Aperture Foundation presents Grays the Mountain Sends, an exhibition of photographs by Bryan Schutmaat, the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize Winner.
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition. When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues. This year, Aperture’s staff reviewed close to one thousand portfolio-prize entries. The challenge was to select one top prize and five honorable mentions from this overwhelming response. The judges awarded the top prize to Bryan Schutmaat for his series Grays the Mountain Sends.
In Grays the Mountain Sends, Schutmaat skillfully documents the rugged landscapes and people of the great American West. The images describe a series of mining sites and small, hardscrabble mountain towns. Also portrayed are the people who have worked in them, built them, and a few younger people who might—or might not—be looking for a way out of them. It’s this balance between the clearly ravaged land and equally devastated faces, with a few moments of youth, beauty, and the last glimmer of promises never truly fulfilled, that elevates Schutmaat’s work. His photographs, carefully controlled in both palette and structure, have a true regional twang. They evoke the wear and tear perpetrated on the land, as well as on the psyche of people who live there, with scant separation in one’s sense of the individuals and one’s sense of the place.