I photograph many things. More often than not, though, I photograph people, places, and things in the agricultural industry. Especially in Montana. In doing so I try to showcase the best Montana agriculture has to offer. And Montana agriculture has many great things to offer.
But there is a transformation taking place in the agricultural industry, and Montana's farmers and ranchers are not immune from those changes. Science and technology is greatly impacts the evolution of agriculture and it changes how and what we eat. Because of the rapid changes to science and technology in agriculture the people who buy my photos and video also want to see more media depicting the science and technology behind the scenes in the agriculture industry. Makes perfect sense.
So where does a farm and ranch photographer in the state of Montana turn if he wants to feature the best Montana agricultural science and technology has to offer? Well, it seemed natural to knock on the door of Montana's premier agricultural school--Montana State University (MSU). In 2016 I very much wanted to tell the story of the College of Agriculture at Montana State University and expand my portfolio with photos that told the story of the science and technology in the world of agriculture. And although the staff at MSU's College of Agriculture was very inviting, its media department on the other hand, which is the gate keeper at MSU for people like me...not so much.
I contacted MSU's media department, told them what I wanted to do. I told them I wanted to feature their College of Agriculture in photos. I wanted to show people how science and technology is shaping the agriculture industry. I wanted to brag about MSU's College of Agriculture. But I was told I would have to pay crazy fees to this, a state funded university, in order to photograph there. MSU, a land grant college whose budget is funded by student fees and money from Montana taxpayers, told me I couldn't photograph there or at any of its many agricultural research stations around the state unless I jumped through hoops and paid them money to do so.
This didn't seem right.
I always had a very good working relationship with other universities, including the University of Wisconsin, which is considered the 6th best agricultural school in the United States. Wisconsin is always very cooperative with me, always open, and always gracious. They made the rooftop of the tallest building on campus available to me after hours to photograph the city's skyline. They gave me detailed information about all of their research stations across the state and opened their doors to me and my camera. They gave me sideline passes to photograph on the sidelines of their Big Ten football games. And they always went the extra mile to answer my question. I didn't even go to school there. Why were they so helpful? I think that's what universities are supposed to do. They are institutions of higher learning. They are supposed to promote the free flow of information for a higher good. And of course, to help promote the school. So why would MSU be any different?
So, because I couldn't photograph at MSU this year, I reached out to a different agricultural university, this one west of Montana--the 16th best agricultural school according to U.S. News. And without hesitation they said I could photograph at their campus. They swung open their doors and this summer I will be photographing their studies at a new small grain growth facility, photographing research at their new wine science center, and photographing test plots at their very large and impressive agronomy farm.
I always strive to show Montana in the best possible way. Unfortunately, in this instance, I won't have that opportunity. Instead my photos will be promoting one of MSU's competitors. Not because I want to, but because I have to.