Seven years ago, I reached my limit: I had to know whether the cowboy culture of the American West still existed. I took nothing for granted and went to explore with fresh eyes. I have been touring the West ever since.
On my second journey, in 2011, I met two little girls growing up on a remote, family-owned cattle ranch in northern Nevada. I was immediately intrigued by their world—all different types of animals are a part of daily life, so a puppy on a birthday is nothing to get excited about. These girls filled their time with home schooling, helping with ranch chores, riding, roping, and playing on their own.
Each day brings new adventures: calves born in snowy landscapes, dust so fine you can see insect tracks, multi-hour treks to reach the grocery store. The sky over the treeless land seems beyond measure, and the light on the pale green and purple sagebrush is unparalleled.
Both romance and harshness are associated with our visual image of a cowboy. The prevailing picture in our minds is this: a lonesome twenty-something man who moves from one camp to another. Meanwhile, my “cowboys” are two girls growing up in a very masculine world that is not thriving—drought, high land prices and changes happening in the cattle industry are making this lifestyle nearly impossible to continue.
I want to witness the change in this Western lifestyle through the lives of these cowboys. My journey will continue alongside them into adulthood.
Title American Cowboy
Photographs and texts Karoliina Paatos
Publisher The Angry Bat, Ljubljana
Date of publication 2016
Page count 120
Dimensions 23 x 29 cm
Artist’s website karoliinapaatos.com