Frontcountry – The Guardian

By Sean O’Hagan

Between 2006 and 2013, Lucas Foglia journeyed through the vast open spaces of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. It was a trip that challenged all his preconceptions about the American west. “When I first travelled there, the communities I encountered felt small and the land felt bigger, harsher and more remote than anything I had experienced. And in the midst of the global economic recession, the mining industry was booming.”

The end result is a book called Frontcountry, in which the 60,000 photographs he took over those seven years are distilled to a mere 60. In them, the contradictions of the contemporary American west are palpable. His is a style that merges landscape photography and heightened portraiture, familiar from his previous book A Natural Order. An exhibition of his new work is also on at Michael Hoppen gallery in London.

Whereas A Natural Order looked at people who lived off the grid in the American backwoods – drifters, Christian communities, back-to-the-land hippies, survivalists – Frontcountry illuminates the stark contrast between, as Foglia puts it, “two very different lifestyles – ranching and mining – that share and depend on the same landscape”. Foglia’s book begins as an evocation of a way of life that still endures: contemporary cowboys on horseback or waiting to perform in a rodeo; ranchers who patrol their vast tracts of land in pickup trucks. In one striking image, a rancher steps out of his vehicle to stare at what looks like a billowing cloud but is, in fact, an approaching firestorm.

Foglia deftly plays with our – and his – preconceived ideas of the west as an almost mythic place, where cowboys have made certain accommodations to the present, but are still essentially cowboys at heart – macho, hard-working, Stetson-wearing frontiersmen who have remained faithful to a steadfastly old-fashioned, and essentially American, way of life.

When I first met Foglia, he described himself as a documentary photographer collaborating with his subjects to search for some essential truth about their lives. His working method relies on befriending one or two people, who then give him an “in” to a community. He is not averse to instructing subjects about what he needs before he shoots, hence the almost symbolic nature of some portraits – a trio of cowboys stretching before a rodeo like extras from Brokeback Mountain; a beautiful girl washing her hair outdoors with a hose; a man aiming a rifle at a cow’s head. The warm natural light of the American west bathes these images in an almost unreal glow that heightens the cinematic sense of place. In another evocative image, a man leans out of his Jeep, surveying two lines of cattle that stretch single-file to the horizon along a straight highway.

In the bridging shots between the first and second halves of the book, one senses other forces at play: economic as well as elemental. My eye was arrested by an image of a gaggle of young men in soccer strips awaiting a crossed football that has yet to enter the frame, the pristine turf of their pitch in Afton, Wyoming at odds with the snowy mountains in the background. Elsewhere, the white winter wilderness is stained with the blood of slaughtered livestock or newborn calves. Tradition and modernity are in conflict here and suddenly, joltingly, in the turn of a page, you are looking at a different landscape – scarred, contaminated, defiled.

If the ranching communities have made a living from this harsh landscape by adapting to it, the mining industry is, by definition, a more destructive force. In the context of what has gone before, Foglia’s images of powerplants nestling amid small mountains of coal, huge swathes of land rendered bare and unsustainable and a spill of toxic water flowing from newly fracked rocks are shocking in the extreme.

“Mining concentrates jobs, and helps to pay for towns for the miners to live in,” says Foglia. “And with modern technology, from the use of fracking fluids to extract natural gas and oil, to the use of cyanide to separate gold from rock, land that wasn’t valuable a few decades ago is now being mined.”

Inevitably, there are landscapes in these wildernesses that are being altered beyond recognition, not least because mining of this kind is a nomadic profession. “In Nevada, whole towns are built or abandoned in response to fluctuations in the price of gold,” says Foglia. “All mines have a life cycle. They close once the valuable minerals are extracted, or in response to declines in the price of those minerals. Either way, miners have to move, following jobs across the country.”

Frontcountry, then, is a book of two halves, but taken together, they illustrate the dilemmas of survival for these communities. As well as attracting nomadic workers from all over, the mining industry has provided work for locals, many of whom come from ranching families. The tension between their traditional, more sustainable way of life and a newer, harsher, more exploitative one is at the heart of Foglia’s book – and he is content to raise more questions than he answers with these images that play with, and undercut, our notions of contemporary America.

Foglia’s photographs may, in time, attest to the passing of an older way of life and the landscape that sustained it. The day after we meet, he sends me a quote from a cattle herder called Randy Stowell, who works on the Big Springs Ranch near Oasis, Nevada. It comes close to the heart of the matter. “This little town has nothing. It’s dying on the vine. But when the company opens a mine here, it’ll bring jobs and make everything in town bigger and better. There are people who want that boost to the community. I’m not one of them. The mine will ruin this mountain and you’ll never find land this beautiful anywhere else.”

Frontcountry – Michael Hoppen Contemporary

Frontcountry – CNN

By Thom Patterson

Not too long ago, Lucas Foglia found himself witnessing a killing.

He watched as Wyoming schoolteacher Adam Isaacson aimed a rifle at the soon-to-be victim — a cow ready for slaughter. Foglia pointed his camera at both of them.

Just before Isaacson pulled the trigger, Foglia triggered his shutter. “The sound of my camera made the cow look at me,” Foglia recalled.

He snapped another photo, and a split second later Isaacson fired his weapon.

The cow was dead.

“That moment of eye contact felt the most memorable,” Foglia said.

Foglia’s Nazraeli Press book “Frontcountry” offers a photographic perspective on the American West, birthplace of so much of the nation’s iconic mythology. But instead of finding cowboys, ghost towns and wilderness as he expected, Foglia found ranchers, boomtowns and mining companies.

The book documents a kind of ongoing dialogue between two sometimes competing lifestyles: ranching and mining.

The first, Foglia explains, is connected to the land. The other is based on extraction from the land. At age 31, with two books under his belt, Foglia tends to gravitate toward dynamic, culturally relevant, location-based projects.

“I think the world is more complicated than the situations I can imagine in my head,” Foglia told CNN this week by phone from his family farm on Long Island, New York.

One of the book’s more memorable images shows Nevada rancher Tommy Stowell performing a balancing act on a fence post while holding a loaded rifle.

The story behind the photo goes like this: After Foglia and Stowell got to know each other a little, Stowell offered to show Foglia how to shoot a coyote while standing on top of a fence pole.

“He climbed up on top of the pole with his gun. And then he fell off the pole,” Foglia said. “The moment before he fell off the pole, that’s when I made a picture.”

By the way, no one got hurt, Foglia said, including coyotes.

In short, Foglia describes his process like this: “Out of friendships come situations. In response to those situations, I make photographs. Even when they’re posed or planned, I wait for a moment where something real is happening.”

Many Western ranchers find themselves at a crossroads as they fight off tempting economic incentives from the mining industry. As mining companies offer big money to buy ranches which have belonged to families for generations, the economic pressures make ranching more difficult.

“It’s hard because it’s a 24/7 job,” said Foglia, who rolled up his sleeves during this project and worked alongside ranchers. “You always have to be tending to crops or livestock, and they’re susceptible to weather, like an early frost or a drought on a crop of hay or herd of cattle. It’s unpredictable.”

Mining booms have been a salvation for some folks, like a former beautician Foglia met named Alice Hanauska. Driving a truck for a mining company has allowed the single mom to earn more money than she’s ever made in her life. Better benefits, too.

“For her, that job was in some ways a salvation from a difficult economic position in the midst of a global economic recession,” Foglia said.

But eventually, the ore will run out — or suffer a price plunge. Then it all may come crashing down.

“Any mine will eventually be depleted. Mines close and take jobs away with them. The land is left scarred. This is a region of America that has an economy that is in large part based on mining.” Foglia said. “For me, that’s scary.”

But the book transcends mining, ranching or even America’s West. It speaks to residents in more populated areas that are threatened by suburban sprawl. Even in Foglia’s native Long Island, developers are knocking on the door at his parents’ family farm — one of the last in the area.

The theme is applicable to anyone holding property on the edge of a town with dynamic suburban development.

“I hope that the photographs in my book provoke people to ask questions,” Foglia said. “I also hope they leave space for people to find their own answers.”

Foglia’s “Frontcountry” photos will be on exhibit at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery in New York from March 20 to April 19, at Michael Hoppen Contemporary in London from March 27 to May 10, and at Robischon Gallery in Denver from September 18 to November 1.

Frontcountry – Fredericks & Freiser Gallery

Frontcountry – Fredericks & Freiser Gallery

Frontcountry –

By David Rosenberg

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.

Frontcountry – The New Yorker

Photo Booth
By Genevieve Fussell

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.

Frontcountry – Nazraeli Press

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 boom in mining and energy development that is transforming the modern American West.

A Natural Order – galerie du jour agnès b.

A Natural Order – New York Times