Ryan Lundbohm first picked up a camera in 2016. He’s a medically retired U.S. Marine, and was trying to figure out how to assimilate back into the civilian world. He said that depression and post-traumatic stress disorder made it difficult to figure out what could bring him joy—a camera was one of the first things that did.
“It’s really given me a second life, and an ability to understand the world,” Lundbohm said.
“So many of the things that I do with my camera come from my time holding a weapon,” he said. “To be able to literally shoot to make beauty in the world, as opposed to bringing death and destruction—it’s been a way to connect with people, a way to bring happiness and beauty, and most importantly to learn more about myself and my place in the world.”
Lundbohm’s first-ever photo exhibit explored the story of the Redd family, former owners of Dugout Ranch located near the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The exhibit was held for one night only at Hearthspace Moab Helipad location (239 West Center Street) along with a series of photos of rodeo bull riders, captured by photographer Victoria Dempster.
Dempster and Lundbohm live in the same neighborhood in Moab. Dempster had been eyeing the Hearthspace as a space to display art for years, she said, and the themes of Lundbohm’s work seemed like a good fit for the exhibit.
Lundbohm first met the Redds a few years ago through Aaron Redd. The family is a fixture in ranching circles.
“I was going through a really rough patch, just being depressed,” said Lundbohm. “Aaron called me up and asked if I’d like to take some photos of him and his uncle skiing and snowboarding.”
“I took him up on it, and it really helped me that day,” he said. Later, Aaron asked if Lundbohm would be interested in taking photos of the family on the ranch—Lundbohm grew up loving cowboys but had never seen ranching in action. He was “completely blown away,” he said and spent that entire day taking photos.
In 1997, the Redds sold their ranch to The Nature Conservancy to guarantee the land’s protection but still graze cattle on the property as the Indian Creek Cattle Company.
By now, Lundbohm has been taking photos of the Redds for years. His photography journey with the family morphed into something much more personal: as Lundbohm got closer to his subjects, he became a subject himself. He picked up ranching chores here and there, then learned how to ride a horse, then learned how to manage cattle.
“I just fell in love with the family,” he said. “Photography breaks down so many barriers. I always start with a blank slate—like, I don’t know anything about you, I don’t know anything about what you do, but I’m really interested in it. I’d just like to spend time with you.”
Since 2016, photography has taken Lundbohm all over the world, he said. His passion for it expands beyond just the art of a photograph: he loves the ability to connect with his subjects, to be as close or as far away from them as he wants to be. He loves that photography immerses him in the lives of other human beings, both while he’s capturing images and while he’s showing them.
Dempster herself worked as an art teacher in London for 20 years, which helped develop her love of photography. In 2017, she moved to Utah with her partner and found herself immersed in the glory of rodeos, which she had never seen before.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “The rodeo was the most obvious place to start. It’s got everything: good-looking dudes, dust, floodlights, action, drama.”
She photographed rodeos in Monticello, Utah; and Fruita, Snowmass, and Carbondale, Colorado. She found herself drawn to two bull riders: Devian and Dominic, two young boys with injured legs who both wanted to be bull riders forever. Devian, a thirteen-year-old, broke his leg while bull riding while fifteen-year-old Dominic lost a leg at age 12 and rides bulls using a prosthetic. They are featured in Dempster’s “Cowboy Stories” series.
Dempster captioned one of her photographs of Devian: “…The strange dichotomy of this beautiful boy striving to be a cowboy was very apparent. The contradiction magnified by his adolescence, so transient and fleeting, the eight-second bull ride so violent and volatile.”
Photos from the “Cowboy Stories” photo exhibit can be seen on Victoria Dempster’s website (www.victoriadempster.com/usa) and Lundbohm’s Instagram page: @the_bearded_kite.