After traveling to Georgia’s Cumberland Island to document the wild horses that have run free for some 500 years, French photographer Anouk Masson Krantz found herself entranced with the restorative power of the landscape.
“Each time I visited the island, I left with a renewed inner strength and fresh perspective and returned to city life balanced and centred,” Krantz recalls. “I asked myself how and where I could find people who have discovered how to be content with less, remain grounded, and live each day with gratitude.”
As fate would have it, Krantz soon found herself at a rodeo in the American West. “Most ranchers and cowboys live lives largely unchanged for 150 years. The passion they have for their history and tradition only grows stronger as the rest of the country continues to change,” Krantz says.
Krantz continues: “United by shared values like integrity, self-sufficiency, and cooperation, cowboys are most often measured by what they can contribute to the ranch and surrounding communities. Our world needs more of that.”
Over the past two years, Krantz has spent more than 25 weeks on the road, travelling tens of thousands of miles across the United States to create the new book, American Cowboys (Images Publishing). “This work is a window into the daily lives of American cowboy and ranching culture,” Krantz says. “No models, no staging and no costumes – only real people and their real lives.”
As an outsider, Krantz slowly gained access to cowboys and cowgirls. It all started with one phone number on a scrap of paper and blossomed into countless adventures.
Krantz recounts meeting day Navajo legend, Derrick Begy at his Arizona ranch, where he had outfitted three horses and loaded them into his trailer so that they could go out into the scrub brush together to round up cattle. After arriving at the banks of a fast-moving river, they mounted up and maneuvered the horses through the wide river of chest-level depth.
“Once we got to the other side, we spent the afternoon on a trail ride through the desert, steering through 30 feet saguaros (cactus) that cast long dark shadows across the desert floor,” Krantz recalls.
“With a scream Derrick suddenly took off. I dug in my heels and shot out from behind, trying to catch up. We raced for an hour at full sprint, while the sun set behind us. By the time we finished rounding up the cattle and crossing the river under pitch black skies, I realised this was the only way I could have known who he really is.”
For Krantz, leaving her family during the pandemic proved to be the biggest challenge of all. “While many thought I was crazy to continue during a lockdown, it was precisely because of this that I felt even more compelled to shine the light on this inspirational culture,” she says.
“Hopefully it will help lift up others during these difficult times. Cowboys embody strength, freedom and independence. Their live very simple lives, work endless hours for not much money, and yet they are some of the happiest people I have come across on this earth.”
American Cowboys is out now on Images Publishing.
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