Ted Simons: Ranching is a big part of Arizona’s past, but some are concerned that it may not have much of a role in the states future. Concern that the ranching way of life was disappearing, photographer, Scott Baxter set out to make a permanent record of 100 ranchers from families that have been ranching ins Arizona for 100 years or more. I spoke with Baxter near the end of his decade long journey to complete this ambitious project, and we will get to that in a moment, but first, we tag along with Baxter as he photographs ranchers in Sothern Arizona.
spent most of the last decade driving across Arizona to photograph long-time Arizona ranchers. Baxter is concerned that those hard-working men and women could be among the last of a dying breed. Producer David Majure and photographer Scott Olson caught up with Baxter at a ranch in southern Arizona.
Scott Baxter: Some of these ranches that we're photographing aren't going to be around because development is going to find its way in, and there's a lot of ranchers I know, there's no one coming up hunt them, so they'll most likely be sold. I just thought, what if photographically I could at least try to record these families that have been here since 1912 or earlier? I didn't really plan to do anything with it, I just wanted to see if I could accomplish it. We call it 100 years, 100 ranchers. Basically the criteria is, the family has been ranching in Arizona continuously since 1912 or earlier.
Henry Amado: My ancestors came here from Spain in the 1840s. And they were coming to Tucson by covered wagon. This is my great grandfather. About 1852 is when they set up the ranch in what is called AMADO.
Scott Baxter: This family is very historic family, goes back a long ways, and a beautiful ranch. And one of my Santa Cruz is probably one of my favorite places to be in the whole state. Photographs should be easy for you to look at. It doesn't mean it has to be Pollyannaish, It's just easy. If it's easy, it's good. Henry, just ride in the middle. If I push too hard to push a photograph, it doesn't work out. I kind of let the photograph come to me. There's not a set process. Aside from scouting the day before, knowing I want to use that big Sycamore tree, I don't have like a list of what I'm going to do. I just walk in and it's kind of the way I have always worked. I kind of wing it. It works for me. Perfect, guys, OK. The last one with this camera for now, at least.
Henry Amado: I was standing there, last evening by the tree between two horses, and -- with my son and grandson on each side of me. Very proud.
Scott Baxter: It just gives you an idea, it's a small shot. You want to show that pride, as a group they're very proud of their heritage, very proud of what they do. That's where we're at. We're going to shoot a few more with this camera. With the portraits you just kind have to take more time and get your frame up the way you want it, and then you read your light and shoot it.
Henry Amado: I think it's a wonderful thing that Scott came up with this idea.
Scott Baxter: This is actually very nice where we're at now.
Henry Amado: It's recorded history.
Scott Baxter: I don't think they're looking for recognition. I think they like the fact there's going to be a record of this somewhere. For their kids, for future generations. For me, forget about the pictures. It's the experience to travel around the state and -- I usually average getting to a ranch and getting back usually 3½ hours each way. It's a lot of miles. I'm sure tens of thousands, but it's -- I like driving. And I get to see a lot of the state. I treated this in a lot of ways just like could it have been shot, you know, a hundred years ago. I bring a digital, but that's just to shoot just for them. We're shooting black and white, no lights. It's basically camera, film, and a tripod. That forces me to think about my composition. It makes you think more as a photographer.
Henry Amado: I like to get the cattle into these two corrals. We were doing the spring round-up, which means bring the cattle in from the pastures, bring them into the corral. Starting off the baby calves, separating the bigger steers, because we're going to sell them. I don't know of any rancher that doesn't work hard. You have to. No, I don't have to do this. I've always been a very successful CPA, and with my son as my partner, the business is still going. Maybe that's why I can afford to be here. Because if he's there, I don't have to be at the office. But I enjoy being here, and at my age, I deserve to be here. I think it's love of the land. Love of the land.
Scott Baxter: The brandings are -- can be kind of exciting. You got two guys roping and dragging calves, and three or four cowboys throwing cows on the ground. Sometimes if the action stuff I don't have time to do too much but just hang in there. You don't want to be the cause of somebody getting hurt. You don't want to be the cause of livestock getting injured, and you certainly don't want to get hurt yourself. You stay dialed into the frame, but you have to have a few things going on in your head at the same time and keep yourself cognizant of really what's going on around you.
Henry Amado: He's going to brand one.
Scott Baxter: I've learned a lot. I wasn't aware I was going to brand a calf yesterday, but -- which was wonderful for me and kind of an honor that Henry asked me to give it a shot.
Henry Amado: I was surprised he had not had that experience. Beautiful. When he branded the first calf he got a happy smile and said, well, now you're going to learn to castrate a calf.
Scott Baxter: Same thing with this one?
Henry Amado: And he did one. He's an expert now. [laughter]
Scott Baxter: This one is a little bit more -- this is like the old style. I've not had a bad experience. And I've got a story for every ranch I've been at. That's perfect. Hold that. The photographs are the icing on the cake, but the real thing is I just -- you know, they're a great group of people. And I've just been real honored to have the opportunity to meet them and spend time with them.
Henry Amado: The cattle business is OK. It's going to keep going. For example, this ranch is not for sale. It will continue. There will be somebody here, one of the kids, maybe son-in-law, grandson, who knows? But they'll keep it going.
Scott Baxter: They're all hard working people who just like -- they love what they do. And they really love the land. That's the thing I've come away with, they really love this land, and they really want to take care of it.
Ted Simons: And here now to talk about 100 years, 100 ranchers, which by the way has been designated an official state centennial legacy project, is photographer Scott Baxter. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Scott Baxter: Thank you, Ted.
Ted Simons: Why ranchers? What led you to this?
Scott Baxter: At a ranch I met Wayne Crigler, who settled that whole Lee valley area. Over a few years I spent time with Wayne and she's got a museum, and my B.A. is in history, so we struck up a friendship, and just by spending time with her and her sister and another rancher up there, Sam Udall, I got the feeling that this thing was changing, and this was a tenuous tradition. And I just came up with the idea of probably around 2000, 2001, I have been working on it since '99, but I came up with the idea and said, what if I try to shoot a hundred of them?
Ted Simons: Did you know it would lead to this many years, this much work, this much travel? Did you know that in the beginning?
Scott Baxter: No. No. Bob Barrett, a rancher at the Lovelake ranch, I met him in 2009 at a cattle meeting, and he came up to me and said, Scott, I bet you thought this would be a lot of fun taking pictures. And it took on a life of its own, but it's been a great trip.
Ted Simons: Did you find yourself getting in the way? Or worried about getting in the way?
Scott Baxter: Not really. In the video piece I spoke about when you're out a -- at a branding and stuff, there's a lot of action. I'm always -- I ask a lot of question and make sure I'm not in the way. And they're usually really good about saying, stand over here. But I'm cognizant to try not to screw things up for them.
Ted Simons: In the video as well you talked about how you look at a shot, I'm always very interested in this, whether or not you saw the Sycamore tree and you said, that's a photograph, or, when -- or did you not know that was going to be a winner until had you them stand next to -- do you see it in your mind's eye, or do you see it through the lens and go, that's it?
Scott Baxter: The process on this project, people ask me that a lot, I never know what I'm going to do when I walk into a ranch. I go in with an open mind. What happens is I look around, I get my ideas, but for me it's more of an emotional thing.
Ted Simons: This shot right here, did you know that had to be -- did you know those hands had to be a photograph, or did you find those hands and go, that's it?
Scott Baxter: We were waiting to go gather cattle and this is the O’Haco Cattle Company outside of Winslow, and this is Jim, who owns the ranch, these are his hands. I was talking with him in & his ranch manager and shooting portraits of them. When you looked at them, I just -- it's not rocket science.
Ted Simons: You know it when you're see it.
Scott Baxter: Exactly.
Ted Simons: It's interesting, you were saying, another photograph right here, it's got -- great line in the video, it's got to be an easy thing to look at.
Scott Baxter: This is probably one of my favorite photographs that I took. This is a great example. A friend of mine said that, there are quiet moments before you shoot and after you're done that sometimes provide a great image. This is when I was done. I had four frames left, I had always warned that tree, I couldn't get it in and we were done and that's John Hayes, who was a state legislator, and he was speaking with his daughter. And I had four frames left on the camera and I just pick it up, it was the end of the day, four frames, I didn't have any more film and that was it.
Ted Simons: Black and white, large format, why?
Scott Baxter: Black and white, everything from six by six sent meter to eight by 10 negative, for the large format stuff it allows me to slow down when I'm doing a portrait. Sometimes people will slow down too. It will -- they'll look at the camera and you, converse more with them. You don't have to look through a camera, you can get it framed up and stand to the side and speak with them a little bit.
Ted Simons: But as far as the texture of black and white, when you get those down, they're gorgeous.
Scott Baxter: It's like I was saying, it's hard to explain, but there's a depth to a black and white photograph that I just don't feel you get in a digital photograph.
Ted Simons: What's next for you?
Scott Baxter: Project wise, I dovetailed off this project, and I'm just beginning it, and I've shot a few tests, tentatively right now it's called top hand but I want to do a cowboy project, but not rodeo cowboys. I want to do working ranch cowboys. And it may not be just Arizona, it may be throughout the west. But I've started and it that's my next goal, to work on that.
Ted Simons: Are you concerned about the future of ranching in Arizona?
Scott Baxter: Yeah. It's a very -- a lot of my fourth generation ranchers are the last ones. A lot of them the young kids will go on, we've got some great young ranchers out there, but a lot of the fourth generation ranchers, their kids, the quote is the work is too hard and you can't make enough money.
Ted Simons: You've done great work here. Congratulations and best of luck to you.
Scott Baxter: Thank you.