Roy Jacobson | Main Street: A Snapshot of Downtown Montana

Books & Writers

Roy Jacobson, photographer and author of Barberia: Barber Shops of the Borderlands, spent six years photographing all the towns in Montana, from Westby in the northeast to Darby in the southwest– and every community in-between.

He chronicles that effort in a new photographic essay, Main Street: A Snapshot of Downtown Montana.

This 186-page journey, filmed in black and white and color, portrays the ever-changing, and oft forgotten landscapes that make up the main streets of this large and largely rural state. World-renowned photographer and filmmaker Kurt Markus wrote the foreword.

The book features 82 towns, and explores the history and name-origins of many. It also includes several landscapes, a few cowboy and rodeo images, as well as an occasional portrait.

Of the many towns he explored, Jacobson lists a few favorites: Bannack for its primitive beauty, rustic architecture and historical significance as Montana’s first capitol; Fort Benton, on the banks of the Missouri River, for its contemplative serenity; and the tiny communities of Ingomar, Virgille, Whitewater and Loring, for their subtle beauty and relationship to the vast prairie landscape that envelopes them.

While many books and magazines focus on the majestic panoramas of Montana, the author set out to reveal the beauty of its towns and cities, and to examine “the imprint we have left on this land.”

“I hope these photographs will also bring back meaningful and colorful memories for those who grew up in these towns,” he says.

“Roy calls his photographs ‘snapshots.’ I get his drift, but it’s a bit disingenuous,” writes Markus in the foreword. “Just because he might have been doing some off-the-tripod handholding out there …, don’t think we can’t see the order he’s imposed on all that chaotic space. Careful attention to converging lines. No jittery or sloppily-made frames. Superb level of craft. These photographs have been loved … Thanks, Roy, for stopping time with such dignity and grace.”

Jacobson is a native of Wisconsin, who got his early start in photography making images with his grandmother’s old Kodak 120 box camera. He began using 35mm cameras while working for the National Park Service – a career that took him to many parts of the United States and Mexico. He now works as a freelance photographer who lives in Kalispell, but divides his time between Montana, Arizona and Mexico.

Main Street was published by Montana Photo Art in Kalispell and sells for $125 hardcover.

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– Kristi Niemeyer