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Mustaches of the American West Tuesday, January 09, 2007

From 2002 to 2005 I lived in Elko, Nev. When I first moved there (from Ontario, Canada) I couldn't help but notice the huge mustaches worn by an abnormally large proportion of the men there.

Among other things, Elko is home to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and nowhere are the mustaches more prevalent than around the Western Folklife Center during the gathering. Being basically clean-shaven (and mustache-challenged) my whole life, I thought the whiskers were pretty cool, as well as distinct.

I won't say this is why I got into photography, but it is how. During the 2004 Gathering, I snapped a horrid photo of a gentleman whose whiskers were waxed out almost as wide as his shoulders. Later that e
vening, that photo came up as I was discussing what I'd seen with friends. It occurred to me that the mustaches would be a good subject for a documentary. Armed with some supportive feedback from my friends, I figured that the someone who should do that documentary could be me. The rest, as they say, is history.

A month or so ago, I entered a selection of the photos from the project in "Critical Mass," a juried competition associated with Photolucida, which is a "week-long celebration of photography" held every other year in Portland. Today I found out that my project was one of the top 150 entries (of 393) selected in the pre-screening process. My entry will be sent to over 200 reviewers from across the U.S. and around the world, who will judge it against the other 149. If I end up in the top three it will be published in a monograph; if I'm in the top 40 the photos will be permanently posted on Photolucida's website.

More importantly, getting to this step means my work will be seen by museum curators, art gallery directors, and book and magazine publishers. Hopefully one or more of them will be interested in the project, even if I don't finish in the top bracket. Results are expected in about two months.

(You can see more images from Mustaches of the American West here.)

(top) Jim Ross, Jamestown, Calif. (below) Ernie Gonzales, Santaquin, Utah.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Matthew! I'll send you an email soon.

:) Dana