Photographer Barbara Van Cleve Gives Program

The Yellowstone Gateway Museum’s third Ranching Roundup: Story and Song speaker series program is  “A Pure Quill Montana Photographer” presented by Barbara Van Cleve on October 30, which includes stories of her career taking photographs of the western range, ranchers, rodeo, cowboys, and cattle women. Van Cleve will also be showing her photographs during the program. She grew up on a ranch near Big Timber.

Barbara Van Cleve began her love of photography as a child. Descended from Montana pioneers, she was born and raised on her family’s historic ranch near Big Timber, Montana. Her silver gelatin prints and digital photographs are a vision of the American West that capture the spirit of the landscape and people of the American West, which inspire her so. Van Cleve states, “Photography has been a life-long passion for me. I wanted to share with other people how wonderful ranch life was but I could not draw, paint or make things in clay, so I begged my parents for camera. Thankfully they gave me a brownie Box camera when I was eleven and that was the beginning of my being able to share with others may vision of ranch life. I carried my camera everywhere and photographed everything. I still do today.”

Today, she is nationally famous for her photographs of the western range, ranchers, rodeos, cowboys and cattle women. A lifetime of ranching and superb technical command of photography account for the power and beauty of her photographs which range from crisp documents of ranch life to stimulating images of movement, myth and imagination.

In 1995 Van Cleve was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in recognition for her great achievements in photography that help to preserve the western ranch heritage.  The Montana Historical Society is in the process of acquiring all of Van Cleve’s photographic archives. She was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning; the video is posted on YouTube.

Barbara Van Cleve’s photographs have been the subjects of the books.  Her most recent book, 2016 titled Pure Quill: Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve (a term meaning genuine or authentic) features the breadth of her subject matters including Rodeo as Dance series, striking night scenes and documentation of the Spanish Missionary Trail in Baja, California, Mexico. Holding the Reins: a Ride Through Cowgirl Life (2003), Roughstock Sonnets (1989), a documentary video of her life and work called “Capturing Grace” (1993), and a book of her photographs of ranch women entitled, Hard Twist:  Western Ranch Women, 1995, which was also an exhibition that travelled to museums for decades.

The final speaker series program is on November 13. Neal Lewing presents “The F.A.R.M. Show,” a Farm and Ranch Musical tribute—a fast-paced family-friendly show using music, poetry, history, legends, lies and a few laughs to celebrate the myriad aspects of agriculture through the ages.

“Rancher. Citizen Activist. Montana 1997,” an exhibit of black and white photographs will be at Park Photo during the speaker series, featuring photography by John Gayusky. He photographed nine ranches from Sweet Grass County to Circle in eastern Montana, documenting what inspired and motivated ranchers and their involvement in natural resource and agricultural policy making. The ranchers were members of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

The free program is open to the public, and refreshments are served. Donations are appreciated. Doors open at 6:30 pm. Barbara Van Cleve will sign copies of her books after the program. Watch for more information about upcoming programs or contact Karen Reinhart at 222-4184 or kreinhart@parkcounty.org. Visit our Facebook page, yellowstonegatewaymuseum.