The new fine-art photography collection of Western photographer Beau Simmons recalls ’70s Americana at the Four Aces Movie Ranch.
By its own description, the Four Aces Movie Ranch boasts a location in one of California’s most cinematic deserts, “surrounded by lonely highways, rocky mountain ranges, dry riverbeds, and ancient Joshua trees (rattlesnakes and coyotes included).” About an hour northeast of L.A. in the Antelope Valley, the movie set features “a 1940s diner, a smoky honky-tonk bar, a Route 66-style gas station, and an atomic age roadside motel.”
Photographer Beau Simmons discovered it via Google Earth. “I knew I wanted to shoot something in this part of the Mojave Desert, not far from where I grew up,” he says. “When I zoomed in and found the coordinate, I punched it in and found the website for the Four Aces Movie Ranch. It’s been used in movies like Palm Springs, Identity, Swordfish, The Devil’s Rejects, and more.”
Mojave 1975, Beau Simmons
Simmons wanted the location not for a movie but for his new fine-art photography collection.
“My new collection, Mojave, is my way of creating a 1970s imagination of what I think it may have looked like on a day-to-day basis 50 years ago. It holds a special place in my heart since I was born and raised not too far from here, and there’s still active ranching and cowboy work in the high desert. Within 30 minutes in any direction you’ll find yourself on various cattle ranches or horse properties. I believe this location was the perfect place to create the story I was going for while also honoring the ranchers and cowboys who support the Western lifestyle in this area.”
Simmons says the collection is meant to honor not only his love for the Western lifestyle but also his admiration for film and cinema. “It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time to tie them both together and capture something that looks straight out of a movie.”
No Vacancy, Beau Simmons
C&I: Tell us about the shoot.
Beau Simmons: I was a bit concerned boarding our flight a day before knowing that it had just rained a day prior and washed out most of the roads in the area. Upon arriving to the set, we were able to find one road that the horse trailers were able to get through, and the weather was just perfect. Each photo was preplanned in my head, which included what outfits and props we would use for that particular artwork. We had to rent multiple vehicles that matched the timeframe including a vintage phone booth to be built. From the big things all the way down to every prop and piece of clothing, everything was carefully selected to match my vision.
Since most of the hard work had been done, each photo would take about an hour setting up and capturing.
The Showdown, Beau Simmons
I had hired local cowboys from the Pitchfork and the Tejon ranch: two fathers and two sons, who happen to be full-time ranchers and firefighters for Los Angeles County. Will Jones and his son, Tel Jones, compete in team-roping events as well as work daily as active cowboys. Scott Christlieb and his son, Zach Christlieb, both do a lot of ranch work and are firefighters in their community.
The two models, Bella Davison and Elizabeth Jamrozy, are seasoned professionals in their modeling careers and did an amazing job creating the mood I was looking for alongside the cowboys. I was fortunate enough to bring on a stylist, Abra Catalina, who works a lot with vintage fashion in Los Angeles to help put together outfits for the models. We also used Ranch Road Boots, Understated Leather, and select pieces from Boot Barn to give it a Western edge on a ’70s set.
The Four Aces Motel, Beau Simmons
C&I: And the collection? What were you going for in these photographs?
Simmons: This new collection is a series of images that tell a story surrounded by nostalgic moments captured in a 1970s era. Most of my work either has a very authentic Western theme consisting of photographs taken on various ranches or has some type of storytelling element to them. This collection was years in the making—I’ve always wanted to create a 1970s cowboy set.
I want the viewer to feel like they just walked up and are seeing a place that no longer exists come back to life. A place full of nostalgia. A place where cowboys would ride their horses and grab lunch after working on a nearby ranch. A place where hippies and vagabonds would stay for the night before heading off to their next adventure. I wanted to bring all of that together and create a unique storytelling piece that would make you ride off into an Americana daydream.
Pit Stop, Beau Simmons
The Mojave Collection
The Mojave Collection by Beau Simmons is shot on medium-format film with a Pentax 67ii and developed at Pro Photo Connection in Irvine, California. The artworks are printed on museum quality paper using the archival pigment print process at Candela Fine Art Printing in San Francisco. Each piece is framed in a solid black contemporary frame and finished with acrylic glass to protect them for over 100 years.
Mojave artworks are editions of 10 and are available for purchase through Markowicz Fine Art in Dallas (markowiczfineart.com) and Anne Neilson Fine Art in Charlotte, North Carolina (anneneilsonfineart.com). They can be shipped anywhere within the U.S. and come with a special certificate of authenticity.
The World Needs More Cowboys, Beau Simmons
For more information, visit Beau Simmons at beausimmonsphotography.com and the galleries listed above.
This article appeared in our May/June 2023 issue, available on newsstands now and through our C&I Shop.