In the Footsteps of Bill Pickett
It was in 2012, quite by chance, that I discovered the African American cowboys and cowgirls and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo in Atlanta. I have been returning to the rodeo for several years now. My photos focus more on the atmosphere and the preparation than on the competition itself, allowing me to take intimate portraits of these cowgirls and cowboys, documenting moments of connection with the animal, or waiting before the competition.
In the 19th century more than a quarter of cowboys were of African descent. Bill Pickett, legendary cowboy from Taylor, Texas, a descendant of Africans and Cherokee Indians was born in 1870, five years after the American Civil War. Pickett invented the “Bulldogging” technique, which earned him the nickname: “The Bull-Dogger.” He performed in the biggest rodeo shows in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America and even in England. He became the first black cowboy movie actor and was admitted to the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1971.
Each year, since its creation in 1984 by Lu Vason, The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has crossed the United States to celebrate the legacy of African American cowgirls and cowboys, whose existence was often erased in history books and by Hollywood in movies.
I have been fascinated by cultural diversity since beginning as a photographer with UNESCO. As Saint-Exupéry wrote, “If you differ from me, my brother, far from injuring me, you enrich me.”
All images in the series "In the Footsteps of Bill Pickett" are available for sale as a signed and numbered fine-art print. Please contact me for pricing and availability.