Historically, Wyoming holds a lot of firsts in the ongoing struggle for gender equality.
The first female voter in the U.S. cast her ballot here, the first female justice of the peace was appointed here, the first all-woman jury sat here and the first female governor was elected here.
But decades after those breakthroughs, Powell native Lindsay Linton wants to know: Who are the modern female rulebreakers, leaders and agenda-setters?
“I wanted to know from my peers how you make it here,” she said. “What are women doing in our state? What are my peers doing? Can I do it?”
And she wanted to share those stories with others. So over the past year, the photographer sat down with a number of Wyoming’s prominent women leaders and asked them about their lives.
Last week, Linton released the first chapter of five profiles — online packages including portraits and recorded interviews. The women featured are prominent and pioneering: the state’s first female Supreme Court justice, its first Native American state senator, artists, a journalist, a self-made businesswoman.
Above all, Linton wants to show what women were working on in Wyoming. While the first chapter featured women whose names are already known, she hopes the next chapter will focus on women in more rural communities whose work goes mostly unnoticed.
“I want to show how these women are shaping the modern, rural West,” she said. “I want to show the depth and variety of women and what you can do here.”
Growing up in Powell, the daughter of a long line of Wyomingites, all Lindsay Linton wanted to do was leave.
And leave she did — though in fits and starts. But after earning a bachelor’s degree in Vermont, an associate’s in photography in Powell and working in New York City for a well-known commercial photographer, Linton ended up home again.
Back in the Cowboy State and equipped with photography skills, she opened her own commercial studio in Jackson. But after her business was established, Linton felt the pull to tackle a larger project about her native state.
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Over the past year, she began reaching out to women’s organizations and people she knew for recommendations of who to profile. After gathering a few names, she set out.
Each profile features a series of portraits as well as a podcast with an interview of the subjects.
Unlike her studio work, these photos were shot in film. The medium adds a level of challenge and grit to the art, Linton said. Her studio work is polished and heavily edited. But these are photos as they are, of women as they are. Wyoming is not a place of pretense.
“It’s still very wild in a lot of ways,” she said. “I’m just trying to embody Wyoming.”
Shaping the West
The work has taught Linton plenty along the way. She had never done audio recording or editing before but loved the intimacy a podcast can create with its audience.
And she’s gained some insight herself from her interviewees. Although they come from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, each woman was open to life going in unexpected directions and made the best of those twists and turns.
“I don’t think any of them planned to end up where they did,” she said.
Linton hopes to begin work on the second chapter after raising more funds in the fall. While the Wyoming Humanities Council and The Equipoise Fund awarded some money, she still relies on other revenue sources to keep the project going. In total, she plans to do 25 profiles — five chapters documenting the lives of Wyoming women.
Ultimately, she hopes that other women will see her work and the women it portrays and find inspiration. If girls and women don’t see female politicians or attorneys or businesswomen, she said, perhaps they are less likely to pursue those careers themselves. If they see women being their authentic selves, perhaps it will seem more OK to be themselves as well.
“Until you see what you can become, you don’t necessarily pick up on it,” she said.