On the surface, this photobook is Ron Jude’s narrative about the work and identity of an animal trapper near Lick Creek, Somewhere in the Western United States. The story that slowly emerges is an investigation into cultural and environmental change and the resulting conflict between old traditions and modernity.
The tone of the book is initially set by the books cover image; an overcast pall lies forbiddingly over the landscape. The viewer is introduced to the trapper and one of his traps, followed by a sequence of photographs of turbulent and frothing water, creating an unsettling demeanor to this story.
Thru Jude’s lens, we follow the trapper working his trap lines, amongst a mash up of vignettes of the surrounding terrain and wilderness that anchor the external context of this individual. Threaded through the book are photographs that appear unlike the domain of this individual, building an uneasy sense of tension.
Jude introduces elegant stuffed chairs, a stuff animal’s head, pine cones laying in a beautiful bowl to be appreciated, the edges of beautify fabric coaches that decorate a living room, and a mink “blanket” resting on a leather foot-rest. The wild landscape of the trapper is in a state of flux with lift lines for skiing dotting the landscape, dirt roadways morphing into black top, and faux stones being affixed to concrete walls. In one photograph, the viewer observes a pair of birds sitting on a window sill, then the realization that the birds are not real, but metal and are located within; an artificial representations that creates a subtle criticism of those who come to “visit” the wilderness.
Perhaps one of the more telling photographs for me depicts a pine tree that has been hacked away at and the tree appears about to topple. For me, this photograph symbolically represents Jude’s concern that the wilderness is slowly being eaten away and the old traditions are in the process of tumbling down.
The photobook is a stiff cover with dust jacket accompanied with an insert supplement with an essay by Nicholas Muellner.
by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook
Other Ron Jude photobooks reviewed on The PhotoBook: Other Nature