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Charles W. Guildner
Everett, Washington

“The Heartland: Lives of Tradition”

In 1990, I began photographing the landscape and the lives of the people of the rural heartland, primarily spanning Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Born and raised in Nebraska, drawn to my roots, this project has developed into a quest to record and share my vision of the many farmers, ranchers and small rural communities expressing “Lives of Tradition.”

The core of this project is finding and recording ordinary people who are living and working in ways that have changed little since the settling of the heartland. Many seem grounded in tradition and find their vitality in long-standing ways of living. How long many of these traditional ways will continue is uncertain. But the spirit I have found among these people suggests many will continue.

Recently I have been documenting the still-existing but vanishing culture of the “Rural School House.” Since the spring of 2002, I have visited more than 40 of these remote centers of learning. I travel in my pickup truck camper and photograph almost daily for three to four months, between April and July. The rest of the year is spent working with the new photos (negatives and digitals), making museum-quality, exhibition prints, corresponding with new leads, and making preparations for going “on the road” again.

Each of my images is authentic and real, without setups, without contrivance, resulting in an accurate record of the unique lives and situations I find. A brief narrative is written about each of my images and accompanies the finished print.