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As Bryan Schutmaat was working on his project about small mountain towns in the American West, he was invited to hear old stories from mountain men over whiskey and beer. He even enjoyed a turkey dinner with some locals.

Schutmaat had always been fascinated by the West and drew inspiration mainly from literature on Montana. He said poems from Richard Hugo, who wrote about the Northwest during the Depression, often directed him to certain towns. Schutmaat tried to emanate the beauty and sorrow of Hugo’s poetry in his photos.

Schutmaat had people’s kindness supporting him through the project, but he also had car trouble, law enforcement run-ins and self doubt setting him back.

“There were some cold mornings when I woke up in my tent or in my car along some desolate highway and wondered what I was doing with my life,” he said. “Even when people stand in…

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