This Week in Photography Books: Michael Crouser

- - Working

 

I’ll be honest with you.

I’m pretty fried at the moment.

It’s been a long year, and a long summer, and right this second, my brain’s a little spent. Just when I thought I was getting caught up with things, my Dad told me I had to get on this Equifax shit-show, and nothing brings up stress chemicals like the fear of identity theft.

That said, a weekly column is just that, as it requires me to feed the beast.

And so I shall.

Last week, I reviewed a book that was squarely in my old comfort zone, back when we worked with photo-eye: a small-batch, edgy, art-school type project that was more off-putting than embraceable.

My main criterion for reviewing a book has always been, does it compel me to sit down and write? If the ideas flow, then the book is interesting.

I don’t have to love it, and you don’t have to love it. I’d hope that, over time, we all enjoy far more books than we dislike. Given the feedback I get from you, I think that’s probably true.

So this week, (as is my wont,) we’re going completely in the opposite direction. This book couldn’t be more different than “Married to America.”

Seriously, if you tried to come up with a more antithetical project, I doubt you could. (But if you want to try, we do still have a comment section.)

I interviewed Michael Crouser here a few years ago, as he’s a talented photographer who makes pictures that yearn for yesteryear, and often lack visual markers of present day. We discussed how his black and white photographs, when shot in Europe, actually look as if they come from a previous era.

It’s like a photographic equivalent of “Midnight in Paris.” (The only good Woody Allen movie I’ve seen in the last 15 years.)

So I wasn’t surprised when “Mountain Ranch,” his new book, recently published by the University of Texas Press, turned up in the mail. Apparently, the project was just shown at ClampArt in NYC as well.

This time out, Michael spent 10 years, (2006-16) photographing the declining ranching culture of North West Colorado. If last week’s pics were the epitome of edgy/uncomfortable, these are as earnest and heart-warming as it gets.

Frankly, they’re not my favorite style of photographs. I like a bit more bite. But most of you will probably dig these pictures, as they’re so well-made, and really hard to dislike.

If last week’s review was Ted Cruz, this week we’ve got Oprah. Everyone loves Oprah, right? (Yes, I’m going to Chicago next week, so I wanted to kiss a little ass, as I think Oprah still runs that town.)

As you know by now, I grew up in suburban New Jersey. Nothing could be further from that experience, all cars and green lawns and manicured highways. But now I live in the Rocky Mountains, and can personally attest that ranching culture, with all the cowboy accoutrements, is alive and well.

This America, the one in these photographs, is alien to almost all the urbanites out there. It looks like a Red-State fantasy camp, but really, it’s a way of life that has existed as long as Westward expansion was a dream.

The book features some powerful, first person accounts, by the ranchers, of why the lifestyle is dying. Property taxes, inheritance taxes, a younger generation that wants an easier life.

Michael Crouser wants to document this world, to show us his passion, before it disappears. And today, I thought it was appropriate to share it with you. Because if I’m too cynical to enjoy some lovely pictures, then I should probably get a new job.

Bottom Line: Lyrical, old-fashioned pictures of Ranch Life in Colorado

To purchase “Mountain Ranch” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com

 

Jonathan Blaustein

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