The Tahoe Photographer Who’s Seen It All

Since moving to Tahoe in 1972, Hank de Vré has shot just about every discipline in skiing

This story originally published in the January 2017 issue of POWDER (Vol. 45 Issue 5). PHOTO: Court Leve

Name: Hank de Vré

Age: 68

Location: Tahoe City, California

Roots: A little crass, sometimes crude, but always honest, Hank de Vré is one of POWDER’s longest tenured contributing photographers. His work first appeared in the magazine in 1984. More than three decades later, de Vré maintains a reputation for his ability to maneuver himself—and his camera—into whatever position necessary to frame a skier.

Born and raised in Amsterdam, de Vré immigrated to northern New Jersey with his family when he was 9. At 14, he began working as an assistant for Lionel Freedman, an award-winning studio photographer in New York City. He didn’t learn to ski until he moved to Lake Tahoe in 1972, where a spirited de Vré found himself shooting in the nucleus of ski culture, surrounded by folklorish figures who helped build the scene—and attitude—of early freeskiing.

“Hank does it for the love of the sport and just being in the mountains,” says Brad Holmes, one of de Vré’s frequent ski partners in the late ’90s. “Working with Hank is so much more than just getting the shot. He has always been the breath of fresh air skiing needed.”

I was at a friend’s house, and this guy’s roommates had just gotten back from skiing. They came back raving—on fire—just raving about powder snow. I turned to my friend and asked, ‘What’s so great about this powder skiing?’ He said, ‘Today, it was better than sex.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Well, I gotta try that!’

There was mystery when you would shoot something with film, you’d have to wait almost two weeks before you got the film back. It was more like a piece of art. Now they want the damn picture in their inbox before you even take the damn picture. You have to be plugged in on the slopes. Everybody’s rushing it.

The whole world is all about images. The world of imagery has now exploded. Everybody can do it. What’s the most popular camera in the world right now? A phone. It’s fucking amazing.

The cameras now are incredible, but it’s a different thing. I don’t miss loading film, I can tell you that. But there’s no looking back. There’s nothing like being able to hold your hand down on the trigger and just go—as fast as you can, and for as long as you can.

I worry about my athletes. I want them to be safe. Attitudes change, and being sponsored by big companies, big money, that will influence people to do things, for sure. I hope that sponsors are smart enough to keep their athletes safe. We don’t need them to die for us; we need them to live for us.

If you look at Vail’s advertising demographics, it’s usually people skiing the flats or shopping. That’s what Squaw wants me to do… take pictures of people drinking hot chocolate. And it’s like they’re tearing my heart out. They’re telling me: ‘Oh, that shot looks too steep!’

I got a name for my pack: the ‘Angry Midget.’ How’d it get the name? Fill a pack full of camera gear, ski down a hard run, and it feels like an angry midget is hanging on the whole time.

It’s a very subtle thing, making a good photograph… a snowflake falling, a track, shapes of snow.

On it!