Daily Picture Show

The Last Cowboys: A Photographer's Family Portrait

Dylan Coulter's great grandfather had 8 cows when he started a family ranching business in 1903, at age 16. By the 1950s, he owned nine ranches and more than 19,000 acres, primarily in Wallowa County, Ore. His children (Coulter's grandparents), now in their 80s and 90s, have perpetuated the tradition until now. "Poignantly to me," says Coulter, "... only one of their children continues on in the business."

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Coulter is a photographer whose work can typically be seen in advertisements, in magazines and on billboards — mostly outdoors and sports-related. He recently returned to Hells Canyon, a rugged region between Idaho and Oregon, for a more personal project: "The Last Cowboys," he calls it, is a photo essay about his family and a way of life, as he says, that is fading away.

Doug Tippett
Dylan Coulter

Coulter grew up in Portland, Ore., but his mother was raised on an isolated ranch in Hells Canyon "that was most easily accessible by horseback and boat," he says. "Growing up I attended reunions, but it wasn't until recent years, as an adult, that I became interested in learning more."

A mix of outdoor scenes and studio-style portraits gives a small slice of American life. It hints at the long, rich history of Coulter's family as well as a region and culture at large. And it raises an interesting question: What did your great-grandparents do for a living, and does your family still do it?

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