Bryan Schutmaat is a photographer I’ve admired for a long time. Recently, at FORMAT13, Schutmaat presented a short photofilm as part of our festival closing ceremony, showcasing his brilliant series Grey the Mountain Sends.
Greys the Mountain Sends examines the lives of people residing in small mountain towns and mining communities in the American West. Schutmaat, inspired by the work of American poet Richard Hugo, documents the surroundings and the strangers that he has met along the way. This poetic influence can be seen throughout with Schutmaat’s images flowing in a stirring and deeply contemplative fashion. The powerful, yet sensitive narrative has emotion and truth resonating so strongly it is palpable.
The American West is known by everyone for its significance in American mythology; home to stories of hope, freedom, prosperity and promise. Through Schutmaat’s cohesive and beautifully formed work, he reveals the modern truth of the American West by examining the relationship between this fabled landscape and those who inhabit it, and vice versa.
Schutmaat sensitively shows us that this relationship, built on past promise and prosperity, is no longer the same. Instead, this land is challenging. Depleted. Exhausted. This is something that can be seen within Schutmaat’s portraits particularly. They appear older than their age and their silent, weathered and weary expressions offer a stark reality which is far removed from what the tales of the old American West promise. Hope lingers here however as people continue cling on to hopes and dreams of a rejuvenated land.
It really is a fantastic body of work, one I return to again and again. Driven by Schutmaat’s own romantic notions of this region and delivered with honesty this work is, as the artist himself describes, “a meditation on small town life, the landscape, and more importantly, the inner landscapes of common men”.
Schutmaat’s stunning photographs are worth lots of your time. I also highly recommend you read this in-depth essay over on The Great Leap Sideways. A fantastic exploration of Bryan’s work.
More wonderful examples follow.