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A Taste of the Ranch

March 12, 2010

Photo by Sarah Henderson

Portland, Oregon-based photographer, Sarah Henderson has an eye for beauty and composition that has led her to a career in mixed media production that spans still photography to motion pictures. She is multi-talented on many levels: as photographer, videographer, creative director and producer. Her print work has appeared in Wallpaper, Edible Portland, Readymade, Paper, Bitch, Outside and Zink, and she has done photography and creative direction for Nike. Her recent credits also include work as associate creative director and music supervisor for "The Ultimate Ride," an innovative documentary television series about elite sports celebrities for Starz, distributed by Lionsgate. The series features such Red Bull athletes as Shaun White, Steve Fisher and Robbie Madison and can be viewed at http://theultimateride.tv and on her Web site at http://www.sirenapictures.com.

This past year, however, Henderson has been involved in a much more spiritual photography project, involving healthy food and lifestyle assignments for magazines such as Edible Portland and The Portland Farmers' Market (PFM). During a recent visit to Bend, Oregon she profiled an alternative farmer for a three-part advertorial series supported by a joint partnership between PFM and MIX magazine, an Oregonian food publication.

Henderson documented farmer Alan Rousseau of The Pine Mountain Ranch. Rousseau is an innovator in holistic farming practices that not only sustain and benefit his majestic livestock of buffalo and yak but also produce an end result of healthy, nutritious food for consumers. Rousseau believes in grass feeding, minimal intervention and strives to utilize as much of these great animals as possible. The photo essay highlights the paradox of Rousseau's new-age and traditional Native American philosophies of honoring the animal that will eventually be slaughtered and end up as food on someone's dinner table. "As someone who is very much an animal and nature lover, I was humbled by these animals and impressed by Rousseau's humane methods," Henderson says.

Through her photo essay, Henderson reveals Rousseau as a rare breed himself. His passion for raising exotic meat is very labor intensive and costly, challenging him on a daily basis to keep his farm running in our impacted economy. His methods remain unwavering, combining Native American philosophy, new-age intent and modern environmental science to preserve the breed's legacy. As Rousseau explains, "Because of their majesty, and their place in history as a symbol of America, I have set a personal goal to return Buffalo to the wild, by way of a state or national park. This way, more of the public can be educated on the Buffalo, and hopefully be as inspired as I am by these magnificent creatures--which are as much a part of this great country as the Bald Eagle."

"I was simply in utter awe of the buffalo and yak, especially the female buffalo that stared at me as intensely as I took her picture. There's another photo similar to "Still Standing" where her head is lifted and she is sniffing the air, smelling me, getting a sense of whether she can trust me or not. Our mutual trust is vital with her calf nearby as I point my lens toward her," says Henderson. She feels that such exchanges with nature and animals are humbling and emotional in a way that is quite hard to express even through photos. Her strong imagery and narrative show how she and the viewer can begin to understand Rousseau's reverent connection to these magnificent animals.

Henderson plans to go back to this farm to capture more dynamic light, expression and emotion, but she also believes there is something to be said about a first-time visit. There is no time to over think the situation. "You're just there and you capture the moment," she says. She wants to continue this project, but when she goes back to the buffalo and yak farm, she'll be returning on her own initiative to develop a documentary project of her own. We certainly hope she does.