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Buffalo Ballad

15. April 2015 - 04. October 2015


Photographs by Heidi & Hans-Jürgen Koch

“We traveled through the heart of bison country: North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana. Our view of the bison is neither romantic nor nostalgic – it shows in equal measures the past, the present and the future of the American prairie.” Heidi & Hans-Jürgen Koch
 
Buffalo Ballad is a quest for the spirit of this iconic American animal. Captured on their travels through the heart of bison country, Heidi & Hans-Jürgen Koch’s black-and-white photographs turn the mythical bison into a tangible vision. “There must be places out there where archaic creatures can roam free. Only a world where that is possible is a world worth living in,” explain the artists.
 
It is estimated that in the 16th century more than 30 million American bison made the journey across the grassy plains between Canada and Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi. As they moved, their thick coats formed a pulsating dark ocean permanently in motion. The arrival of settlers in the Midwest marked the start of their demise. Never before in the history of humankind had man killed so many animals in such a short period of time. Within just two decades the bison population was decimated, with just a few animals surviving. The history of the bison tells the story of globalization and how technical progress, capitalism, ignorance of environmental interdependence, ideologies and politics interweave. The bison symbolizes the American soul. By sending cavalry soldiers to protect the last remaining bison, Theodor Roosevelt became the forefather of animal conservation in the US.
 
Today, bison are being reintroduced as part of the long-term project “Buffalo Commons”. One of the aims is to counteract the increasing desertification of the Great Plains, where the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s saw tens of thousands of settlers forced to leave the arid land that had become worthless. According to the project organizers, a return to hundreds of thousands of bison roaming the plains would help the region to recover – ecologically, economically and socially.
 
Heidi and Hans-Jürgen Koch studied social work and behavioral science before becoming professional photographers over 25 years ago. The many images they have had published in some of the world’s most renowned magazines reflect their passion and skill.