A place to breathe.
I was 13 the first time I saw South Dakota. My family arrived in Murdo mid November for my dad to interview at a small church. We arrived at night and drove out to a our weekend host family on a ranch along Horse Creek.
My family was currently living in central Wisconsin, surrounded by trees and dairy farms.
The next morning, I woke up and looked out the window from the loft of the ranch home and was utterly amazed! The ranch sits in a deep creek bottom and the bare rolling hills extended like mountains towards the sky. The deep brown of the fall grasses highlighted by the morning sun was like nothing I had ever seen.
A spark was lit that moment.
We did move to Murdo, where I graduated from high school in 2000. Influenced by my parents desire to document life by photographs, my desire was to attend the Art Institute in Chicago. With family roots in the Windy City I moved there, working in a photography studio and saving for school. Life doesn’t always work out how we plan and I ended up as a receptionist for a private school while attending night classes at the College of Lake County for the basics of photography.
I had other interests that I pursued for a career-camp ministries. I spent three weeks in Germany as a missionary, a summer working at a Bible camp in Wisconsin and 10 months in a leadership development program at a camp in Ontario.
The prairies of western South Dakota stayed with me all those years east of the Missouri. In high school, I hadn’t truly appreciated them and as an adult a longing for the open plains was growing, almost like I was missing home and not realizing where that was.
In 2005, I moved back to Jones County when I married Marty, a long time friend and cattle rancher in the tiny town of Okaton, near Murdo. Becoming a ranchers wife had its challenges, but thankfully my husband is a patient man who loves this land. The area gradually became familiar to me as I discovered the best places to watch the sunset and notice how the snow would drift into sculptures.
My mother-in-law once shared with me about a mare she had who always ran away. Then she had a foal and was content to stay home. I don’t know what it was about my daughter’s birth but it has changed me in many ways,physically and mentally. Through these changes I found my voice in photography. The colors, lines and shadows of the prairie have taken on a new meaning for me.
I have discovered deep lines in the contrast of shadows, vibrant skies in the wide open spaces, and rich landscapes no matter the season.
There is a song in the wind, harmony in the waving prairie grasses and the grand percussion of sunrise to sunset. The clouds are big and full of life, the storms so close you can reach out and feel the heat.
Photography has given me a medium I was comfortable with, to express what I feel through the beauty of the prairie-this amazing and often overlooked landscape. The peaceful and yet raging expanse of wide open space has brought comfort to my soul. Not only has it become familiar, but I also know the One who created it and that brings me the most joy.
-Cristen J. Roghair