Room for More
1904 Shepherds Stone Johny
Sue’s series, the Prairie Shepard, is beautiful, reflective and in many ways a romantic vision of life in the agricultural midwest. I fell in love with it during Critical Mass last year and just now find myself revisiting the work after pre-jurying CM10. I spent a number of years in the west, in Utah and Wyoming, and this work sends me soaring back to the wide open skies, tall grass and stillness of the high desert prairie. Prairie Shepard shows us this beautiful way of life, of the strength of the land, the hard labor of maintaining the herd and the grace and beauty of the surroundings.
In her own words:
Life as a shepherd on the short grass prairie of western South Dakota consists of working alone from sun up to sun down caring for sheep, growing feed crops, and scouting for predators. Extreme cold, blizzards, and hailstorms can quickly diminish the flock. Shepherds rarely have days off and travel away from the sheep is extremely uncommon.
Each year, my partner and I visit his family ranch in South Dakota where his youngest brother is the shepherd documented in this series. As a knitter and handspinner, my interest in sheep and wool provided additional motivation to document ranch life.
The Prairie Shepherd images were captured during these visits and other trips timed to coincide with shearing and lambing. Photo sessions were combined with helping the shepherd move, load, or feed sheep. Sessions were often short, as the shepherd was very short-handed and needed help.
This series records a way of life that is commonplace to the shepherd, but unknown to the rest of us. While documenting this difficult and vanishing lifestyle, the series also captures the stark beauty of the short grass prairie and the nobility of the shepherd and his sheep. Images of historic homesteading and sheepherding artifacts are included to provide a connection between the past and the present. The Prairie Shepherd series is printed in black and white using a selective focus technique that conveys the ethereal nature of the South Dakota prairie.
Sue Bednarz was born in 1957 in Portland, Oregon. She developed her love of geology and photography while exploring the rivers and forests surrounding her family’s summer home in the Cascade Mountains. After obtaining a M.S. degree in Engineering Geology and while raising her three children, she began to work professionally as an industrial photographer in conjunction with her employment as a geologist. Her documentary photographs of underground construction projects have been published in numerous trade magazines.
Sue Bednarz’s fine art photography is inspired by her background in geology and experience as a knitter and handspinner. Both her industrial and fine art photography depict the aesthetic aspects of non-traditional subjects through the use of creative lighting, composition, and perspective. Her documentary style relies heavily on storytelling and creating human connection to inform and engage the viewer.
All Images Copyright by Sue Bednarz. Used with permission.