In the snowy early spring of 2006, photographer Michael Crouser was invited to Sweetwater Ranch in Northwestern Colorado by his friends Matt and Hope Kapsner. They thought the artist might be interested in documenting their neighboring ranchers during calving season. Initially reluctant about making the trip, once he arrived, Crouser soon was pleasantly surprised to find the fourth-, fifth-, and even sixth-generation ranchers he met kind and welcoming, and he soon was intrigued and inspired by their work and the authentic if sometimes austere way of life he observed. Traveling back to the mountain ranch over nearly a decade, Crouser found himself drawn not to the ways in which ranching life and work had changed over the years, but rather the constancy. He writes: “There is the mending, by hand, of miles of barbed-wire fences. There are long-abandoned home-steads, still used by neighbors for their crumbling corrals, grass and water. There are the animals the ranchers work with, the animals they guard against, and the animals they raise for slaughter. And there is the landscape, which frames and defines these people’s niche in ranching and which, because of its beauty and richness, may ultimately, and perhaps ironically, hasten the demise of this traditional way of life.”
Shot on Kodak Tri-X film with either a Pentax 67 or a Nikon F4, all of Crouser’s photographs are hand-printed. The artist believes how you say something is just as important as what you say, and tactile photography is part of his personal expression.
Michael Crouser was born in 1962 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from Saint John’s University in 1985. He began making photographs in earnest at the age of fourteen, when he set up a darkroom in his parents’ basement. After college he worked for several years in various Minneapolis commercial photography studios as an assistant, before setting out on his own. Crouser has taught at the International Center of Photography in New York City, the Minneapolis Photo Center, and the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. When not on the road, he divides his time between Minneapolis and Brooklyn.
The exhibition at ClampArt is accompanied by a monograph of the same title (University of Texas Press, Hardcover, 11 x 8.5 inches, 228 pages, 168 black-and-white images, $40). This is the artist’s third book.
August 3 – September 9, 2017