Lucas Foglia's Frontcountry

A photographer's documentation of life in the American West.

Lucas Foglia is a documentary photographer who embeds himself in less-traveled communities, shooting photographs that—for lack of a better term—stick with you. Or at least they did me, after I saw his previous project, "A Natural Order" (photographs of people who left cities to live “off the grid” in natural environments), in the International Center of Photography’s Triennial last year, and everywhere from TIME’s LightBox to the Huffington Post.

For his latest project “Frontcountry,” Foglia went even broader in landscape, documenting life in some of the least populated rural towns in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming, which are gradually giving way to a mining boom sweeping the American West. 

“A good friend, Addie Goss, worked as a public radio reporter in Wyoming,” Foglia explains of the project’s origins. “Traveling with her across the state, I met a lot of other people living in very small communities, next to land that felt wild and open. In the communities we visited, the two main industries were ranching and mining. What drew me to photograph was the idea that these two very different lifestyles share and depend on the same harsh terrain.”

The collection of images starts with cattle and cowboys and evolves into office settings, excavation trucks, puddles of oil and mounds of coal. Shot between 2006 and 2013, Foglia pared 60,000 images down to 60, which were published as a book by Nazraeli Press last month. 

“I visited most of the people I photographed multiple times, and because I was introduced to them by someone they trusted, they trusted me,” he says. “I always take time to visit. It’s more fun than moving quickly through a place, and I learn and see more that way.”

Shot with a Leaf Credo 60 and an 80mm or 55mm lens on a Mamiya 645DF+, Foglia’s vast scenes and portraits of local residents take on a moody, cinemagraphic quality.

“I don’t go into a photo shoot looking for a mood; I go in to build relationships,” says the photographer. “Out of those relationships come situations, and responding to those situations, I make photographs. The mood in the book came from the choice of the best pictures out of the six years of photographing. I think one thing that comes across is that everyone I photographed—whether a cowboy or a miner—is working really hard to live in that landscape.”

Among his many honors, Foglia was named one of PDN’s 30 in 2009, a year before he graduated from Yale with his MFA. 

Having grown up on a farm in Long Island with parents who followed “many of the principles of the back-to-land movement of the 1970s,” Foglia says his images are a response to his childhood. “I’ve photographed in rural communities across the United States,” he says. “My photographs explore how mythology inspires lifestyle, and how landscape shapes people into who they are.”

See more of the project here.  

Photo © Lucas Foglia