David Hanson is in the middle of a long-term documentary photo project near his Oregon home. Sherman County is a rural, sparsely populated county in the eastern rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. It’s only two hours from Portland but light years away in terms of culture, politics, and way of life. The main artery through the county is Highway 97, which runs north-south down the east side of the WA-OR Cascade Range. In Sherman County, the towns along Hwy 97 are spread out at nine-mile intervals because that is an appropriate distance for a horse to travel in a day.
Ranching and wheat farming remain the backbone of the economy in Sherman County. Kids actually stick around and take over their parents’ ranches. But other than high-tech windmills on the wide-open landscape, not a lot new has come to the towns, and much of the old has gone. There are empty storefronts and the high school recently shuttered due to lack of funds. Most people have to travel to The Dalles (45 minutes) for groceries and medical care. David is beginning to collect images of the daily life in these ranches and small towns that are both timeless and fading.
You can see more of David’s work on this project here:
Too often, we vilify industries involved in our natural resource management, judging those involved, without knowing much about their lives or even the industry itself. This holds doubly true for industries with a checkered past and those that seem to belong more to the yesteryear than the present. Michael D. Wilson spent time talking with and photographing loggers and folks in the lumber industry, people we often don’t think about, but who have been vital to local economics in our home state of Maine. His beautiful portraits, best seen as large prints or in the ‘zine he put together for his solo show in Portland, Maine, grant us some insight into their lives and work, and humanize this oft-maligned industry, continuing a cultural, historical and financial pillar in the region.
From the time the first sawmill opened in South Berwick in 1634, to the 1830’s, when Bangor was the world’s largest lumber port, through the mechanization of the industry in the 20th Century, to the current day’s focus on sustainability, logging has been part of the fabric of Maine. In an industry constantly changing and reinventing itself, the one constant has been the Woodsman. The faces pictured here represent in many ways Maine itself – hardy, resourceful, and determined. Keenly in tune with the land, they continue to provide, as their predecessors did, the foundational materials for building and maintaining strong communities. – Michael D. Wilson