Lauren Grabelle — Mount Aeneas
“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
I am so lucky to live in a place that so easily commands attention with its beauty and wildness. And it got mine right away when I first visited Montana 15 years ago. I fell in love as many do when they visit. There is so much to see and explore in this vast and wild state. But when the crowds get to be too much at spots near me like Glacier National Park, there is a secret spot just above me and to the east: Mount Aeneas and the majestic Jewel Basin.
Mount Aeneas is the highest peak in the Flathead Valley (7,510’) and is named for Chief Aeneas of the Kootenai. From its summit you can see the valley looking west, Glacier National Park looking northeast, the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the southeast, the Mission Mountains Wilderness to the southwest, and Flathead Lake and the Cabinet and Salish Mountains looking west. All of this plus you get to start out from a lovely spot named Camp Misery. A trail from the peak leads you down into Jewel Basin. The Basin is 15,000 acres, including 27 lakes and 35 miles of trails - although admittedly I have hiked the same trails over and over as their magic never disappoints. The Basin is specially designated for hiking only, with motorized vehicles and horses prohibited.
Over the years I have ventured up there with first Sugar and now Maggie, my dogs; alone; and with friends. One friend recently reminded me that part of the magic of hiking up Mount Aeneas and into the Jewel is that it looks different every time one does it. As an artist and photographer, that right there is motivation to get out and get up no matter the weather: rain, snow, wind, wildfire smoke. Here the images are sequenced as close as possible to how you might experience a hike to the peak and then down into Jewel Basin to either Picnic Lakes or Birch Lake, and then back out through the pass. The visual treats up there are endless - and need no art sauce, no conversions to black and white, just its straight colorful beauty.
My photography falls in the matrix where fine art and documentary meet, where I can tell truths about our relationships to animals, nature, other people, and ourselves. My work is about empathy.
My photographs have been included in exhibitions in galleries and museums across the US and Europe, in two Montana Triennials, and in 2018 at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, UAE. In 2021 my series, The Last Man, was recognized by LensCulture as a winner in the international photo competition HOME '21, and then in 2022 as a Critical Mass TOP 50 winner. In 2022 Ken Burns included my photo, Tommy In His Car, in his book Our America A Photographic History. Other projects have been featured in print and online in Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, High Country News, Noema, Humble Arts Foundation, Der Grief, Lenscratch, and others, as well as awarded inclusion in American Photography 10, 17, 36 & 39.