Recent Events – July
Montana has been the backdrop and inspiration for much of my staged work over the last few years. "Last Orders", taken in June (seen here), is part of a portfolio of work taken in one of the most isolated communities in America - Ingomar, Montana. This was a logistically challenging project given the remote location and we look forward to showing more photographs from the assignment in the months ahead.
The Jersey Lilly is the most authentic and isolated “Final Frontier” saloon bar I know in America. Based in the town of Ingomar, Montana (population 12), it is a long way from anywhere. In fact, there is no store or fuel within a 45-minute drive north, south, east or west. It truly is the “last chance saloon”.
My fixer in Montana spoke to the owner - a cowboy rather splendidly called “Boots” - and he agreed that we could use the interior and exterior for filming on a Monday and Tuesday in the early summer - when the bar itself would normally be closed. Permits were also secured with the local authorities to allow us to film in the bar with a tame bear.
I did a reconnaissance the previous Saturday - a good three hour round trip from Billings, Montana - to check the light and the bar’s interior. It was clear that there was potential to tell a “wild west” story, but equally I would have very little depth of field in any photograph I took - the window light was okay, but not overly generous. I was drawn to the number of animal heads on the wall and in particular the massive bison in the top corner seemed a great prop to play with, albeit I needed a composition to show it off.
Roxanna Redfoot from Dallas, Texas is a star - she is smart, as well as striking and can play any character role. On this occasion, her role was within her comfort zone - a sassy and smokingly sexy saloon bar maid with a no-nonsense approach to over eager customers. The customer, Adam - a 1000 lb brown bear - is not normally aggressive but working with him is far from easy - as he does not speak English. Roxanna showed no anxiety and was theatrical and focused from start to finish. Her eyes had to tell a story.
For my part, I had a preconception and an image in my head. It was vital to me that both the bear’s head and Roxy’s head had to be equidistant from my camera lens
- which probably meant that they had to be looking at each other. I knew that we would have a limited window of opportunity as Adam was not going to play the role for long - he gets bored easily. Luckily the rabbit behind the bar kept him focused for longer than I expected.
The vast majority of shots did not work for one reason or another - my focus, the bear’s head position or the interaction between the two characters. But this one image is a gem. The American Wild West - you cannot beat it as a canvas on which to paint a playful vignette.