Yarrow series on display in Big Sky gallery
By Michael Somerby ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
BIG SKY – When London-based photographer David Yarrow decided to venture to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, he didn’t opt to photograph the idyllic, caddis fly-strewn summer images of the region. Instead, Yarrow traded classic fly-fishing images for those that capture a hard and wild, yet beautiful, Montana.
A portion of his ongoing collection, called “Storytelling,” is now being displayed at Creighton Block Gallery in Big Sky through the summer months.
A regular associate of heartthrob movie icons such as Leonardo DiCaprio and prolific supermodels the likes of Cindy Crawford, Yarrow was on a series of missions in the name of his work.
One objective entailed photographing perhaps the most iconic American mammal, the mighty bison, in a habitat that fossil records indicate is the species’ only continuously populated haunt since prehistoric eras—Yellowstone National Park. This project kept in line with Yarrow’s previous endeavors as a photographer, in which notable and intimate shots of wildlife around the world, particularly that found in Africa, has earned him international acclaim.
Yarrow successfully captured these prehistoric beasts on film, their exteriors frosted by subzero temperatures and cut-to-the-bone winds. These adversities, however, mean little to the individuals in his photographs; to them, he says, it’s a part of life.
“Lock a bison in a large industrial deep freeze for a month and he will come out laughing,” penned Yarrow in a letter he wrote from a friend’s in Livingston, which now serves as the forward to a small preview catalogue of his work in the region. “They have been around for 500,000 years and I fancy they will be around quite a bit longer.”
The bison was not the only American icon Yarrow captured; immediately before his descent into America’s first park, Yarrow shot a series of remarkable images the artist contends “will stand the test of time.”
Much like the shaggy behemoths, the Montana cowboy is grizzled, time tested and invariably interesting to the outsider. Juxtaposed with Venusian beauties like Crawford, “a true American idol,” wrote Yarrow, and models Josie Canseco and Roxanna Redfoot, the deep, leathery creases on their faces, grease-splattered garb and tobacco smoke-stained facial hair all but scream stories from a life still very much like that experienced by the continent’s first frontiersmen.
Supermodels and cowboys: That’s how America does it. But Yarrow made sure to throw in some additional American icons, as well as lions, grizzly bears and wolves, for added effect.
The work rendered from these novel compositions of Yarrow’s “Storytelling” collection is anything but ordinary, much like the unordinary state, in an unordinary region, of the unordinary country in which they were shot. Currently featured in a swathe of galleries worldwide, from Los Angeles to Oslo, Norway, including Big Sky’s very own Creighton Block, it’s hard to argue that they won’t indeed stand the test of time.
This is particularly evident when one studies a piece like “Once Upon A Time in The West,” in which Canseco, clad in lavish white furs, casually sits next to a wolf in the front seat of a Chevy Impala convertible; behind them, the Crazy Mountains north of Bozeman backdrop a sprawling dirt road.
A handful of Yarrow’s “Storytelling” pieces loom large on the walls of Creighton Block, which was selected to display the work through a bit of serendipity.
“I received a phone call from a friend in Virginia City who’d gone to work for him,” said Colin Mathews, a co-owner of Creighton Block Gallery. “They told me a famous British photographer wanted to have a presence in Big Sky and visit our gallery.”
Mathews, along with Gallery Director Courtney Collins, met Yarrow at a dinner party the photographer hosted in March at the Gallatin River Lodge; the Brit had rented the lodge for two weeks as a base for himself and the crew.
“We went down and had a conversation with him about his art and our gallery, and he came by three or four days later,” Mathews said. “Now we’re in the Yarrow business.”
His striking work mirrors his personality, Mathews added.
“He is truly a wild and crazy guy, to borrow a phrase from Steve Martin, Mathews said, “a larger than life personality, and such a jolly and artistic fellow.”
Much of Yarrow’s work is sold to the benefit of conservation efforts around the world, with a percentage of proceeds from sales going to organizations such as Tusk, WildArk, YUNA and Natural World Safaris. Proceeds from “Cindy’s Shotgun Wedding,” which features Crawford and wolf in the same open convertible, but instead back dropped by a Nevada City saloon and a man adorned a black stovepipe hat, eye patch and an old-fashioned shotgun held at the ready, will go to raising money for children with cancer, an ongoing charity mission of Crawford’s.
“A serious part of his work is for conservation,” Collins said. “He’s selling work to save the planet.”
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