By Maggie Hamilton - June 11, 2018 - Originally published in the Field & Stream.
Maggie Hamilton grew up in northern Wisconsin, and most years she still makes it back home to hunt opening weekend of deer season with her 93-year-old grandfather. That passion for wild places, and the connections they nourish, informs her work behind the lens. Hamilton recently graduated with a Master of Arts in photography from the University of Montana—she was a photography intern for Missoula-based Backcountry Hunters & Anglers for a semester—and for her graduate project she took portraits of public-land users from California to Florida.
Instead of focusing solely on hunters and anglers, Hamilton chose a wide variety of public lands users—there are surfers and sledders in the mix, Korean-Americans, Hispanic outdoorsmen and, of course, her beloved grandfather. “For this campaign,” she wrote, “I wanted to show the broader truth, unlike a lot of media that show just white men using our lands. I wanted to show that everyone uses public lands. The sitters are people from every walk of life.” For the portrait session Hamilton simply asked the model to bring whatever gear that they would need to use public land in their preferred way, whether it was a wetsuit and a surfboard or a crossbow and camo. She devised the hashtag #IOwnIt to underscore their claim their ownership, and the implicit understanding of the responsibilities that come with being a public lands owner. (You can see more of Hamilton’s photography on the Instagram account, @publiclanduser.)
That’s the broader, deeper truth found in Hamilton’s portraits. Take a look, and own that sense of responsibility yourself.