Aspen Through The Lens

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Locally celebrated photographer Jeremy Swanson captures Aspen’s intimate beauty with breathtaking photography.- By Christine Benedetti  |  Photos by Jeremy Swanson

 Farmers and photographers have something in common: They both sit around and wait for the weather.At least that’s true according to Jeremy Swanson. He’s the unofficial photographer of Aspen but grew up in Illinois, where his family worked the fields, so he knows about the industry and just how important Mother Nature can be to both professions.

“It’s just easy here in Aspen because there is always something happening,” Swanson says. “We live in a cyclical place. So, we’re always turning to something different, whether it’s the first snow or the leaves changing. Changes always come, and we’ve got that with weather.”

If it snows, that means Swanson is on the mountain before the lifts start running. He is Aspen Skiing Co.’s photographer and provides content for the website, social media sites and marketing materials. Forget first chair, he gets dawn patrol.

“It’s a bluebird winter morning, patrol has just been working on the avalanche charges, and we’re just chomping at the bit to get out there and get some pictures and lay fresh tracks,” he says. “Everyone is having so much fun. You can’t stage anything. People are just grinning, and all I have to do is make sure I don’t mess it up.”

Naturally, there’s an abundance of breathtaking beauty in Aspen, which is one reason Swanson says he is the accomplished photographer that he is today. He also feels lucky to live in a close-knit community that has supported him over the years.

“I often sit around and think, ‘This doesn’t seem like it could be a job,’ ” he says.

Swanson arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley in 1999 after he was hired by Anderson Ranch Arts Center to work as a programs administrator. There, he took photography classes and started to assist in workshops. Though he had a master’s in theater from the University of Illinois and an undergraduate degree from a small Quaker college called Earlham, he soon learned that he was better at spotting good light than being in the spotlight. At the time, he never thought that he would live in a place where people come to vacation.

Fast-forward 13 years, and he’s busy capturing the intimate details of daily life in Aspen and Snowmass. Besides producing content for Aspen Skiing Co., he photographs for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the town of Snowmass Village, local magazines, real estate firms, product catalogs and takes portraits.

“He can beautifully capture every element of our resort—from snapping a skier on the perfect powder turn on a bluebird day or making a child laugh while eating a burger at one of our restaurants,” says Aspen Skiing Co. spokeswoman Meredith McKee. “On top of that, he turns photos around at lightning speed, and most importantly, he does it all with a big smile on his face.”

Chances are, if you’ve seen a picture of Aspen over the years, Swanson was behind it.

“The only things I don’t shoot are weddings,” he says. “They scare me; if I really blow it I can’t go back and reshoot. Weddings make taking pictures of people hucking off of cliffs seem like nothing.”

Swanson’s ability to generate immediate content has made him an asset in a competitive market.

“There’s a great deal of hunger for really current images,” he says. “I picture people sitting in their office in Dallas, or at home in Chicago, and they know they have that Aspen vacation in four weeks and they want to know, ‘Is it still green? Did the rain finally come? What’s the snow like?’ They want to daydream a little bit about being here.”

The key is making photographs that are part of a narrative. When people look at his work, he wants it to feel like there’s something that happened before the picture was snapped, and an action that followed it. It’s about visual storytelling. Sometimes, this ends up being the weather and the scenery. “I feel like I’m a travel photographer that doesn’t have to travel,” he says.

On a typical day, he sneaks in a scenic shot at sunrise. Then it’s on to a staged setting, like a newly listed real estate property. In the afternoon, he spends time with his 9-year-old daughter Tilly and his wife Jennifer. Afterward, it’s back on the scene to shoot an event or to edit the day’s work.  When it comes to his camera, Swanson is loyal to Canon products and uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to edit. He always has at least two cameras in tow for back up and is fond of the Instagram app when it comes to point-and-shoot work.

“Canon is so familiar that often the technical side of photography—getting the exposure right, dialing in the depth of field, determining what ISO to shoot at—fades into the background, and I can pay attention to the image I want to capture,” he says. “But it’s just a tool. Some people create breathtaking photos with only their phones.”

This multidimensional photographer has learned the true art of photography. By incorporating evolving technology and creating a lifestyle in which his work is his passion, Swanson is humbly living the Aspen dream while capturing it for others.

Farmers and photographers have something in common: They both sit around and wait for the weather. At least that’s true according to Jeremy Swanson. He’s the unofficial photographer of Aspen but grew up in Illinois, where his family worked the fields, so he knows about the industry and just how important Mother Nature can be to both professions.

“It’s just easy here in Aspen because there is always something happening,” Swanson says. “We live in a cyclical place. So, we’re always turning to something different, whether it’s the first snow or the leaves changing. Changes always come, and we’ve got that with weather.”

If it snows, that means Swanson is on the mountain before the lifts start running. He is Aspen Skiing Co.’s photographer and provides content for the website, social media sites and marketing materials. Forget first chair, he gets dawn patrol.

“It’s a bluebird winter morning, patrol has just been working on the avalanche charges, and we’re just chomping at the bit to get out there and get some pictures and lay fresh tracks,” he says. “Everyone is having so much fun. You can’t stage anything. People are just grinning, and all I have to do is make sure I don’t mess it up.”

Naturally, there’s an abundance of breathtaking beauty in Aspen, which is one reason Swanson says he is the accomplished photographer that he is today. He also feels lucky to live in a close-knit community that has supported him over the years.

“I often sit around and think, ‘This doesn’t seem like it could be a job,’ ” he says.

Swanson arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley in 1999 after he was hired by Anderson Ranch Arts Center to work as a programs administrator. There, he took photography classes and started to assist in workshops. Though he had a master’s in theater from the University of Illinois and an undergraduate degree from a small Quaker college called Earlham, he soon learned that he was better at spotting good light than being in the spotlight. At the time, he never thought that he would live in a place where people come to vacation.

Fast-forward 13 years, and he’s busy capturing the intimate details of daily life in Aspen and Snowmass. Besides producing content for Aspen Skiing Co., he photographs for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the town of Snowmass Village, local magazines, real estate firms, product catalogs and takes portraits.

“He can beautifully capture every element of our resort—from snapping a skier on the perfect powder turn on a bluebird day or making a child laugh while eating a burger at one of our restaurants,” says Aspen Skiing Co. spokeswoman Meredith McKee. “On top of that, he turns photos around at lightning speed, and most importantly, he does it all with a big smile on his face.”

Chances are, if you’ve seen a picture of Aspen over the years, Swanson was behind it.

“The only things I don’t shoot are weddings,” he says. “They scare me; if I really blow it I can’t go back and reshoot. Weddings make taking pictures of people hucking off of cliffs seem like nothing.”

Swanson’s ability to generate immediate content has made him an asset in a competitive market.

“There’s a great deal of hunger for really current images,” he says. “I picture people sitting in their office in Dallas, or at home in Chicago, and they know they have that Aspen vacation in four weeks and they want to know, ‘Is it still green? Did the rain finally come? What’s the snow like?’ They want to daydream a little bit about being here.”

The key is making photographs that are part of a narrative. When people look at his work, he wants it to feel like there’s something that happened before the picture was snapped, and an action that followed it. It’s about visual storytelling. Sometimes, this ends up being the weather and the scenery. “I feel like I’m a travel photographer that doesn’t have to travel,” he says.

On a typical day, he sneaks in a scenic shot at sunrise. Then it’s on to a staged setting, like a newly listed real estate property. In the afternoon, he spends time with his 9-year-old daughter Tilly and his wife Jennifer. Afterward, it’s back on the scene to shoot an event or to edit the day’s work.  When it comes to his camera, Swanson is loyal to Canon products and uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to edit. He always has at least two cameras in tow for back up and is fond of the Instagram app when it comes to point-and-shoot work.

“Canon is so familiar that often the technical side of photography—getting the exposure right, dialing in the depth of field, determining what ISO to shoot at—fades into the background, and I can pay attention to the image I want to capture,” he says. “But it’s just a tool. Some people create breathtaking photos with only their phones.”

This multidimensional photographer has learned the true art of photography. By incorporating evolving technology and creating a lifestyle in which his work is his passion, Swanson is humbly living the Aspen dream while capturing it for others.