/ Modified jun 21, 2012 5:06 p.m.

Photographer Strives to Capture Vanishing Culture

Scott Baxter travels the state to record the ranching tradition

Phoenix based photographer Scott Baxter traveled across Arizona for more than 10 years to complete this project, which includes 100 striking black-and-white photos of families who have been ranching since, or before, Arizona became a state in 1912. (VIDEO: AZPM)

The mythos of the American West serves as inspiration for a new exhibit at the Tucson Museum of Art entitled “100 Years 100 Ranchers: Photographs by Scott Baxter.”

The exhibit reveals in rich detail the faces and landscapes that are part of the ranching tradition in Arizona.

“It really is changing drastically,” says Baxter.

Baxter was a commercial photographer before he took on the ten-year project of photographing 100 hundred Arizona ranchers. The project is meant to coincide with the culmination of the centennial celebration of Arizona’s statehood.

“It’s obviously a photographic project, but I was more interested in honoring these families and getting some sort of photographic documentation of some of these families,” says Baxter.

Baxter says much of the project involved spending time with the families, simply getting to know them and some of the details of their day-to-day existence on the land. This, he says, allowed him to approach each portrait with a more personal connection with the subject.

“I kind of wing it a lot of the times,” he says. “It’s not that I’m sloppy or that I’m unprepared, but I don’t go in with a rigid set of rules and I don’t go in and say ‘I’m going to photograph this guy against this wall.’”

Christine Brindza, TMA’s curator of art of the American West, says Baxter’s portraits present a unique opportunity to see photographs that are rooted in works of previous western artists.

“Artists like Maynard Dixon that have come out West and painted or sculpted the West,” she says. “Those who can really tell the story about the people, the land, and really capture our imaginations.”

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