Montana - 2023
Rodeos are events for the community as much as they are events for the individual performers. No matter the riding skills and bravery of the competitors, they are only part of the story, not the story itself. The action is simply the reason for the gathering and it is ultimately the gathering that is remembered. Rodeos are a celebration of a way of life and are an integral part of Americana. Some States such as Montana, Texas, Wyoming and Colorado would lose much of their identity without these local gatherings.
When working on this idea therefore, I knew that a single frame would fail if there was not a sense of occasion and a wider context. This normally requires a wide-angle lens and this can work against capturing the action in an immersive and detailed way. The champion riders have a formidable skill set and my sense was that this should be celebrated as well.
To offer both context and detailed action within a ring, is a challenge and looking over scores of old rodeo images, most photographs tended to achieve one or the other, but not both. The only way I could see around the riddle was to work from a cage inside the ring and hope that the action would come close enough to my wide-angle lens. To work from outside the ring would leave any image very loose unless I was incredibly lucky.
In my mind photography is often about collaboration; it is indulgent to consider it to be a singular profession and the credit for this photograph goes to the nearby community and its rodeo team, as much as it does to the person behind the lens. Every single person played a role and that is why the image can be looked at for a long time. Some of the facial expressions are fantastic and there is a palpable sense of place.
I remain in awe of the bull rider that day; that is quite a skill to possess.