Ildiko Butler Gallery
May 22 – September 30, 2015
Reception: September 23, 2015, 6-8
"Riding Drag on the Brunsch Ranch"
33” x 60”
We gathered over four hundred pairs at sunrise then trailed them a few miles into the corrals at the headquarters of the ranch for shipping day. This was when I first started cowboying so I was appropriately riding drag, in the back.
My Ranching Life by Jean Laughton brings together eighteen black and white prints made from negatives shot between 2002 and 2011. A native Iowan, photographer Jean Laughton moved from New York City after sixteen years of residence to the Badlands of South Dakota in 2002 to pursue her projects. What was initially intended to be a brief photographic opportunity turned into thirteen years, with Jean working her way up from ranch hand novice to ranch manager at Lyle O’Bryan’s Quarter Circle XL Ranch.
The photographs in My Ranching Life are a small sample selected from hundreds of images made by Laughton over an extended time period; nevertheless, they represent a thoughtful depiction of a ranching community from the perspective of a participant, as opposed to that of an outside observer. Her photographs document the realities of the vocation—all panoramas are shot from horseback while working—and give shape to a depiction of American ranching life shorn of gloss and stereotype. The following statement by Laughton captures the essence of her endeavor succinctly:
I feel lucky to work in an area of ranches where things are done the old way—in the day of herding cattle on 4 wheelers I am happy to say we do it all on horseback. And we also brand with a wood fire and drag the calves in on horseback. There are many here who take pride in their cowboying—keeping the traditions and the spirit of individualism alive.
I would like to offer a very special thanks to Jean Laughton for her decision to leave New York City back in 2002. We would not have her timeless landscapes and lovely testimonial on display in Fordham University’s Ildiko Butler Gallery had she not decided to radically change her life by leaving behind the big city and beginning her new ranching life. For more information about My Ranching Life, Jean’s story, as well as her other related projects, Go West, and Americana, please visit her website at <http://www.jeanlaughton.com>
Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock, 2015