Jan Richter, a native of Prague, is an old-fashioned guy.

He likes old cars and old buildings, things that have character and a story.

He also likes old cameras: he shoots on a Minolta and a Pentax from the 1980s, and sometimes buys expired film. It's cheap, and it also has a grain that he enjoys.

He only shoots photographs, though, when he's in the United States: The open land inspires him in a way that the historic churches and buildings of Europe do not.

He's collected years' worth of photographs from his American excursions in a book, "My Own Private Montana," and ,"The Land Of The Free".


Richter's fascination with West started when he was young, courtesy of the classic American export: pop culture. His father listened to Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie, and watched Hollywood Westerns.

The wide-open space that he saw in films like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was even more riveting in person wheb he first visited America.

Despite that fascination with the openness of the West, he's not a landscape photographer.

He has more ground-level interests. He likes shooting railroad tracks and seedy bars, grain elevators and old signs.

When it comes to shooting portraits, he favors truck drivers and people he meets on the street. He also shoots portraits of the friends he's made here, carefully blurred to suggest a night that's gone on too long.

Richter is self-taught to a degree: his father is a photographer and taught him to develop film in a home darkroom when he was growing up.

In the introduction to the book , 'My Own Private Montana', Missoula author Josh Wagner considers how the pictures focus on things local residents might not see anymore.

"If Jan was native to America, a book like 'My Own Private Montana' might suffer from a different kind of blindness, nostalgia. But Jan's photos are too nimble. They never get bogged down under deceptive historical romanticism, and they always manage to illuminate the present without repressing the detritus of the past."

"The answer is in the mountains, dusty towns, old-time saloons, in the rivers, the prairie, in the sky, in the sky".






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