Rodeo is friends and family, it’s a sport, a way of life and a business. To the outsider it’s hard to comprehend, but talk to any cowboy: it’s the rodeo that gets in your blood… a craving that can only be satisfied by going on to the next rodeo.
When I turned up at a rodeo for the first time, I hung around the bucking chutes where the cowboys were getting prepared: putting on their chaps, boots and gloves and rosining up their ropes. I was amazed to see there was such easy access to the cowboys. I felt as though I had stepped into a living piece of history. The cowboys ignored me as they psyched themselves up in preparation for their events.
Cowboys have an almost gypsy-like existence: they are part of an arcane family that travels from rodeo to rodeo and intermarry within their culture: one is born into rodeo. Rodeo cowboys are part of the narrative of the west. Their iconic imagery is timeless in these days of impermanent picture taking. My photographs are also timeless: they are printed on archival fibre-based paper and sepia toned: a process which transforms the silver in the photographic print to a permanent sepia dye.
For over seven years I followed the cowboys – it was a lonely time in my life -setting out on my own and getting to know these laconic individuals: I considered shooting the cowboys my own personal rodeo. Many of the images from that time were published in a book I wrote Behind the Chutes: The Mystique of the Rodeo Cowboy published by WhitecapBooks. It was nominated for the ALA/YALSA BestBooks for Young Adults. I return to the rodeo from time to time and it is reassuring that it is still the same: unchanged in this ever-changing world.