If you are looking for a great coffee-table book that does a beautiful job of capturing the images of ranch life in Western Canada, Wyoming photographer JoAnne Meeker has just released a new book that speaks volumes in a few words.
You may think it is pushing it to consider a photo of a horse drooling water out of its mouth at the trough as art, but it is just one of the “everyday” images of ranch life that Meeker raises to an inspiring level in a recently launched “The Life is Art – A Photographic Journey of Ranching in Western Alberta”.
Meeker, who has been displaying photographic art at the Calgary Stampede for several years, says she has spent more time in Alberta over the past year than she has in her home mid-west state which lies about 1000 kilometres south of Calgary. But she says it was well worth the effort to capture the nearly 150 images presented in the beautifully published hardcover volume.
The 100 page, 11 x 14 inch, book launched in late November captures life on the working Diamond 7 Ranch that sprawls through the foothills country west of Calgary.
Aside from a brief statement by the photographer, and an inspiring foreword comment from ranch manager Laura Laing it is a wordless book of photographic art that captures the beauty of daily life on this commercial cow-calf beef operation that runs an extensive herd of red and black cattle over varied range conditions all in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
In some respects even if you dropped your camera in this country you couldn’t help but get an amazing picture, but Meeker has concentrated not just on the natural panoramic beauty of the country — there are several plates that show that — but she has spent time with the people, their horses, cow dogs, and the gear needed in all seasons that make a ranch work.
Frosty spring mornings, mid-summer on fescue pastures, the backdrop of autumn, the bite of winter and the men and women who deal with it all in their daily routine of tending cattle are all represented in the collection of photographs.
There are several full-color images, but most of the photos appear with a rich, warm, some times moody brown sepia tone hue. About mid-way through the book there is a very dramatic foldout image capturing just the hooves and tails of about a dozen horses galloping through the snow.
And as a special feature of this book, you don’t need to get an exacto knife out to remove a few favorite photos to hang on the wall. The book was designed with 10 specially finished high gloss perforated pages that can be removed and framed, allowing you to share the work on a prominent wall or as a gift to someone else.
Except for the grizzly bear, grouse, elk and whitetail deer that can be elusive for most of us, the book shows us that even muddy cowboy boots, or fixing a fence can be a thing of beauty, if we just stop to look.
The Life is Art book available at a few limited retail locations in Calgary, can be ordered on line at the Diamond-7 Ranch website at: www.diamond7.com. And if you want to learn more about the photographer visit her website at www.jmeeker.com . You may want this for a stocking stuffer, but have a pillow-case ready.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]