Buffalo Ballad

PhotographerHeidi & Hans-Jürgen Koch
Prize1st Place in Book (Series Only)
Entry Description

Thunder rolled across the prairie – and then there was silence. It was probably more than 30 million American bison roaming the plains of the Midwest. Nothing was more powerful in the prairie, neither physically nor spiritually. It meant everything to the American Indians. The bison was their life. With the arrival of the European settlers massive slaughter began. Never before had human beings killed so many animals in such a short space of time. Almost the whole population was annihilated within less than two decades. The (hi)story of the bison is a parable about globalization and the interplay of technological progress, capitalism, and a lack of understanding ecological contexts, ideologies, and politics. What followed was an ecological, economic, and social disaster. The whole country suffered. The prairie vanished with the bison – and with it all the hope.Now the bison returns. It is a journey into the past in order to gain a future. And this is not nostalgia. The bison is a real existing and socio-cultural phenomenon. It is a current political issue in the dispute between cattle breeders and the bison lobby. These archaic creatures are at the center of a symbiotic relationship between animal and environment - and a human society of the 21st century. The bison is the matrix. Buffalo Ballad is a visual search for the spirit and myth of this American icon in the heart of the bison country, it is an homage to the American soul. The photographers travelled through the center of the bison country, from North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, to Montana. Their magical black-and-white photographs of the bison translate the vision into reality. There must be places out there where archaic creatures may live freely. Only a world in which this is possible is a world worth living in.