The West as she imagined it

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When Dee Lambert was a little girl, her dad read the books of Will James. They told the story of the West that belonged to horses and cowboys.

As Lambert listened to the stories from her bed in New York's Greenwich Village, she conjured images of a West and a fantasy of one day living on the range.

Solarized montages

by Dee Lambert

are on display

at the Artisan's Market,

626 Lincoln Ave.

Call 879-7512.

"The fantasy I had of the West was very visual," she said. "It involved riding a horse and camping out in remote areas."

As a woman, Lambert followed her dream of living in the West and working on a ranch in Southeast Oregon.

"After riding all day and moving cattle, my visual changed," Lambert said. "Instead of being dreamy, it got real gritty. It was still beautiful, but it had faces and smells and was full of sagebrush."

After Lambert had been on the MC Ranch for three months, she borrowed a camera and started capturing some of the most striking images of what would become a lifelong photography career.

She saved the photos and has been incorporating the shots of cowboys, horses and wide-open spaces into a series of black and white solarized montages that are on display at the Artisan's Market.

The blending of one image into another is something people do effortlessly these days with computer software. But, for Lambert, it has always been a time-intensive technique accomplished with her hands in the darkroom.

Lambert learned to make solarized montages in the late 1970s from Val Telberg, an experimental photographer best known for his photomontages published in Anais Nin's books.

Lambert met Telberg in a sketching class while she was living in Sag Harbor, N.Y. She had just built her first darkroom.

Telberg's work is intense and disorienting. He prints an image from fragments of multiple negatives -- bleaching and scratching them to add effect.

"I hung out with him, and he let me watch him work," Lambert said. "That's how he taught me, by letting me watch."

Lambert finally moved to Adel, Ore., in 1988. Adel is a town of about 200 people with one store. Most of the residents are employed by the surrounding ranches.

Lambert met someone at the Elko Poetry Gathering who invited her to work on the MC Ranch for a week. After her week, she stayed on full-time as a cook.

When it was time to go out to the desert with the cows for a long stretch, Lambert was invited along as the cook.

"I told them I would only go if they left me a horse during the day while they were gone," Lambert said. She would finish the chores in the morning and then take her borrowed Pentax camera out on long horse rides.

Those days of the dusty range and the little Pentax still exist on photo paper, but times have changed, the landscape of the ranch has changed, and Lambert has changed.

She now lives outside of Clark, where she moved in May and where she doesn't have a darkroom. She put away her 35 mm camera bodies and bought a digital camera.

"I brought my huge Bessler (enlarger), my tanks and my bags of chemicals, but it's not good for the water table or for the septic tank," Lambert said. "It's time for me to get with it. I'm not in love with my digital camera, but I'm working on it."

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