Like their ancestors, the Mountain Men with a beard, a horse and a knife roamed the rugged wilderness

Photographer Jeroen Nieuwhuis depicts mountain men, men who venture into the rugged American wilderness with minimal means.

Andrea Bosman

return In book form, this is one of the first ideas with the massive images photographer Jeroen Neuhuis took for his book. mountain men made. Do you remember bear skin-clad Leonardo DiCaprio fighting a grizzly bear and a host of other wild men in this film about fur hunters in early 19th century America?

Another association with Marlboro Man, the famous ad campaign where he was always a lonely man on horseback roaming deserted landscapes, sometimes with a lasso on his shoulder, and always a cigarette in his mouth. Jeroen Newhuis does not know the Marlboro Man. He was born in 1991 and the campaign ended in 1999. But after searching for photos, he understood the relationship. Although, of course, mountain men are not cowboys.

In 2015, Enscheder Neuweiss, who often does business for Heineken, Shimano, Desprados and JBL, among others, read an article in National Geographic About a group of men in America who call themselves mountain men. Rough men in improbable outfits ventured out into the wild and seem to have been living in the nineteenth century. Newhuis became fascinated and tried to find out all about this group, which mimics the lifestyle of the brilliant men who in the first half of the nineteenth century went to the mountains of the North and Midwest to hunt beavers. Beaver fur was common and expensive at the time. But who are the men who now turn their backs on society in order to survive by the least primitive means, as in the days fur trade† And why would they want it?

Jeroen Neuhuis’s photo

Hunting, shooting and eating beavers

In 2016, through various museums and historians, Nieuwhuis connected with Duane ‘Badger’ Richardson, who had been a member of the American Mountain Men Association, founded in 1968, for more than twenty years. Duane was willing to accept Nieuwhuis into a meeting with several other members of the Rocky Mountains. It was the first of a total of eight times that Newheis, carrying a 20-pound bag full of photographic gear, spent several days with the men, during frigid northern winters, and in the heat and dryness of a Tennessee summer. To hunt, shoot, throw knives and eat beavers with them. In almost all cases, he shoots with an additional flash (“but of course”) and with great depth of field: this method of action gives the images a cinematic romantic style. Or, as he himself says: “I work as a cinematographer.”

Hanging out with the guys was great for him. “Yes, 95 percent of white men do, although there are some Native Americans among them. These white men feel more connected to this history. They try to imitate and preserve the way people lived at the time as much as possible and by whatever means. Often They also have tremendous knowledge of nature, which plants and berries you can eat and what you cannot eat. And really everything is eaten and used from this beaver. It reaches the stomach including, where you can cook. What did we eat? Meat, especially meat.”

null Image Jeroen Nieuwhuis

Jeroen Neuhuis’s photo

Survive with real dangers

In everyday life, men are usually just dentists or a postman, and most do this for a few weeks a year, but there are also men like Duane who live this primitive life for months or even permanently, based on a very simple hut. And why? According to a quote by Duane from the book, they feel more at home in the woods, where they can use their skills in horseback riding, hiking and hunting, than in modern society. Survive, but with real dangers. Because sometimes someone falls into a ravine or ends up in a deadly fight with a mountain lion, says Neuwis.

In order to be accepted, you first need to be nominated. Next, you must master a list of twenty skills, the final test consisting of surviving two nights in the wilderness with a knife in your pocket. “The idea that you can survive, no matter where, it gives a special feeling.” Something different than a man cave in the attic or in the backyard, which the average Dutch Phoenix man has to deal with. Yes, Nieuwhuis agrees. “But if I lived in America, I would do my best to participate.”

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Jeroen Neuhuis
mountain men
Comma for publication, 240 pages .89€


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