Anouk Masson Krantz is a French-born photographer whose first photography book, Wild Horses of Cumberland Island, gained critical acclaim; her work has been published everywhere from Town & Country (which called it “stunning”) to Vanity Fair Italia. Her new coffee table book, West: The American Cowboy, is the Connecticut-based mom’s in-depth look into ranch and cowboy culture. We spoke to Anouk about her interest in cowboys, her colorful career and how she’s sharing her love of adventure and learning with her children.
What is it about cowboys that has captured the interest of everyone from children to filmmakers?
The iconic American Cowboy has been long recognized and celebrated around the world as an inspiring symbol of freedom and independence. I first took notice while traveling out West in 2004. To see these true cowboys in their own element, at work on the ranch or enjoying their downtime among one another is to understand the passion that they have for their way of life and for the communities that they have built.
How does this book compare to your previous work?
My first book is about the Wild Horses of Cumberland Island which is off the coast of Georgia and is now a National Park. There are no bridges, paved roads or conveniences, and the island is limited to 300 visitors per day on an island that about the size of Manhattan. Home to approximately 150 wild horses, they roam free within and across all sorts of varied ecosystems ranging from dark old growth oak forests, tidal mud flats, and expansive white sand Atlantic beaches that stretch forever. It took over two dozen visits over the course of ten years to photograph these horses since they can be difficult to find, and the weather is unpredictable. It required patience and stamina to brave the elements, often ten or more miles from the closest neighbor and without cellular reception. The sense of adventure heightens all the senses and these escapes provide a spiritual connectivity to the world that is impossible to put into words. Later when I found myself exploring new parts out West, I couldn’t help but to feel the same way. I loved my time on Cumberland Island but it was a solitary exploration. Out West, it was different to be able to share this connection with others who treasure this way of life. It added an additional dimension of meaning.
How did you first become interested in photography?
I received my first camera when I was five. I loved to explore and take pictures, but I never imagined that I would grow into a professional photographer. As a child my family moved every three or four years so the ground beneath my feet was always shifting. Fortunately, I spent most of my free time horseback riding, which was a constant passion wherever we lived. Later as a young adult living in New York City I had an opportunity to take photography classes at ICP. From there I started to explore new places with my camera, and I was hooked.
Are you encouraging your kids to go into photography as well?
My children have benefitted from the opportunity to travel with me to see other parts of the country, meet new people and to experience firsthand different lifestyles and perspectives. I encourage them to explore, ask questions and to try to make sense of the world around them. I want them to develop and find their own interests and passions, and I will do my best to support whatever those are, be it photography or otherwise.
Do you have any suggestions for parents that want to nurture creativity?
In our family the most important are academics. For me art is a creative expression of humanity. I’m not so much drawn to photography for photography’s sake as I am with discovering new people and places and wanting to share new perspectives that I learn along the way with others. It just so happens that I am best able to communicate that through photography. Others can accomplish a similar goal through writing, acting, music, or cooking. Introduce your kids to the world, explore with them and let them decide what they like for themselves.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do? And what would you be doing if you weren’t a photographer?
I love to travel and have new experiences. The world is so full of surprises if you just look around the corner and ask the extra question. Maybe journalism, who knows? I can’t get enough of the great programming that I see on CBS’s Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes. We could all benefit from better content, couldn’t we?