Hanging on and Holding Tight
October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
For my One-Day Shoot I decided to go to the Jesse James Rodeo in Kearney, Missouri. This accomplished two things for me; it let me explore cowboy culture a little more before the summer was out, and it got me out of Columbia…two hours out of Columbia. I loved every minute of the escape. Except for those few moments of panic that I wasn’t getting everything I needed. And in fact I did walk away feeling I had missed some shots, but that’s typical for just about every shoot I think.
I was anxious about this project since it was to be event coverage, and looking for that five cents of string within the event, that storyline that would tie all our images together. The initial plan was to go in and follow the story of a cowboy who travels from rodeo to rodeo in the area (even better would have been in the country) while also shooting the peripheral activity. I did try to accomplish this, but the story took on its own life after I (and the rest of the class) looked through the images. What started as a story of one man, became an essay on cowboy life, which, to me, is much more interesting. I love the finished product. One of my biggest regrets is not finding that overall and not taking a picture of the arena after everyone had left. I failed to follow the “arrive early, stay late” credo in its entirety. I also failed to stay within the shooting limit and shot well above 300. This was due to a combination of things; my attempt at capturing action and having the camera set to rapid fire, my desire to try new/different techniques while still getting the “safe” shots, and boredom. I was there all day and was keeping myself entertained.
For this assignment I wanted to push myself, to get closer and to not let my self-consciousness get in the way of my ability to take the pictures I wanted. I also had a couple of other goals in mind including practicing unconstricted awareness and viewing the world from different perspectives. So often I fall into the trap of anticipating the shots I want and getting only the cliches that permeate our understanding of the world. Don’t get me wrong, this event was chalk full of cliches, which made my efforts all the more important. I did record some of the stereotypical cowboy pictures, but like Rita said, sometimes you just have to take that expected picture and be done with it. So I did. For the most part I did a fair job of not allowing my expectations get the better of my work, but I still have a long way to go. I worked hard to be bold as well. When I realized that my contact for the event would be shuffling me from one “interview” to the next rather than helping me find a family or person who fit the description I gave him I changed direction…literally.
I first noticed Justin Williams as he walked over to the shoots just before the rodeo started. He nodded to a few friends and said hello before beginning to change. He carried a dirty black duffel bag over his shoulder and was older than the rest of the riders, scruffy, looking like he had just rolled out of bed and was still recouping from the night before (which in fact he was I later learned). He also looked like he had done this before. As my contact led me toward the announcer stand where I was to interview the announcer himself, I turned around and headed in the opposite direction to talk with the cowboy I hoped would give me my story. I walked up as he was changing (bold move #1) and asked if he was participating in the rodeo. He said yes, and that he rides bareback. I asked if he would mind me following him the rest of the rodeo (bold move #2) and he said sure. I’m always shocked when people say yes for some reason. I guess I expect the worst. But it worked out well. In the end I met some great people, hung out at a rodeo all day, and got a few more story ideas. Below is the rest of the essay.