Cow Camp, Idaho. The closest grocery store is about an hour drive away. You can go for miles and miles in any direction without finding any civilization. At the end of the year during ’round up’, this place is packed with people who bring the cattle down to the valley before the frost of winter takes over. In August 2009 it feels like Cow Camp is the most desolate place in the world.
For six months this is the place that Gene Frandsen and Josh Olsen, two young cowboys and friends, call home. It’s their duty to take care of the cattle, doctor them if needed, manage the land and repair the fences.
— Titus Simoens, ‘Miles Away’
When did you start your ‘Miles Away’ series and what compelled you?
I started in 2009 after graduating with these series. Together with two friends we were traveling for two months through the United States to find the “real American cowboy.” The idea was spontaneous, as is most of my series. At the end of our trip we met Gene and Josh, two young cowboys who were living and working at that time in Idaho at a place called Cow Camp.
What would you say is a feeling or a concept you want viewers of “ Miles Away” to come away with?
This is a story about them; people who live differently than most people always fascinate me. I’ve learned to understand what a cowboy in present day really is. In the Western society we all have this image of a Hollywood version of a cowboy. But this story is not about the Wild West; it’s about people who stick to the authentic way of treating cattle and the environment. It is not about wearing a hat, boots and riding horses but more about a way of life. Gene and Josh try to be honest and take care of their family and friends. Being a cowboy is a lot more than making a paycheck, it is a way of life to them.
How would you define living life off the grid?
It is difficult to say because we are living in a Western world where everything goes fast and sometimes we don’t have the time to think for ourselves. Social media surrounds us and we have to deal with lots of distractions. Sometimes, for me, photography is a way to escape from this environment. It is a way to concentrate on the necessary and myself. The last three years I was working in schools around the world where children live in close communities with a lot of structure and discipline. It was remarkable what kind of impact this had on me. What I have experienced in these schools came close to living off the grid.