I discovered the 100 Years, 100 Ranchers project in the current (February 2011) issue of Arizona Highways magazine. Photographer Scott Baxter has undertaken the task of documenting 100 currently operating ranches from around Arizona in celebration of the state’s upcoming centennial. The 100 Years, 100 Ranchers project is an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project whose completion will coincide with the centennial of Arizona in February 2012. Scott’s images are breathtaking. I know, that’s usually a word reserved for majestic landscape photographs but I can’t help it. I have always been fascinated by the stories that can be told through a simple photograph of a person in their environment. Scott’s project is a very worthwhile endeavor that has been financially supported mostly by Scott’s own funds. This makes it obvious how dedicated to the project Scott is and his love of photography and the people he photographs is apparent in his work.
I could spend countless hours admiring Scott’s work, however, my absolute favorite image (of those publicly available so far) is of Sam Udall atop his horse Blue in a snow covered field on a cloudy day. Perhaps it’s my close ties to ranchers and wide open spaces from my youth or perhaps it’s the hopeless romantic in me dreaming “I wanna be a cowboy,” about being “Billy the Kid,” or perhaps I just “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” This particular image certainly romanticizes being a cowboy and speaks to me on many levels. Scott’s photos bring home the human element so often forgotten as us city dwellers race through the grocery store quickly grabbing a package of beef without a thought for where it came from or how much work it took to get it from calf to packaged meat in the store. Scott’s images are inspiring and should open the world of ranching to the eyes of many as it is exhibited throughout Arizona in 2012.
Head on over to the 100 Years, 100 Ranchers website and make a tax deductible donation to help Scott toward the completion of a worthwhile endeavor in documenting and preserving a dying lifestyle in what is our states largest agricultural industry even though I’m sure it plays a smaller part in our economy as each year passes. While you’re at it, stop by the Arizona Highways website and subscribe to what is one of the last print magazines I feel is worth not just subscribing to, but actually picking up and reading every month. Don’t forget come, February 2012 to make your way around the state and catch as much of the 100 Years, 100 Ranchers exhibition as possible and enjoy a bit of Arizona while your at it.