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'Frontcountry' Wanders Through A Changing American West

The American West is sometimes characterized in simple, iconic images: the cowboy, the miner, the farmer. "This book is edited against that," says Frontcountry photographer Lucas Foglia. "The pictures wander on purpose."

Foglia spent seven years with his camera, jumping from town to town, from New Mexico to Montana. He captures moments that distinguish the West from the rest of the country, as well as moments that could have happened anywhere in America. And then he mixes them all together.

The result is a collage of life and landscape — kids playing, a carved-out copper mine, a newborn calf, soccer practice, teens drinking in a snowbank.

Frontcountry begins with shots of cowboys, but slowly, mining enters the picture.

"To me, the central issue of the book is that there isn't an alternative way to keep a lot of these towns alive besides mining," Foglia says. "A lot of these towns now exist because of mining. But eventually people are going to leave when the mines leave."

Foglia grew up on a family farm — now one of the last farms — in Huntington, about 30 miles from New York City.

"The land around us as I was growing up developed into suburban houses," he says. "My parents face the same question these ranchers face: how to keep doing what they're doing."

Chris Benderev is an assistant producer at NPR's Weekend Edition and has reported for NPR, PRI and BBC. You can find him on Twitter (@cbndrv).

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Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.