Bryan Schutmaat: Country Road
This week we feature projects that explore the psychological landscape.
Encompassed within the psychological landscape is an intense look at the land itself and the expressive qualities that our surroundings can offer us. In photography, there has been a long history of image makers going out into the world and intently looking at what most disregard. Things that may be past their prime, unassuming, and/or unremarkable can be transformed by an attention to detail and a deep connection to the land. Bryan Schutmaat carries this tradition along in his most recent book entitled Country Road, published by Trespasser (now sold out). As a Texas native, familiar with the long stretches of land that can be found in the American Southwest, he uses this project to explore where rural roads can take us. He has published several photobooks where his portraits captivate viewers and allow humanity to be overtly at the forefront of his photographic explorations. However, this series is different in that it creates portraits of the landscape while offering zero images of people, but rather other elements of the land to guide viewers along this journey.
Schutmaat conveys a quiet and contemplative feeling in his photographs of the landscape. Elements of the roads less traveled appear throughout the series, and viewers get a sense of a leisurely passage through this expansive area. These images were made between his current home of Austin, Texas, and where his family farm resides in Leon County, Texas. He created this work during the COVID-19 pandemic when the world seemingly stopped, giving people the ability to deeply examine their lives. His photographs offer an insight into the emotional experience of traveling a country road. He has a poetic quality to his imagery that shines through, as he offers up ambiguous investigations of long stretches of roads, homes in ruin, and grassy fields. He never tries to be too direct, but instead, allows the viewer a chance to reflect on each image. There is a formality to his image-making, but also an ambiguity that shines throughout the collection. This allows for the emotional quality of the images as a whole to be the most important part of the series. The road seems to have offered a place for him to reflect in silence and follow a path that feels both foreboding and familiar.
What I find to be powerful about this image series is that he has taken a slow route through this project, engaging with American Southwest road trip qualities without it feeling like it is solely about the road. Schutmaat is much more influenced by his desire to break the lockdown he experienced and express himself through images. He would go get lost on dirt roads and feel something special. Each image reflects the emotive qualities that a drive can reveal to us even if it’s a quick trip. They have that trace of humanity left behind in each of them, conveying the undeniable sense of passing the time alone. We will look back at this image series years down the road and recognize the magnitude of what Schutmaat has done. He was able to harness all the complex emotions that this isolating time offered humanity and did it in a masterful way using his keen attention to formal image-making.
Bryan Schutmaat is a photographer based in Austin, Texas whose work has been widely exhibited and published. He has won numerous awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the Aperture Portfolio Prize, and an Aaron Siskind Fellowship. Bryan’s prints are held in many collections, such as Baltimore Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Pier 24 Photography, Rijksmuseum, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He co-founded the imprint, Trespasser.
Joe Cuccio is an image maker based in Rochester, NY. His images respond to a variety of arresting moments and harness the movement that occurs as life forges on. Inspiration for him arrives from chaotic and serene emotional experiences. Creating images is his way of highlighting humanity’s fleeting existence. He is an MFA candidate at Rochester Institute of Technology pursuing a degree in Photography and Related Media. His work has been exhibited at Memorial Art Gallery and Soho Photo Gallery. He has also contributed written pieces for Museé Magazine and Float Magazine.
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Interview with Kate Greene: Photographing What Is UnseenFebruary 20th, 2024
Brice Bischoff: How CloseFebruary 18th, 2024
Emiliano Zúñig: ParaísoFebruary 3rd, 2024
Bryan Schutmaat: Country RoadJanuary 30th, 2024
Lucia Engstrom: Lovers & Dreamers at the Von Lintel GalleryJanuary 27th, 2024