CJ Carter’s work communicates the experiences of people from every corner of the globe. Through film and photography he addresses the issues of development and social change, especially in small tightly-knit social settings. He frequently juggles multiple projects at once, but some of his most recent films take place in Bozeman’s backyard — Big Timber, Mont.
When Carter’s works from Bolivia, Morocco, Mongolia and Montana are compared side-by-side, it becomes clear that although languages and landscapes shift, people engage in similar lifestyles around the world. The continuity in storytelling between these locations brilliantly highlights those connections.
Carter engages in a new and exciting form of ethnography that focuses on allowing people to tell their own stories. His style of visual ethnography changes the role of the ethnographer from representing to curating. Carter emphasizes that he brings a perspective that allows him to see ranching life as a whole, but he doesn’t need to tell ranchers’ stories for them. “Technology is so prominent that the ranchers I work with have iPhones. They’re taking photos and videos of their kids and herds out on the slopes of the Beartooth [Mountains],” Carter said.
His most recent film incorporates a historical view of the Big Timber wool industry, but clips of an upcoming video emphasize daily life. Carter notes that the sheep ranchers in Big Timber are humble, but their work is hard. Images of grinning ranchers herding sheep through blizzards indicate that these people are the badasses of the ranching world, but market globalization and a younger generation’s loss of interest may threaten their way of life. One solution has been to work with Peruvian immigrants to keep the ranchers’ specific knowledge of work and landscape alive.
Ultimately, Carter’s films combine art with a community’s collective knowledge, a pairing that both entices and challenges the viewer.
Carter hopes to have his website, cj-carter.com online by Jan 1. For now, links to his work and a download of his magazine Ulteri are provided below: