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  16 October 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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John Juracek: Montana Offers an Artist Room to Grow


It can be unnerving when an artist changes his or her traditional style. We know that an artist’s work evolves. But we, as viewers, can latch onto an artist’s voice. We become comforted by the personal relationship we develop with their work. But just like any relationship, there are multiple facets to explore.

Photographer John Juracek not only embraces the complexity of his art, he is inspired by a common thread of its underlying philosophy.

Juracek’s photography career is grounded in fly fishing. One falls in love with his fly-fishing landscapes for the same reasons many fall for Montana. His artwork conveys the state’s characteristic and moving expanses.

Juracek did not set out to be an artist, let alone an artist known for fly-fishing photographs. He was not even conventionally introduced to fly fishing. Growing up in the Midwest (primarily Iowa), fishing for the Juracek brothers meant good ‘ol nightcrawlers and a hook. John was 10 years old when he and his brother discovered fly fishing while leafing through McClane’s Standard Fishing Encyclopedia.


“We were completely mesmerized with the flies,” Juracek says. “The art of fly-tying was the draw for me and my brother – way before we actually fly fished.”

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for Juracek to fall in love with the sport. After a few family trips out west, Juracek attended the University of Wyoming, ensuring endless opportunities to explore and study the sport and landscape that captivated him.

“I fell in love with the open spaces out west,” he says. “The possibilities out here were limitless.”

During college, Juracek immersed himself in the outdoors. He worked for Wyoming Fish & Game and made frequent trips up to Montana, specifically West Yellowstone, to fish.


In 1981, after some Wyoming Fish & Game cutbacks offered a serendipitous nudge, Juracek decided to permanently move to West Yellowstone where he found work tying flies and working part-time as a guide.

“Back in those days, as guides we would take photos of our clients fly fishing,” he explains. “It was just part of the package, something they could take with them to remember the trip.”

Juracek had no formal training in photography. But he felt drawn to learning more about this art form.

“I knew how to point and shoot the camera, and that was about it,” he says. “So I thought, if I am really going to do this I should at least try to do a really good job.”


Juracek bought his first 35-mm camera in 1982 and began studying every available photography book. He also became good friends with Ken Takata, a professional photographer who was new in town. With Takata’s help and this newly discovered passion, Juracek started photographing fly-fishing landscapes for himself, not just his clients.

“I asked myself what it was about this that I like,” he says. “I realized I wanted to get on film exactly how I felt about the sport.”

Juracek’s love for the openness of the West now transcends aesthetics. The vastness of Montana’s landscape has become part of his philosophy.

“I appreciate the simplicity of the West,” he says. “I like things simple and cut down to their essence. With my photographs I try to take the essence of a moment and freeze it.”

Sentinel Creek Sunrise - COURTESY OF JOHN JURACEK

Juracek explains that he wants to leave room so the viewers are able to place themselves in the moment. He hopes his work provokes a subjective response - especially with his new series of photographs.

“It is interesting to see how people respond to the newer work. I get all types of reactions,” he says. “I have had people tell me the scenes look lonely. But people have also said it stirs up memories. One woman said one of my winter scenes brought back happy memories of her childhood in Havre.”

At first glance, Juracek’s new winter photographs appear as a departure from his fly-fishing landscapes. But Juracek sees no conflict between any of his work.

“It all coexists in me,” he explains. “There is no competition. They are all just expressions of various parts of me.”


Juracek explains that it is his philosophy that motivates his art. The new work revisits the undertones of his traditional work. The simplicity creates a contemplative space for the viewer - just like his dramatic fishing landscapes. And the minimalism distills each moment to its essence - just like the lone fishermen in his traditional images.

For those who have developed a deep and personal relationship with his fly-fishing landscapes: Do. Not. Panic. Shown below, Juracek plans to continue the beloved fly-fishing photography. Like any relationship, the one between the viewer and Juracek’s work is Photo of John Juraceksimply expanding and evolving. He also hopes his regular viewers will identify the common underlying current.

When asked if he is apprehensive about people’s reaction to his new work, Juracek responded without hesitation, “Curious, definitely,” he says. “But not apprehensive.” After all, none of us are one-dimensional. So what could be better than an artist’s curiosity to explore a creative bend in the river? -BM

(Author's Note:  Juracek's work will be locally featured in two Museum of the Rockies events this summer, the MORArt show in June and the Wine Classic in July. Additionally, a selection of his work is available for viewing and/or purchase at

Photo of Sarah SkoglundSarah Skoglund loves all things art & design. She is an art consultant ( based out of Bozeman, Montana, where she specializes in curating private and corporate art collections.

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