For the past year and a half, Rory Doyle has been documenting cowgirls and cowboys. But this work challenges the stereotype of the culture, removing it from the American West and the romanticization of Hollywood, focusing instead on the daily life of black cowboys in the Mississippi Delta.
Doyle explained to In Sight how he became immersed in the scene. It began when he attended a rodeo in Greenville, Miss., that celebrated the region’s black cowboy heritage. “Since then, I’ve been photographing black cowboys/cowgirls exclusively in the Mississippi Delta (18 counties in the northwest part of the state). I’ve seen some projects on urban black cowboys in Philly and the bigger groups of black cowboys in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. I’ve yet to see a Delta-centric story.”
When Doyle says “cowboy,” he does not necessarily mean it as a vocation.
“I use the term cowboy loosely. It’s not like Texas here, where cowboys ranch cattle. A cowboy in the Delta is more about recreation — either as a hobby or competing in a rodeo or horse show. In other words, everyone I’ve photographed has a different day job.”
“Delta Hill Riders” will be on display in an exhibition curated by Anna Van Lenten at “The Half King Photo Series” in Manhattan, opening June 19.
A cowboy and ATV driver rise up at a trail ride in Charleston, Miss. (Rory Doyle)
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