From the story of their survival to their hulking, unmistakable physiques, the American bison is one of the rarified animals that has become larger than life in cultural significance.
Together with Yellowstone, our first National Park, there’s an unbelievably beautiful visual relationship that reveals the implicit magnificence of mother nature and the symbolic power of the bison. After photographing the two, there’s no doubt in my mind as to why bison and Yellowstone remain enduring icons of the promise of the West.
Beneath Yellowstone’s remarkable natural beauty lies something terrific that peeks through the surface at over 10,000 locations around the park. These geothermal features - more than anywhere else in the world - are constantly pulsing just beneath the ground. The steam they release makes everything in the park surreal, especially in Winter when the park is also blanketed in snow. Meanwhile, the bison frequent the thermal features to stay warm and the steam freezes on their coats creating an ephemeral halo of ice.
Upon looking at the geysers and surreal greenish-blue pools bubbling at their edges, I couldn’t help but think what it meant for life to live above the largest super volcano on Earth. Our natural world is resilient, and these partially petrified trees seen here are a byproduct of the silica in the geothermal soil. The spectacular combination of steam rising above the snowy ground, which only happens when specific conditions are reached, are calm moments that will disappear momentarily. I love the dichotomy of this ethereal, gentle vignette set against the thermal tumult just below the surface.
Bison thrive in this space, embodying fortitude, strength, and resilience. When I set my sights on photographing them, the image in my mind displayed their enduring grit against the background of Yellowstone’s wonder. To me, this meant capturing bison in a way that could only be possible in the Park, with a halo of snow and ice against the surreal reality of Yellowstone’s topography.
Once 30,000,000 strong, the bison population dwindled down to a mere 23 in the late 1870s (a story that deserves your acknowledgment and can be better told by other sources such as ). Yellowstone’s founding in 1872 was what protected these final 23 bison, forever preserving their place in our world. Without the park, there might not be a single bison left today.
As the bison population grows with a recorded 500,000 across the US, these images are my way of recording and celebrating their existence in our world.