Rodeo

My Next Solo Show: Rural Impressions

Badge of Membership, Eddyville Rodeo

Badge of Membership, Eddyville Rodeo

My next solo show, Rural Impressions: Images of the American West, opens closer to home than usual, since it’s at the Graham Gallery in Hastings, Nebraska. It’s a collection of more than 40 images from different series of work over the last five years that examine the complex relationships between the rural West and the land itself. The reception is 6-9 p.m. on April 5, so if you feel like buying a plane ticket or hopping in the car, I’ll be happy to offer you a handshake, hors d’oeuvres, and a drink.

The show will include a number of my pieces from Rural Rodeos, such as the one above, a young man at the Eddyville Rodeo who already displayed the price of entry for the life of a cowhand.

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Clint Connolly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Clint Connolly, Pleasanton

Clint Connolly, Pleasanton

Rodeo cowboys, wrote Norman Mauskopf in his seminal photographic text Rodeo, have a different understanding of pain than does the general public. Injury is part of the game, the price of admission to live the caricatures and legends of the American West.

I’ve published an image of Vince Connolly, a veteran cowboy from Arthur, Nebraska, at the Pleasanton Rodeo previously. That rodeo was important for Vince, since his sons were each riding events that weekend. His son Clint rode bulls–with a broken jaw–and I couldn’t resist making a portrait of pain paired with legend.

Published at National Geographic: Vince Connolly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Last night was a good night: Chris Combs and the editorial staff at National Geographic’s Your Shot chose my image Vince Connolly, Pleasanton Rodeo for the story “The Night.” See the story here at National Geographic.

Are my feet still on the ground? Yup. After all, as Patrick DeMarchelier always says, “You’re only as good as your last photograph.”

Keep shooting.

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

Roping Team, Eddyville Rodeo

There are lots of photographs of rodeos and roping, but few that show the speed and dust of the high summer circus in the American West. I’d like to think that this is one of those images.

Ranch Rodeo Horses, Dawes County

Ranch Rodeo Horses, Dawes County

Ranch Rodeo Horses, Dawes County

In the wake of a chilling summer storm, and with the prospect of a muddy evening of ranch rodeo in front of them, teams lined up for their rules briefing at Crawford, Nebraska. Yet, the ranch horse is a smart horse, and these appeared to be as intent on listening as the riders.

Rodeo Clown, Pleasanton Rodeo

Rodeo Clown, Pleasanton Rodeo

Rodeo Clown, Pleasanton Rodeo

In today’s small-town rodeos, the traditional rodeo clown has all but disappeared. This young man was a remnant of that past, with his costume and painted face evoking memories of rodeos long ago, and I made several images of him during the evening, but the portrait continues to draw me back.

UPDATE: “Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo” at NatGeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

Vince Connelly, Pleasanton Rodeo

UPDATE: YourShot at National Geographic has selected “Vince Connolly” as its assignment feature image for its website. See it here.

Original Post Text:

There are a lot of nice people in the world, and a good deal of them tend to congregate at rodeos. Vince Connelly is one of those people, and what’s more, all three of his sons rode at Pleasanton in multiple events.

The night had drawn on, and in the late August night, the lights, flags and shadows that accompanied the deepening dark gave Vince a mystical quality as he waited for the bullriding, the last event of the evening.

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

Cowboys, Eddyville Rodeo

It’s a interesting place behind the chutes at a rodeo; the cowboys are checking gear, saddling up, changing boots and joking nervously as their time to get on draws near. I spend a lot of time back there, watching and shooting, and the two men in the white hats made nice first and second layers for a larger photo of the world of small rodeos for the cowboys.

Bronc Tack, O’Neill Rodeo

Bareback Tack, O'Neill Rodeo

Bronc Tack, O’Neill Rodeo

Just like my friend Melinda Green Harvey, I like lines, but especially those with varied textures, symbolism, and tones. I studied the tack neatly organized on the back fence of the chutes for some time, waiting for the light and the horses in the corral behind to line up properly, and then made this shot.

Cowboy Chaps, O’Neill Rodeo

Cowboy Chaps, O'Neill Rodeo

Cowboy Chaps, O’Neill Rodeo

The bronc rider, weathered and wizened, struggled with his chaps’ leather straps as his time to get on in the chutes drew close, and the textures and shapes of American legend left me transfixed. So, as one would expect, I made an image.