A fourth-generation Wyomingite, Aura Newlin speaks out against the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Her passion is relative. Her great-grandfather, who had worked in Wyoming before moving to California, became one of the 14,000 men, women and children sent to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during the war.
Newlin, an anthropologist, lives in Cody and teaches in Powell at Northwest College. She posed at the Heart Mountain site for the camera of Lindsay Linton Buk and the photographer’s “Women in Wyoming” project. It’ll be the subject of a multimedia exhibit next fall at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where Linton Buk presented a program May 22 during the Buffalo Gals luncheon.
“She’s known for her striking, honest portraits,” Plains Indian Museum Curator Rebecca West said during her introductory remarks. She noted that for her project, Linton Buk chose to portray women not for their fame but for their impact, women who’ve shaped their place and made a path for others – “women who encompass all a woman can be on their terms.”
A fifth-generation Wyomingite, Linton Buk grew up in Powell, attended Middlebury College in Vermont and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in dance until her path veered from the stage to the camera. She spent two years at Northwest College studying photography, worked in New York City for several renowned photographers and for Canon Inc., and then moved in 2013 to Jackson where she founded Linton Productions a year later.
One of her NWC instructors, associate professor Anthony Polvere, cited two attributes that Linton Buk brought to his photography classes: her solid maturity as a nontraditional student and her creative side nurtured through her dance studies. He said that creativity emerged during her second year at NWC.
“She’s very special in that way,” Polvere said.
Special to Linton Buk are the achievements of Wyoming women. She pointed out their firsts: First of their gender to vote 1869; first justice of the peace 1870; first all-woman jury 1870; first female bailiff 1870; first woman to hold statewide elective office 1894; first town governed by women 1920-21; and first female governor. The town run by women is now her current home.
“Jackson was a mess, so the women banded together and created infrastructure, Linton Buk said. “As ladies, that’s what we do. That pioneering spirit is still alive today.
“Wyoming women have extra strength and grit.”
After sharing that observation, Linton Buk admitted not initially appreciating her birth state.
“I didn’t always feel that way,” she said. “I figured I’d have to leave to be successful. I’ve done the full-circle journey of coming home.”
Her focus on people had started with NWC instructor Woody Woodsen, now retired, who had encouraged her to do an exhibit of environmental portraits of longtime farming families in Powell. “Been Here for Generations” opened at the Homesteader Museum and was subsequently published on Wyofile.
“That set the stage for the BBCW show,” Linton Buk said.
Her development as a photographer continued in New York City, where she became a summer intern for Rodney Smith whom she peppered with questions. Linton Buk said she became “super-annoying,” asking him about everything he did. His advice to her was, “‘Just take beautiful photographs and know yourself.’”
Next she became an intern with Peter Hurley who did modern head shots and referred clients to her.
“He thought big and made things happen,” Linton Buk said.
Armed with her experiences in Powell and New York City, she opened her studio in Jackson and started photographing realtors.
“There are 700 real estate agents there, and they all need head shots,” Linton Buk said. “That’s my bread and butter.
“It’s about capturing the core, who the subjects are, what they’re about.”
The regular work gave her time to “think about the big picture, to stretch myself creatively,” Linton Buk said.
Those factors, combined her curiosity, a realization about the isolation in this state and a desire to connect with her peers, led to the launch of Women in Wyoming in 2017.
The project has two components, photographic portraits and interviews, and will eventually comprise five chapters. So far, she has completed three chapters – Breaking Boundaries, Filling the Void and Power – with plans for two more, Rising and The Cowgirl State.
She’s creating a podcast to give her subjects time with a microphone, to dive down into their stories, their triumphs and journeys.
Her goal is “to share a diversity of voices,” Linton Buk said. “The common thread is they fought to know who they are.” She hopes “to illuminate the power of what women and girls do in the state, that you can become anything you put your mind to.”
Though the task sounds formidable and is, in her words, “a huge endeavor,” yet “the project brings me joy and challenges, to celebrate the power of women and the power of Wyoming women in particular.”
Linton Buk added that she hopes Women in Wyoming will “serve as a call to action to be yourself, to be confident. You can do that here.”