Textures are an important part of Western culture: metal against leather, denim against hide, felt against ribbon. Heidi Reissland is one of Nebraska’s best barrel racers (and also my sister), and kindly she lent me one of her saddles and quirt to explore some of those textual relationships.
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.
Cathy Hervert and I have known each other for a long, long time, and it was only right that she be the first subject in this new book. I met her in the sandy hills of central Nebraska where I grew up, and we spent an hour in a plains-grass pasture (there are a lot of pastures where I’m from) making a few shots of her and her tack. Needless to say, she’s an easy subject to photograph, and that’s the best kind–they make the photographer look good.
“His saddle was his most prized possession; it served as his chair, his workbench, his pillow at night,” wrote Geoffrey C. Ward, author of The West. Today’s ranch hands have more to their names, including trucks, trailers, smartphones, and computers. But the tack of the trade–saddle, blanket, chaps, bridle, and other gear–remains as the central object of pride in ownership for the American rancher, and the details of that pride are easily evident here.