Nebraska

I’ve been gone a while, but the light has returned. Literally.

Greenhouse, Tryon

Greenhouse, Tryon

Yep, I have been gone a while. Such is the life of a nearly-done PhD student who is working overtime and has a family. But the darkness is gone, and though I feel very withered from a tough, tough semester, I can now return to photographing—after all, that’s what I do.

So I began looking for images to warm my skills again after a 4-month hiatus, and to rekindle my visual emotions. And behind a school in a far-flung county in the Nebraska Sandhills, I found a greenhouse that reminded me how much I love the light.

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Tough Hands No. 8

Tough Hands No. 8

Tough Hands No. 8

I would adopt the entire Meidell family if I could; after all, my book was as much about these five people as any others. Each member of the family is a class act, and photogenic in the extreme (though Tricia and Eric would argue that point). What’s more, all of the Meidells are, in the words of a man Eric once met in Washington, D.C., “Real Cowboys.” Those of us lucky enough to grow up with this life in the Great Plains often forget the legend into which we are born, and the Meidells have earned the hype. Need proof? Look no further than one of several saddles Tricia has won in rodeos.

The Meidells are indeed “real.”

Tough in the Saddle: Boot, Buffalo County

Boot, Buffalo County

Boot, Buffalo County

Last night I had my first shoot of my next book, Tough in the Saddle, a book about working ranch women in the American West. More is to come, and since a book is an ever-changing process (goodness knows PlainSky, Nebraskans turned out far different in the end than I envisioned four years earlier) I thought I’d begin by presenting an image very different than others I’ve published here–one of the boots worn by my first portrait subject. Be gentle.

Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

“That looks like an advertising image,” said Liz, my friend and fellow professional photographer.

“Maybe,” I answered, “but there’s a difference between an advertising image and this one.”

“Oh? What’s that,” Liz asked.

“Look at the boot,” I returned. “No advertising image could capture a boot that had been so ‘prettied up’ by ranch life. This is a document, not propaganda.”

Liz and I have shot together for countless hours, brandings upon brandings, landscapes beyond count, ghost towns unnamed. She sat and pondered for a moment, then spoke.

“Mmm-hmm. You’re right. That boot couldn’t be anything but real.”

Tough Hands No. 1

Tough Hands No. 1

Tough Hands No. 1

I’ve spent the last several months exploring abstract relationships in the natural and human world, and with the onset of spring in the High Plains, I’m now back photographing the subjects I find most intriguing: the American West and those happy, hardy individuals who love it. Black and white “everyperson” shots have been nagging in my artistic vision for some years, and this spring I’ve begun exploring them in earnest. Contrast, textures, skin tones, and fabrics all beckon for imagery and attention, and I’m more than happy to oblige. I’m calling the project “Tough Hands.”

Equivalent No. 5, Adams County

Equivalent No. 5, Adams County

Equivalent No. 5, Adams County

I find substantial joy in the transformation of a series as it wends its way through its own artistic life. The Equivalent Series is as much as statement of development of vision as it is a group of statements (which I will leave a mystery, open to critical evaluation and interpretation) and examinations. The project has moved from one form to another; clouds and trees to lines and new organics. This one, No. 5, is just such a moment of change, but in my eye, poetically so.

Happy Birthday, Nebraska: PlainSky, Nebraskans Opens Tonight.

Wall, Ellsworth, 2012

Wall, Ellsworth, 2012

Today is the birthday of my photographs. Not of their creation, but of their subject, Nebraska, and it is only fitting that I pay due homage to the focus of my photographic passion. “It’s fitting that today is Nebraska’s birthday, and your show celebrating Nebraska is opening tonight,” said Donna Thompson of the West Nebraska Arts Center.

Indeed.