Erika Larsen’s cattle ranch photographs have a surreal yet timeless quality to them. I would never have guessed that they were commissioned by a business magazine. We caught up with the New York-based photographer recently to find out about her time on the ranch. What made you embark on the cattle ranch project? ‘The Cattle Ranch was a project assigned to me by Fortune Small Business Magazine last October. The ranch is owned by Rick Jarret, who opens his home several times a year to guests who want to experience the daily life of a working ranch. Nothing is made extra special for the guest. You literally walk into his life, sleep in his home, eat your meals with him, and go to work. The ranch is in Montana’.
For some reason, your series reminds me a bit of the Wizard of Oz. How would you describe the mood?
‘The ranch to me was like anything else I have held close to my heart, touched, felt, and experienced on many levels. It goes with the intuitive understanding that all life is governed by the same law: there are beginnings and ends in flow with ebbs and tides. This too will change. This life, this land, these moments are fleeting, but hold significant importance for the period of time they exist. That is what I see in my images’.
What was the process and how many days did you spend documenting life at the Cattle Ranch?
‘I only spent four or five days there, but that was really the point of the ranch. This was not a documentary where I was spending weeks or months trying to give a comprehensive view of a lifestyle. It was a small window in time made to mimic what a guest may experience when visiting the ranch’.
Do you carry a camera with you at all times or only when you know you’ll need one?
‘I don’t carry a camera at all times. Usually not in cities, but quite often in nature. I own one camera and one lens. I use 4×5 field camera and hand load my plates. So given the size and the amount of work it takes to make an image, I am not regularly carrying it around. I pick and choose when I want to engage on the level that occurs when making images. And sometimes it chooses me’.
How do you go about looking for potential stories/projects to photograph?
‘I follow my intuition and my heart, which leads me in many directions. I easily work on many projects at once. Some are for a short period of time, some have lasted six years or longer. All this being said, a major factor is what projects present themselves to me. When the timings collide in unison, then a story can be communicated. As a whole, I look at my work as one ongoing story, new chapters writing themselves as I walk along’.
Where are you currently finding inspiration?
‘I find inspiration usually stems from a search within myself to understand the instinctual draw I have towards certain people, places, emotions and themes. I am also greatly aware of nature and spirit’.