By the late ‘90s, media had begun descending on the US Open in droves and photographers were corralled into pits along the pipe. Gary Land had always enjoyed free rein to walk the walls, capturing singular shot after shot. This new set-up set him off. And on to find a new angle. He climbed atop a sponsor RV parked at the snow front, focused a long lens and with 35mm film captured the people, pros, halfpipe in a one-in-a-million photo; it’s now one of his favorites and one you’ll find in “East Street Archives,” his 437-page “love letter to snowboarding” available to preorder and soon in Stratton Village.
The award-winning director and photographer moved to Vermont in 1993 where he focused his energy and relationships around snowboarding, shooting endless bricks of film, editing magazines, making friends for life and growing as a creative force with each passing season. East Street Archives documents the emotional journey with a raw look at the personalities, the riders, and the moments that made the East Coast a mecca as the sport exploded.
We caught up with Gary at Stratton this winter just before his book launch in NYC, Boston and at Burton headquarters in Burlington, events that brought the legends together and raised $25,000 for the Chill Foundation.
Driving in from Boston and up Stratton Mountain Road brought decades of memories into focus, followed by a lot of reminiscing before we got to a little Q&A.
Myra Foster: Congratulations Gary! Your book is getting lots of “ink.” I’m seeing exciting posts from so many pros I remember, like Tricia Byrnes who won the US Open halfpipe as a 17-year-old amateur. There must be photos of Tricia and her brother Doug, namesake of the East Byrnes Side Park?
Gary Land: Thanks, Myra! Yeah, that was awesome seeing so many people reposting and supporting the book. I have so many images of Tricia and Doug from back then. There are definitely a few of them in there.
MF: Speaking of Doug and Tricia, Stratton was like a Who’s Who with Ross Powers, Ron Chiodi, Aurelie Sayres, Russell Winfield, and Kim Stacey … to name a few. Was every day like a photoshoot?
GL: Stratton was a scene for sure. Anytime I made my way to the park or pipe it always seemed like there were at least a half dozen well-known riders there. I would always have my camera hoping to get shots of them and 9 times out of 10 I did.
MF: With such a wealth of iconic imagery, how did you limit yourself to 437 pages for this book?
GL: Yeah right? That was a tough one for sure. As I was laying it out and deciding what to use I just kept adding pages. I went with my gut and just did what felt right. I have such an insane amount of photos but the book can only be so big and I didn’t want to cram a ton of small images into its pages. I wanted to give the riders at least a full page. 437 pages is a ton of pages. I have shared it with several people and halfway through they say that it feels like they have already gone through two books.
MF: How long were you working on the project, and how does it feel to finally hold a copy of the book in your hands?
GL: I started working on the East Street Archives book right as Covid hit. For the first time in many years, I was grounded at home with nothing to do. I knew it was a now or never scenario. I keep saying to people “It took a pandemic!” Having that time behind me and the book in my hands is so rewarding. I am super happy with how it came out and hope everyone feels as good about it as I do.
MF: Do you have a few favorite shots?
GL: I guess I have a few favorite images. One I took in 1996 of Jeff Brushie from the Open. I was shooting from the top of the Arnette Van and Jeff is boosting over the mushroom hut with his signature crail. The other would have to be the shot I took in 1999 of Andrew Mutty jumping off of the Beth Israel parking garage in Boston. That was just insanity which is probably why it appeared on the cover of Snowboarder.
MF: You’ve traveled all over, what defines the East Coast vibe?
GL: We rode no matter what. We were faced with the worst conditions and proudly owned it. All that cold weather, icy slopes, and flat landings were what made us strong. It was our scene and we were proud of it.
MF: Why do you consider the ‘90s the “Golden Age” of snowboarding?
GL: I consider the 90s the Golden Age of Snowboarding because that was the time period that saw the most growth. In 1990 there were only a handful of shops selling maybe two-three different boards because there were only a few of us that actually rode. Each year the numbers increased and our family grew at an alarming rate. A few years later there were over 200 snowboard companies and their boards were being sold everywhere. We went from high backs to low backs, baseless to step-in bindings. In less than a decade, we went from being unwanted punks trashing the slopes to Olympic hopefuls representing our country.
MF: Beyond the prize money, the pros, the events, what made the US Open special? And were you in “The Cage?”
GL: The US Open was special for me because it was happening at my home mountain. I wrote in the book about this. I said something like imagine if the NBA All-Star game was being played in your high school gym. That’s what it felt like. The best riders in the world came to our mountain to hang out, compete, and show off their skills… and the best part is you could stand on the deck of the pipe and almost touch them as they took their run. I was in the cage with all my friends partaking in a little refreshment in between snapping pics. That was a time in snowboarding history that will never be repeated.
MF: All the big snowboard shooters were at the Open, who did you look up to in the early days?
GL: I am a fan of Trevor Graves’ work because he was the first photographer that I saw photographing snowboarders in the East Coast. It was his work that inspired me to move to Vermont.
MF: Did you ever imagine snowboarding would be in the Olympics and that you’d see the sort of runs that won medals in 2022.
GL: I honestly didn’t think that snowboarding would ever be taken that seriously. We all started snowboarding because we wanted to skate on snow. We were hated as skaters and even more so as snowboarders. I remember there was a ton of controversy over the Olympics. It made a lot of people uneasy. Every time I think about snowboarding’s induction into the Olympics I always think about Terje and him boycotting it. We all knew he would have won. All these years later I still wonder if he is glad he made that decision.
MF: Where do you see the sport going?
GL: I believe that the sport is still evolving. Kids are learning faster and are better than we were when we were twice their age. I have noticed a huge increase in freeriding and carving, split boarding and pow surfing. People want to explore the terrain and take their time. I would like to see pipe riding come back on the East Coast.
MF: What about a retro pipe with straight airs and nothing more than a 540?
GL: Yes Please!!!!
MF: Now that the book is done, what’s in the works?
GL: The book is done! I love the sound of that. Yes. I will take the winter to ride as much as possible and promote the book a bit while juggling my day-to-day job shooting and directing for some of our clients. I will be traveling to Japan in May to work on my next project. I guess we will have to do another one of these so I can fill you in on that one.
MF: Do you still shoot film?
GL: I do occasionally shoot film when a client requests it but I hate to say I love digital much more. I can shoot in any lighting situation and digitally process each image to look like any film ever made. No more waiting to see results and digital is much more cost-efficient.
MF: Will we see you at the next Vermont Open?
GL: I will be there just as long as one of my clients doesn’t have me shooting somewhere.
For more great content, follow East Street Archives // @EastStreetArchives on Instagram!
From the home of snowboarding, check out our On Board From The Start blog post.
Published April 10, 2022. Words by Myra Foster and Gary Land. Photo captions by Andrew Kimiecik.