Joanne Berghold | Without Compass

Books & Writers

withoutcompass.jpg“With the sun at my back, I choose a direction and head off to find an inviting gravel road; I turn off the radio and drive slowly,” writes Livingston photographer Joanne Berghold. “As I wander, I look for tranquil images of clouds, sky and open land to photograph. I am alone in Montana’s magnificence, without a plan or a clock, and I simply float in the landscape.”

Berghold’s third collection of Montana scenes, Without Compass, ensnares that feeling of floating through an ever-changing landscape, attentive to shape, shadow and nuance.

For 25 years, Berghold has roamed the back roads, capturing images of this vast country. “I have had wonderful adventures … There were flat tires and long walks to the nearest house and kind people who rescued me. I had my dog and plenty of water and food in a cooler so I was not afraid and, in fact, I had fun,” she says.


Joanne Berghold

Without Compass offers 102 black and white images of the grand, patterned landscapes she encountered. In his introduction, Montana author and environmental activist Rick Bass writes that Berghold’s “beauty of tone, beauty of composition, beauty of shape … seems to exist on a different plane entirely.”

Berghold was born and raised in New York City and fell in love with Montana as a young girl. Her family began to visit the Rocky Mountains, fueling her passion for the West.

Berghold went on to marry, raise three children and earn a BFA in photography. She pursued her art while living near New York City and eventually, with her husband, built a cabin at the foot of the Crazy Mountains near Wilsall. She moved permanently to Livingston in 2008.

“The path of life is often trackless,” she writes. “We steer our way by a gentle compass of heart and spirit.”

Author Jim Harrison says of the images in her new book: “I love them, and many of them I want to live within, just like I do good paintings … you certainly have a fabulous eye.”

The photographer has published two previous books: Old Windows – Old Doors in 2012, and Montana Hometown Rodeo in 2004. Her latest effort was published by JB Photography, Livingston, and sells for $35 hardcover; learn more at

– Kristi Niemeyer