Tough in the Saddle: Boot, Buffalo County

Boot, Buffalo County

Boot, Buffalo County

Last night I had my first shoot of my next book, Tough in the Saddle, a book about working ranch women in the American West. More is to come, and since a book is an ever-changing process (goodness knows PlainSky, Nebraskans turned out far different in the end than I envisioned four years earlier) I thought I’d begin by presenting an image very different than others I’ve published here–one of the boots worn by my first portrait subject. Be gentle.

Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

Tough Hands No. 2

“That looks like an advertising image,” said Liz, my friend and fellow professional photographer.

“Maybe,” I answered, “but there’s a difference between an advertising image and this one.”

“Oh? What’s that,” Liz asked.

“Look at the boot,” I returned. “No advertising image could capture a boot that had been so ‘prettied up’ by ranch life. This is a document, not propaganda.”

Liz and I have shot together for countless hours, brandings upon brandings, landscapes beyond count, ghost towns unnamed. She sat and pondered for a moment, then spoke.

“Mmm-hmm. You’re right. That boot couldn’t be anything but real.”