Matthew Hamon’s “The Gleaners”
The title of Matthew Hamon’s series “The Gleaners” comes from the 1857 painting by Jean-François Millet of the same name, which depicts three peasant women harvesting grain. Hamon saw similarities to the iconic composition in his own image of two women and a baby pulling fat from the carcass of a bison. “I’m interested in the history of genre painting,” he says over the phone from Montana, where he teaches photography and critical theory at the University of Montana. “I like paintings of real people doing real things—not only for the subject matter, but also for the light.”
The images in the series all have a painterly quality. They capture a group of primitive-skills practitioners who collaborate with Native Americans—including the Nez Perce and Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes—during their annual buffalo hunt on the perimeter of Yellowstone National Park. Gleaning describes what they do—although Hamon says they prefer to be called scavengers. They follow the Native American tribes on their hunts, gathering parts of the animal that are typically left behind by most big-game hunters, and harvest them.
Hamon, who contacted the practitioners after reading a blog post about their hide-tanning methods, spent ten days traveling with the group in the dead of winter. A hunter himself, Hamon was at ease. The images, he believes, convey the reverent consideration hunters have for the animals they cull. But more than that, he says, the series allows the viewer to look at a group of people normally hidden from society “with an intensity that is reserved for their most intimate relationships with family and lovers.”
All photos © Matthew Hamon