Seth Lowe recently completed a huge personal project on Wyoming and the resulting promo has been getting rave reviews. Many photographers are overwhelmed at the thought of a project this large, so we thought we'd break it down. Read below to hear how Seth accomplished this, from tip to tail:
"With the original goal of just photographing cowboys and ranchers in the northwest, Wyoming wasn’t necessarily the only option. There I looked at parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana as possible locations. One of my friends, Brent, had mentioned to me that he was born in Wyoming, so I reached out to him to explain the project, and see if where he was from would be a possible fit, and to try and make some connections in the area. I wasn’t looking to hang out at a dude ranch, but wanted to find authentic western life. It turned out to be a perfect fit. His dad and brother were ranch hands in this small town of 250 people, surrounded by cowboy country.
The concept has been on my mind for a couple years, but the real planning didn’t start until last winter. I spoke with my friend a few times about the area, and did as much web research as I could on the town. That involved everything from reading historical articles, news clippings, scouring flickr for images of the area, and using google earth to get a feel for the terrain. Early on he told me May-June would be a great time to go there, so in early April we set dates, got flights and got everything sorted out. From there I spent the next couple of months thinking through what I wanted to achieve creatively, and doing small things like lining up some equipment rentals, etc..
Most of the towns social life revolves around either the General Store or the Outpost Bar. We (my wife went with me) would usually grab meals at one of the two, and try and hang out for a while to connect with people. I don’t have much of an issue approaching people, so I would usually just walk up, introduce myself, and explain what I was doing. A lot of times I would reference my friendship with Brent, who’s family still lived there. In a town of 250 people, everyone knows everyone, so I think that helped gain some initial trust that people might not have had other wise.
I really tried to let the experience itself, along with the people I met, drive what happened while I was there. I did know I wanted to do either a book or magazine of some sort with the images when I was done, so I had that in the back of my mind. I ended photographing a few different groups of people for a half day or day at a time, which resulted in a few short stories and associated images. Based on the content, I felt the magazine format made the most sense. I am hoping to make a few more trips back there over the next year or two, which could definitely lead to a book.
Whenever you are doing a big edit, I think its important to get fresh eyes on your work to help. It can be really easy to get emotionally attached to a weak image based on the moment it was taken, or just the amount of work that went into a particular shot. After I filtered out all of the redundant images, or ones that are technically weak, I sent the images to my awesome rep, Sarah, to see what stood out to her. I did a separate, tighter edit of my own to compare with what Sarah created. They were actually pretty close in image selection, so from there we played with a few different sequences, and came up with the final edit. I also bounced different edits and images off my good friend Jordan who provided some great feedback on stuff as well.
With this project, I really wanted to show off my ability to light scenes and images on the go and in quickly changing environments. I like to shoot images that can stand on their own without depending on others, and want people to be able to imagine the story attached to each one. It can be challenging to do that in a fast paced, and unfamiliar environment, and I think that is a strength of mine. I love portrait work, especially on location, so any assignment that involves building a set, or developing a detailed scene is exciting for me."