Resilience, determination, and grit are hardly recently developed traits among women in the Cowboy State. For generations, the women of Wyoming have faced challenges, overcome staggering obstacles, and found ways to thrive even in the most hardscrabble of times. And photographer, artist, and Wyoming native Lindsay Linton Buk has spent the past three years assembling a multimedia project that celebrates these inspiring women.
By the fall of 2019, Lindsay had driven over 15,000 miles traversing the state. Over the course of interviewing 22 women, she recorded over 3,000 minutes of audio conversations and took over 600 film rolls worth of photos. The result is incredible: a compelling podcast, breathtaking images, and a traveling multimedia exhibit that is currently on display at the University of Wyoming.
The themes and lessons that shine through each of these distinctive stories echo with refreshed importance in 2020. “There are all these layers, and
the lessons I’ve learned from being in these womens’ lives,” reflects Lindsay. “The lessons are continual. They seem to never end. Life is a continual
process of reinvention and growth, and along with that comes struggle and challenge. That wisdom is maybe more relevant than ever.”
One of the most pertinent themes Lindsay observes is her subjects’ ability to handle an unexpected pivot with grit and grace. “It was these moments when they were on a plan, and then life happens — it’s what you do in that moment that really sets the tone. Always. I think the women that I’ve featured, where they found their success, is being willing to embrace the fear, embrace the unknown, embrace the discomfort.”
In addition, the ability to discover opportunity in what first appears to be emptiness — something that is inherent to Wyoming both literally and culturally — is where many of her subjects have uncovered their unique paths and flourished. It is a thread that Lindsay has traced within her own journey as well.
“I’ve learned a lot as I’ve come to realize myself as an artist and creator in Wyoming. I initially came back and thought ‘there’s absolutely nothing I can do here, I’m not going to be fulfilled as a creative.’ I began in a limiting mindset, but this project has completely turned that on its head. Thankfully, I chose to challenge that idea of Wyoming as limiting and move forward.”
She continues to explain that “For me, it’s the tension of both. Sometimes I feel the isolation, the sense that there isn’t enough here. And then the other side of me feels like that because of that, it’s an opportunity. The space, literal physical space, is also an opportunity for us to step forward.”
There’s something unique about this locale, Lindsay believes, that has always drawn people seeking the space to be more authentically themselves. “The women who came to the West historically, literally left everything behind. They left the comforts of their life and society. I think many wanted to leave that structure and some of those limitations that, particularly for women, existed in that time. They came to Wyoming with a sense of starting over and being able to be more free.”
“I hope these stories are inspiring but also very informative; there’s a lot of universal wisdom in their messages about how to navigate life, and navigate yourself,” says Lindsay. True interest and careful listening to others’ journeys and perspectives can expand all of our horizons. “There’s something super magical about that shared space. It welcomes empathy, understanding, and learning. It’s expanded my sense of life as an infinite web of possibility that still has so much to uncover — so much unknown. We can keep going and going and going.”