When photographer Lucas Foglia traveled to Wyoming to visit a close friend, he was struck by how large the land seemed as a backdrop against the small and close-knit community of people who lived there.
Beginning in 2006, he traveled and photographed people living during a mining boom in Wyoming as well as rural Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas—“some of the least populated regions in the United States,” he noted—for what would become Frontcountry, a recently published book from Nazraeli Press.
Foglia previously received attention for A Natural Order, which documented people living off the grid. For Frontcountry, he photographed people he met through friends and friends of friends living in his areas of focus; their jobs, lifestyles, and conversations formed the narrative of the book. “Because I was introduced to them by people they trusted, they trusted me,” Foglia said, adding: “In the communities I visited, the two main industries were ranching and mining. What drew me to photograph was the idea that these two very different lifestyles share and depend on the same landscape.”
The mining boom in the American West is as broad as the landscape and includes coal, gold, copper, oil, and natural gas. Documenting a project on this scale was ambitious: Foglia shot more than 60,000 images during the six years he spent working on the project and edited those down to 60. The book, he said, “begins with images of cowboys and gradually shows the encroachment of mining companies.” He began editing the book in 2012 then went back to the communities for another year, until he said he “made photographs that felt like they completed the narrative.”
Foglia said he spends time and collaborates with the people he photographs but prefers to work without boundaries, choosing instead to adapt to events happening around him. For example, the image of Tommy trying to shoot coyotes from the top of a fence pole came at the suggestion of some of Foglia’s subjects. Other images were more of a surprise. “For example, I traveled with two Peruvian sheep herders, Oscar and Wilson, as they trailed sheep across the high desert in Wyoming,” Foglia said. “The photograph I included in the book is of their dogs mating when they were supposed to be guarding sheep.”
Although Foglia said many of the communities where he shot were small, their connectedness to the global economy was remarkable to him. “In Nevada, whole towns are built or abandoned based on fluctuations in the price of gold,” he said. The introductory essay in the book, written by Olan Clifford Teel, a Nevada rancher who lives next to a gold mine, touched on this: “Cowboys are still the symbol of the American West. We’re famous, but it’s damn hard to make a living raising cattle,” Olan said. He also noted that although the mining industry is booming, booms end and companies leave, taking jobs away with them.
Photographs from the book will be on exhibit at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery in New York from March 20 to April 19 and at Michael Hoppen Contemporary in London from March 27 to May 10.
Between 2006 and 2013, Lucas Foglia travelled across the American West, where he photographed the effects of a mining boom in the backcountry of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming. From copper to oil, coal, gold, and natural gas, mining corporations have staked their claims in the rural West, often in the back yards of generations-old ranching communities. As he made his way through the region, Foglia collected the stories of the people he photographed, conversations that would help to shape the narrative of his latest book, “Frontcountry.”
Olan Clifford Teel, a rancher whom Foglia met in Wells, Nevada, writes in the book’s introduction, “The problem is that mining goes from boom to bust. I’ve watched the cycle. A company opens a mine near a small town. The mine brings out-of-town workers who need stores, schools, and doctors’ offices. The boom ends and the company leaves. The miners leave and then the other jobs leave, too. The land is scarred and the town is scarred.”
For all the damage it can cause, mining remains an economically attractive option, especially compared with ranching. A mine can provide steady pay for someone like Alice Hanauska, a truck driver for the Newmont Mining Corporation, whom Foglia photographed two years ago. “I never dreamed I would be driving a haul truck,” she told Foglia. “Now here I am, a woman miner. I really needed it, being a single mom. I was a beautician for twenty-three years with no benefits. Now I have them. I work twelve-and-a-half-hour shifts, seven to seven-thirty, rotating days and nights, forty-eight hours a week.”
Foglia, who grew up on a farm in New York, began his project in Star Valley, Wyoming, where, he told me, “the community felt small and the land felt bigger, harsher, and more remote than anything I had experienced.” The relationship between this landscape and the people who rely on it to support their livelihood is a central theme in “Frontcountry”: images of cowboys give way to pictures of the mining industry, a record of two very different life styles that, for now, coexist in some of the most sparsely populated and resource-rich regions of the American West.
“Frontcountry” was recently published by Nazraeli Press. Photographs from the book will be on exhibit at Fredericks & Freiser gallery, in New York, from March 20th to April 19th.
Between 2006 and 2013, Lucas Foglia traveled throughout rural Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming, some of the least populated regions in the United States. Frontcountry is a photographic account of people living in the midst of a mining boom that is transforming the modern American West.