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.
Boot No. 9
We take the everyday elements in life in a daze, most often lost in our own thoughts, wandering through the world oblivious to the poetry around us. I encourage my students to pay closer attention to their surroundings, to put aside their digital lives and thought-to-be-hectic schedules for a few moments a few times each day, to sit and compose with the ordinary.
I tried to do just that with my boot series, and this is the ninth among those images.
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.
Bronc Team, Eddyville Rodeo
Well, I’m off photographing in southern Colorado won’t return until July 14. So in the meantime, I’m posting this image from my shoot at the (very) rural Eddyville rodeo from last week.
It was a grand, dirty evening due to the dust; when the light would pass through it, stunning shots happened. It also took me three hours to clean my gear the next day.
As the bronc teams set their mounts and prepared to perform, the sun dropped low on the horizon and the dust mingled with the latent clouds remaining after a strong storm had passed just to the south. The rider’s hand on his hip left a small space for the sun to illuminate the hanging particles of dust hanging in the air, and the light–oh, the light–on his hat and the shadow of his head were simply intoxicating.
Cowboy and Dog, Eddyville Rodeo
My friend Jane Bell at Texas Tech is a fan of dogs, and the day after I made this image, I sent her a note with the image attached. I couldn’t resist the image opportunity, what with the cowboy and his rough-and-tumble boots, the grass-and-dirt texture of the rodeo arena, the miniature canine so daintily attached to the cowhand with a pet-store retractable leash and a paw raised in preparation for motion. Irony incarnate, say I.
Man’s Boots: PlainSky Nebraskans No. 25, 10.5″ x 15.5″ on Canson Infinity Arches Velin Rag
The second of two pieces in the PlainSky Nebraskans show featuring boots, I was captivated by this man’s boots, the wagon wheel, pipe and dry, dead grass in the shadows. For me, it is a image about life expressed in textures.
Let’s try this again. I have to extend my thanks to everyone who was kind enough to offer his or her opinion on the Bales and Storm; it was nice to have genuine feedback on what people prefer in a photograph!
So here’s one more opportunity to say, “Hey Brett, I like…” Which is better: the color boots, or the black and white?
Young Man’s Boots (Color)
Young Man’s Boots (Black and White)
Young Man’s Boots, Harrison
Dreams of a ranching life, both shadows and firmament. May the firmament persist.
Boots and Gloves, Whiteaker’s
There are few places left in America like Whiteaker’s, and it’s one of the modern world’s great travesties.
As many readers and viewers are accustomed to from me, I’ll illustrate my point with an analogy.
A good friend and real-deal cowboy I know from around Harrison told me, “Once, I was in Whiteaker’s looking at a pair of boots.
“Mine, they had holes in ’em, and you could see my sock through one. Joe Whiteaker told me to try on a new pair for size, and they were great; I couldn’t afford them at the time, though, so I started to take them off.
“‘What are you doin’?’ Joe told me.
“‘Well, I can’t pay you for ’em, so could you hold ’em for me until I get my check?’ I said.
“‘Nope,’ Joe said. ‘You just wear those outta here and pay me when you can.'”
Trust. Compassion. Community. All things that Whiteaker’s offer in the store. And often, for a little bit of cash, you can get a nice pair of Justin boots, too.
Girls in Boots, Lusker Ranch
Real cowgirls wear boots. Even in shorts.