn't see many other Latinos on the slopes or represented in outdoor media. So that has greatly influenced this project, but all of the work that I do. I really try to create the work that I wished I'd seen as a kid.

On the goal of the project

In this project, I'm recreating iconic ski images from the beginning of skiing, except centering folks of color as a way of inviting conversation about who we see on the slopes today.

Sun Valley is the location of the first ski resort destination in the US, the first ski lift in the US. So, consequently, the images that came out of here were some of the first ski images that went out to the U.S. and said, this is what skiing is going to be, this is what you're going to get. A lot of those images centered a Eurocentric idea of skiing that was centered around whiteness, luxury, exclusivity. So the project is really about reimagining those photos as a way of reimagining history.

Working with historic photographs and props 

Many of the images from that era, they're really beautiful. I'm fascinated with the historic photos. They depict people in pleasure and joy, like laying in the snow, sipping on cocktails or having a charcuterie board. And I thought it would be really powerful to not only show folks of color in those scenarios, but also because there aren't that many images from the early 1930s at all of people of color enjoying themselves and expressing joy.

There's a few challenges. I can think of an image from last year. It's this really classic image of a woman in her bikini laying in front of Baldy. My friend Vanessa Chavarriaga was the model for that, and it was a negative degree wind chill that day, like -10 degrees. And she was in a swimsuit. In between shots, we were running up to her and covering her in sleeping bags and puffy coats just so we could get the shot. We had like ten minutes to do it.

Another factor with shooting outside is that we're working with the [Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History] here. They lend us clothing and ski gear from the era that can't touch the snow, it can't get wet, it can't get damaged at all. So we have to lay down plastic and be really careful about what is touching the snow and we can't shoot if it's raining or snowing.

The power of photographs 

In 2019, I was walking through the Sun Valley Lodge, and the Sun Valley Lodge has this hallway full of iconic ski photos, all from the beginning of skiing. There's probably a hundred or more images there. And it really struck me that out of all of those images, only one of the images included a person of color, and that was Louis Armstrong. That's what got me thinking; that's where the idea started for this project.

And I thought, hmm, I wonder if there were people of color at the beginning of skiing. So I went to the Sun Valley Library, and I sat with an archivist for almost a full day, and I looked through all the old scans and out of thousands of images here, but also in other archives across the West, I could only find a couple images of folks of color.

Those images are still all over mountain towns everywhere, and they still have this message that bleeds into the culture we see today. This is what I'd like to encourage conversation around. How does photography inform and influence who belongs and how does it perpetuate stereotypes? With this project, we're really trying to break down those stereotypes.

Representation can be so powerful because seeing is believing. And when folks of color see these images, they might feel more included in the sports.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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