children

Girl and Mural

Girl and Mural

Girl and Mural

On seeing the mural, the girl’s coat integral in the dance, I couldn’t help but hear Emily Dickinson, and make pictures.

I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
Or lay a Prima, mad,

And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,

Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so—

Nor any know I know the Art
I mention—easy—Here—
Nor any Placard boast me—
It’s full as Opera—

 

 

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Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Bouncy House, Elwood

Ah, the unexpected. Photographically, it’s de rigueur at the small rodeos of the West, whether it be those in the crowd, the cowboys, the cowgirls or the children. Honestly, while this project is about much more for me than novelty, it’s what often keeps me coming back to each and every backwater event I can find. This image is case-in-point.

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Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

I recently wrapped up another stint of teaching at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, somewhere I feel most honored to be an instructor. But that’s not the point of this post. Color is.

Someone I met this year in Santa Fe noted that while I’m known as a black-and-white artist, I haven’t worked solely in monochrome, and what’s more, some of my best—best!—images are in color. Ironic, no? Yet, I often feel like Eeyore when I make such images.

“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain.”

So when I made the above image and chose to leave it in color (which may mean it never goes in my forthcoming book about rural rodeos), upon seeing it, another person made a related comment regarding palette. “Oooh, color! That’s not like you.”

Oh, bother.

The PlainSky, Nebraskans Show: The Complete Works No. 22

Leif and Claire: PlainSky Nebraskans No. 22, 10.5" x 15.5" on Canson Infinity Velin Rag

Leif and Claire: PlainSky Nebraskans No. 22, 10.5″ x 15.5″ on Canson Infinity Velin Rag

Leif and Claire: An unposed, genuine photograph of the past and future of the American West. For many who know my images, this is their favorite image, if even for nothing more than its ability to provide a brief glimpse into the heart of the High Plains.

Retrospective: Leif and Claire, Lusker Ranch

Leif and Claire, Lusker Ranch

Leif and Claire, Lusker Ranch
May, 2012
6:45 p.m.

This is a portrait I’m submitting to the Digital Photo Pro “The Face” contest next week, and it remains one of my favorite images. The High Plains stretch out behind Leif as he looks to the south for his father, while Claire, tolerant of Leif’s torture for the moment, looks serenely to the north. The textures in the photo, together with the muted natural tones of the landscape and the fleeting unguarded moment from the pair, combined to make an image that resonates with me every time I see it. Moreover, the image represents a culture–the Great Plains ranch culture–that may not remain in 50 years, and for that reason alone, the image has life.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Playing Rodeo, Harrison

Playing Rodeo, Harrison

Playing Rodeo, Harrison

The sun was drawing low on the horizon, beginning a sensual intercourse between its light and the dusty curtain wafting through the dry high plains air, as I wandered–intoxicated by the warm colors–looking for photographs. Hours earlier, I had intently shot hundreds of images at the Sioux County Fair rodeo, and those photos had been assaulted by the high-contrast afternoon light, leaving me frustrated and unproductive.

But now, the light began to play nicely, and as I walked by the arena, I saw these two boys playing rodeo, opening the chutes, bucking into their private colosseum, imagining the roar of the crowd as they emerged, tomorrow’s rodeo heroes, the long shadows and dust adding to the drama they were already feeling.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Guitar Hero, Harrison Dance Hall

Guitar Hero, Harrison Dance Hall

Guitar Hero, Harrison Dance Hall

This young lad was so excited for live music that he nearly couldn’t help himself as the band played Saturday night at the Sioux County Fair; he even brought his toy guitar.

And when the band saw him and invited him to come onstage and play with them, I couldn’t help myself, either.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Young Cowboy, Harrison

Young Cowboy, Harrison

Young Cowboy, Harrison

This young man and I had a wonderful exchange of stories while I made images of him outside the Longhorn Saloon (a place with which I am very familiar). I was finding the shoot difficult, especially since he kept looking directly into the camera, destroying any chance of an unguarded moment captured, so I thanked him and said, “All done.”

I waited.

As he left the steps of the saloon, Dr. Pepper in hand, my composition came together, and I finally had my moment.

PlainSky, Nebraskans: Husker Boy, North Platte

Husker Boy, North Platte

Husker Boy, North Platte

Nebraska is a state divided between pronounced urban development in both Lincoln and Omaha, at the east end of the state, and extreme rural culture at the northwest corner, in Harrison. West of Highway 281 and north of Interstate 80 marks the least populated quadrant of the state per square mile, and North Platte serves as one of the major trading centers for the area, with its population of about 24,000, and location just north of Interstate 80; it is close to the center of the state that counts Nebraska football as its unifying force.

I found this young boy at a corn maze in North Platte on a late October afternoon; his classic Nebraska farm boy look, his Cornhuskers shirt, the light from the late sun bouncing from the corn beneath him, and his fleece-and-sequin cat ears all combined to make a memorable portrait of the glue that holds together the state that is Nebraska.