A place to breathe.

 I was 13 the first time I experienced South Dakota. My family traveled to Murdo late fall for my dad to interview at a small church. We arrived at night and drove to our host family for a weekend on a ranch by Horse Creek, just north of the White River.

At the time, my family lived in central Wisconsin surrounded by trees and dairy farms. The next morning, when I woke up and looked out the window from the loft of the ranch home I was utterly amazed! The ranch sat in a deep creek bottom and the bare rolling hills   extended like mountains toward 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.

Graduating from that small South Dakota town, I did not have a desire to stay but dreamed of perusing a photography career, away from the prairie. I headed for Chicago with this vision. I spent the next four years as a private school receptionist, while taking night classes in photography.

I began to feel the call of camp ministries and spent three weeks as as missionary in Germany, one summer as a camp counselor in northern Wisconsin and 10 months in Ontario, Canada, for camping ministries.

The prairies of western South Dakota stayed with me all those years away. I hadn’t truly appreciated the landscape in high school but a longing for the open plains was growing. I felt like I was missing home.

In 2005, I moved back to South Dakota 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 and eagerly shared it with me. The landscape gradually became familiar to me as I discovered the best places to watch the sunset or notice how the snow would drift into sculptures.

Though the prairie was becoming dear to me, it didn’t truly feel like home until my second child, a daughter, was born. Up until that point, I was always anxious to go back east, never truly settled or appreciating my ranch home.

My mother-in-law once told me about a mare she had who always ran away, until she had a foal. It was then she 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 finally found my voice in photography: the colors, lines and shadows of the prairie.  

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 enjoy and the ability 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

Awards

  • 2020: Best of Show, Gift from Mother Earth Art Show & Sale
  • 2020: First Place, Photography, Gift from Mother Earth Art Show & Sale
  • 2019: Fine Art Honorable Mention, Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2018:  Fine Art Honorable Mention, Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2017: Best of Show, Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2017: 1st Place, Professional Division, South Dakota Public Broadcasting Spring Photo Contest
  • 2017: Best of Show, Dahl Mountain Culture Photography Exhibit
  • 2016: Honorable Mention, Yankton Riverboat Days Arts Festival
  • 2016: South Dakota Public Broadcasting Spring Photo Contest, 3rd Place, Professional Division

Publications

Juried Exhibits & Art Shows

  • 2020 Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2020 Gift from Mother Earth Art Show & Sale
  • 2020 Keloland Living Arts & Crafts Show
  • 2020 Dahl Mountain Culture Photography Exhibit
  • 2019-2020 Land of Plenty (South Dakota Photography), Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls
  • 2019-2020 South Dakota Governor’s 8th Biennial
  • 2019 Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2019 Artists of the Black Hills Annual Show, Dahl Arts Center, Rapid City
  • 2019 Gift from Mother Earth Art Show & Sale
  • 2018 Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2018 Artists of the Black Hills Annual Show, Dahl Arts Center, Rapid City
  • 2018 Brookings Summer Arts Festival
  • 2018 Gift from Mother Earth Art Show & Sale
  • 2018 Dahl Mountain Culture Photography Exhibit
  • 2017 Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2017 Yankton River Board Days Arts Festival
  • 2017 Artists of the Black Hills Annual Show, Dahl Arts Center, Rapid City
  • 2017 Brookings Summer Arts Festival
  • 2017 Wayzata Art Experience
  • 2017 Deerfield Festival of Fine Arts
  • 2017 National Weather Center Biennale
  • 2017 Dahl Mountain Culture Photography Exhibit
  • 2016 First Lady’s Prairie Art Showcase
  • 2016 Sidewalk Arts Festival
  • 2016 Yankton Riverboat Days Arts Festival
  • 2016 Brookings Summer Arts Festival
  • 2016 Dahl Mountain Culture Photography Exhibit
  • 2015 First Lady’s Prairie Art Showcase
  • 2015 Sidewalk Arts Festival