Reaching across genres—using photographs of objects, buildings, interiors, landscapes, and portraits—Bryan Schutmaat has attempted to show what life is like in the half-forgotten old mining towns of the American West.
You'll definitely want to see the whole set online. It's called "Grays the Mountain Sends."
(Thanks to Enrique G.)
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Andre: "Several of the places Bryan Schutmaat photographed look very familiar to me. One I recognize for sure: Tonopah, Nevada. You can make out the big red letters spelling out 'Mizpah Hotel' on top of one of the buildings. I grew up about 100 miles from there, and as my dad was interested in prospecting we checked out all sorts of old mines, mills, ghost towns, and towns inexorably heading for ghost town status.
"Mr. Schutmaat's done an excellent job of capturing the mood of these places. The residents tend to be hardy and grizzled, and with the low populations and isolation often don't have a lot to do. Prior to the advent of satellite TV you often couldn't receive any TV or radio stations in those places, except at night when you'd tune in the high-power stations from Mexico or southern California. Adults made their own entertainment, playing cards, drinking, etc. Kids dreamed about getting out, to the 'big cities' like Reno or Vegas. Dilapidated buildings and decaying cars litter the edges of town.
"For the indoor scenes, throw on some 1970s country music to set the mood. Outdoors it tended to be remarkably quiet, although sound carried a long ways—if a semi was passing by on the highway, you'd often hear it when it was still a couple of miles away."
Richard Khanlian: "Wow! Lovely and wistful and sad."
Jim Skates: "As I was looking at the photographs on his site I was thinking that these seemed very familiar. I then looked at his resume and realized that he had sent his film to the lab where I work and I had sleeved his negatives. It was great to to see them in a positive way."
Mike replies: Herman Krieger is going to appreciate that last comment.
Andy Goss: "Very evocative photos. Unfortunately, I forwarded to my wife the link to his work. She noticed an evident mistake the photographer made, which greatly reduces the value of his work (to me). Except by a great cosmic chance, in two of the pictures there appears to be the same jar of peanut butter, having the same signature wave of gap in the peanut butter visible along its side. Most likely a plant in the photos. A set-up. Makes me wonder what else in the photos staged indoors is a setup. The outdoors photos especially are still wonderful, but I had enjoyed and been moved by them all, until this."
Mike replies: Sharp eye on the part of your wife. She's talking about this detail from the TV interior:
However, knowing how many photographers work, I think it's very likely that both shots were simply made in the same home, possibly where the photographer stays when he's out West or the home of one of his friends. The scenario you and she are suggesting—the photographer carting around the same jar of peanut butter to different domiciles for use as a prop—violates Occam's Razor!
(Side note to Andy: I did get your reply, but if you want to have a private conversation with me, you need to give me some way to contact you.)