Matt Hamon is harvest hunter in Montana, meaning he hunts as a primary source of meat for his family – not for sport. One day while searching for information on butchering wild game, Hamon came across a blog about the Buffalo Scavenging Project. “Each year they attend the Native American treaty hunt on the boundary of Yellowstone National Park and assist Native American hunters with field dressing and packing of buffalo.” Hamon tells the Phoblographer about his project The Gleaners. The discovery inspired Hamon to reach out to the scavengers about coming out to their annual camp to capture the event. Long story short, they accepted his offer/request.
These animals, like many others, are usually protected by US law. However, a little known fact is that due to treaties from that era, today’s modern Native Americas retain their hunting rights in Montana, on the border of Yellowstone National Park. Once a year they gather in the winter, when it gets so cold the Buffalo leave the park and enter public lands where the Native Americans can hunt them.
“I consider myself a portrait photographer and I’m interested in making portraits of people living authentic, meaningful lifestyles. I was inspired by their raw, committed, and immediate relationship to the land and their food.” Hamon said of the project. “Most of the interest in the photos, has been from news and journalism media. I unintentionally became a photo journalist overnight.”
Hamon has been into photography since studying Graphic Design in college, and though he has strayed into illustration and painting since then, he attributes that to his relatively slow transition from film to digital. The Gleaners was produced utilizing Hamon’s current kit, a Phase One Medium Format camera paired with an off camera strobe/softbox. “The addition of a strobe is primarily aesthetic, as it allows me to underexpose background elements while illuminating the subject. This offers a separation of figure-ground that offers the narrative context of the background while intensely focusing the subject.” he said, “Essentially, I’m co-mingling the aesthetics of observational journalism and formally staged portraiture.”
You can find a selection of the images from The Gleaners below–it’s a fascinating look into a way of life very foreign to many of us these days. Just a quick warning if blood, guts, or hunting makes you squeamish, you may want to avoid going any further.