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.
“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.”
As evening drew to a close, Maddie Meidell, her sister Abby, and their cousin Angela were anxious to show their photos to my assistant Liz and me. Rushing out from the house, I chuckled at the realization of how ranch life permeates the girls’ existences, for while city folk would put on flip-flops or sneakers, the three girls pulled on boots in spite of their shorts. As I looked closer, I became enthralled with how the brown boots moved to the brown-and-turquoise, then on to what became my chosen focal point in the image, Maddie’s full-on turquoise boots with spurs peeking out from the forest of legs in front.