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Teams of horses gallop over a vast open prairie, hell bent on outrunning a cluster of storm clouds in the near horizon; riders wade through a sea of robust agave toward a mountain dotted with giant cardon cactus stretching upward; a diligent saddle maker shapes the horn with rough, calloused hands that are steady and true. Those are just a sample of the images in the book by gifted photographer Barbara Van Cleve entitled Pure Quill. The unvarnished and stunning pictures in Van Cleve’s collection include ranchers, riders, ropers and landscapes from Big Timber, Montana to Baja California, Mexico. Beautifully produced, Pure Quill is a testament to the hardships and joys of life as a cowhand. Van Cleve shadows her subjects often times from the back of her own horse and the photos she captures from that vantage point are unabashed and striking. The stories about her life and times on a working Montana cattle and horse ranch that accompany the images give voice to her stirring, artistic vision. Exhibitions of Van Cleve’s work have been featured in numerous galleries including the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Pure Quill: Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve is a tome you’ll want to revisit over and over again.
Reviewed by Chris Enss, COWGIRL Book Editor, and a New York Times, Bestselling author who writes about women of the Old West.