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David Yarrow: I shot the sheriff – acclaimed photographer on stunning Old Wild West road trip

© David YarrowPost Thumbnail

Renowned photographer David Yarrow has spent the first three months of the year capturing images of America’s iconic Wild West.

The stunning shots feature outlaws, grizzly gold prospectors, cowboy capitalists, native Americans, supermodel Cara Delevingne… and a wolf in a convertible.

Yarrow, originally from Kilmacolm in Renfrewshire, said: “The majesty and grandeur of the American West landscapes have been well documented so we had to go one stage further and treatise that unique topography with stories. The selected images should live and breathe cinema.

“The canvas we chose to tell our stories on is the America so many know and love, with its long roads running to the horizon. No other country in the world offers road trips and locations as visually rewarding as America and they are integral to the fabric of the American dream. It is no wonder Westerns have a film genre to themselves.”

The two prints Yarrow, who has won acclaim for previous collections featuring “big tusker” elephants, is releasing which feature Cara Delevingne will raise money for her foundation. His first collaboration with her in 2018 raised £240,000.

Cara said: “David is the epitome of an artist, he goes above and beyond to capture a moment in its true essence. I love working with him so much because he makes me feel safe and inspired while always producing a visual feast.”

Here, Yarrow provides an insight into some of the pictures from his new collection.


GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING

Mount Moran in the Tetons offers as good a mountain backdrop as I know in America.

In the winter, in particular, it has a grandeur that is difficult to match.

The lake below this section of the Tetons is frozen thick in midwinter and offers the perfect stage on which to tell stories but we are always mindful that, on a good day, the whole scene becomes too bright within 45 minutes of sunrise.

Images like this require very early starts and so we are always in position well before dawn.


SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO

The majesty of the American south-west is without equal and has been a canvas for artists for more than 100 years.

Early Hollywood directors, such as John Ford, were known for framing their characters against the vast, harsh and rugged terrain. Shiprock, New Mexico, is a towering, bird-like volcanic rock formation that can be seen for miles. It rises nearly 1,600 feet above the desert plain of the Navajo.

On a clear day, the light becomes suboptimal as little as 15 minutes after sunrise – it’s just too strong and Shiprock itself lights up like a bonfire.


CANYONLANDS, UTAH

The grandeur and majesty of the final frontier may be without equal, but it has been so well documented that artists risk much by focusing on this heavily mythologised era.

The excitement of just being there can impinge on creativity, a bit like a student of photography arriving in Paris for the first time.

But this cinematic photograph allows for a fleeting moment of proud retrospection. The light and the compositional balance works, and I can look at the print for some time – perhaps as much as any picture I have taken in the last couple of years. The image is as emotional as it is relevant.


ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

Sir Ridley Scott is up there for me as a filmmaker. Thelma & Louise has prompted me in my work more than any other and inspired the location to tell our own road trip story.

His vignettes of Arches National Park were shot with picturesque sentimentality and were the defining moments of the movie.

I have long wished to shoot there, but out of respect for him I knew my narrative could not be lame. Cara Delevingne and I work together regularly these days, and I knew there could be no more powerful lead in this story.

This image features the rare Tamaskan dog breed – genetically almost identical to a wolf.

The rest was up to good fortune and, in particular, the light. We shot in early March when we could secure road permits by the iconic organ rock that features in the
classic film.

But the weather had to play ball and the forecast the previous night looked unpromising. However, at 7.10am, there was a shaft of full-on light and we had our moment. The frame is as good as we can do and the reward for many hours of negotiation and contemplation.

I hope Ridley Scott will approve.