Lacombe photographer Arto Djerdjerian worked in all seasons over six years to capture the rustic grandeur of a rare place — the Ya Ha Tinda, near Banff.
His images of magnificent horses and the gritty, hard work that goes on in this stunning part of the Rockies can be seen in Ya Ha Tinda — The Ranch: Photography by Arto Djerdjerian, opening Saturday at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
Through more than 22,000 pictures of Canada’s only federally-owned and operated working horse ranch, northeast of Banff National Park, Djerdjerian was able to record a world that most people are not aware of, and are unlikely to see.
The 1,200-acre ranch is not open to the public. “I am the only photographer who has ever been given this type of access …to photograph and integrate with working life of the ranch,” said Djerdjerian, who received special permission from Parks Canada.
The Ya Ha Tinda was established in 1917 as a breeding, wintering ground and training centre for horses that are used by park wardens to patrol the backcountry of Banff, Jasper, Yo Ho and Waterton National Parks.
Ranch workers still employ some traditional, age-old practises, and “I wanted to capture this special life before it was gone,” said Djerdjerian.
The photographer, who was born in Egypt to Armenian parents, and raised in Montreal, admitted the Ya Ha Tinda project was a very personal one. “Some of my most precious memories came from time spent with horses as a child,” explained Djerdjerian.
He travelled to the ranch several times a year, during different seasons and different weather conditions. Because of his own experience with horses, Djerdjerian believes he was able to move amongst the animals and ranch workers “seamlessly,” not interfering or altering the normal and beautiful way of life.”
Through patient observation, he captured the work-a-day routine and more “breathtaking” aspects of this wilderness.
“I did not direct, manipulate or interfere with my subjects or events that were taking place, but only captured subjects and images in an aesthetic way that actually occurred in this breathtaking and historic setting,” he said.
Until now, there has been mostly archival imagery of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, so Djerdjerian believes it’s important to update these images, and “to share the energy, essence, and beauty of this precious place and protect it for the future.”
His Ya Ha Tinda exhibit runs at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery from Dec. 4 to March 5, 2022, with a sneak peek on Friday, Dec. 3 from 5-8 p.m. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, Dec. 12, from 2-4 p.m.