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Photographer Ian Bates Follows The Meadowlark Across Northwestern America

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Name
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Meadowlark
Words

In the series ‘Meadowlark’, San Francisco-based photographer Ian Bates looks to a small grassland bird as a symbol of the changing landscapes and communities of its Northwestern territories.

Skittish in nature, the small, yellow-breasted Meadowlark is known as the State bird of Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. Due to the influx of corporate farming in the rural areas of these states, remote local communities have begun to dissipate, with residents opting instead for larger towns and cities. Using the bird as his compass, Bates chose locations across the six states where the Meadowlark was likely to be seen. It was not long into his journey, however, that it became apparent the bird was increasingly hard to find. As with their human counterpart, the birds had also begun to flee. As the identity of these secluded communities began to alter, so too did the habitat for this symbolic creature.

Bates’ images are quiet meditations on the intricate details of life that once held these small communities together. They are also a visual record of the silence that follows their gradual deconstruction. As a series, the images are tied together by the recurring theme of stillness; whether it be a forlorn treehouse, lone graffiti, or abandoned car; the trace of humans is in almost every image. Whilst the population of these communities may be gradually smaller, the portraits provide a poignant reminder that they are still home to some. Bates has produced a thoughtful series which acknowledges the impact that large corporations can have on these smaller rural communities, providing a visual reminder of what this may mean for the residents and, of course, for the Meadowlark.

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All images © Ian Bates