The Cowboys of Color Rodeo, which springs out of the chutes Monday night, is a well-established tradition at the Fort Worth Stock Show. And now the event, which features black and Hispanic cowboys and cowgirls testing their mettle against broncs, bulls and roping stock, has a companion photography book.
“We knew there was a book to be made out of the material,” says photographer Don Russell, who spent two years capturing images of rodeo competitors at various rodeos for the book, Cowboys of Color.
But don’t expect a typical rodeo coffee-table book loaded with action shots of rodeo events. Instead, Russell has assembled a book dominated by striking, posed portraits of his subjects.
“The people are the real focal point for me,” says Russell, 63, of McKinney, who got his shots by setting up small studios at the rodeos, where he photographed his subjects just before or after they had competed.
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“This was a bit of a departure for me,” says Russell, a retired electrical engineer turned fine-art photographer. “But I have always had this interest in formal portraits of athletes. I am drawn to real people doing real things.”
Russell’s 136-page book, published by Taylor Specialty Books, is filled with images of current competitors and other important figures on the Cowboys of Color circuit. There are, for example, several shots of Cleo Hearn, the founder of the rodeos.
Nearly all of the images in the book are in color, although he started the project in black and white.
“I was unable to resist it. I had to change my mind,” says Russell, noting that he was struck by the “rich and vibrant colors in the chaps and boots” and the interesting range of skin tones of his African-American subjects.
But the book is more than just pictures. There is also text about the cowboys and the history of minority participation in professional rodeo.
“The interviews forced their way into the book,” Russell says. “That wasn’t an original plan. But that stuff just turned out to be too good and too powerful not to put beside the pictures. It made the project so much richer.
“It was about the missing history of the black cowboy. There is a story there that I think is important to tell.”
To that end, Russell included important figures of the past like Myrtis Dightman, a bull rider who was the first black cowboy to qualify for the prestigious National Finals Rodeo in 1964 and who endured the discrimination common in that era.
“He was the Jackie Robinson of rodeo,” says Russell. “He is in every Hall of Fame there is. The famous story is that he once asked [white rodeo legend] Freckles Brown, ‘How do I win the world?’ And Freckles said, ‘Just keep riding like you are — and turn white.’ ”
The book can be purchased from Amazon.com or www.cowboysofcolor.net.
The Fort Worth Stock Show continues through Feb. 4 at Will Rogers Memorial Center, Lancaster Avenue and University Drive, just west of downtown.
Details: 817-877-2400 or www.fwssr.com. Mobile apps are available for Apple and Android devices.
Grounds admission: $10, $5 ages 6-16, free age 5 and younger
Rodeo tickets: $28 on Friday nights, weekends and some special events; $20 on weekdays. Rodeo tickets are good for general admission to the Stock Show the same day. Discounts are available for grounds admission and rodeo tickets for Star-Telegram Press Pass holders.
Advance tickets: The office, at 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 817-877-2420.
Parking: $10 per vehicle
Take the Rodeo Redline: On Saturdays and Sundays, visitors can take $5 shuttles — called the Rodeo Redline — from the parking lot just north of Billy Bob’s Texas in the Stockyards. Buses run every 30 minutes, 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays.
Information booths: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday in the main concourse of the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall and the Richardson-Bass Building.
Shopping: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall and Brown-Lupton Exhibits Hall (north and south).
8 a.m. Cutting Horse Classes (AQHA Quarter Horse Classes followed by APHA Paint Horse Classes) — Justin Arena
8 a.m. Southern Regional Brown Swiss All-American Qualifying Show and Guernsey Dairy Cattle – Open Show – Cattle Arena
9 a.m. 4-H and FFA Wildlife Contest – Botanical Research Institute of Texas
9 a.m. Equine I.Q. Contest – Richardson-Bass Building, Room C
9 a.m. Longhorn Cattle – TLBT Youth Division Show – Watt Arena
9 a.m. Southwestern Classic Dairy Goat Show – Swine Arena
11 a.m. Yellow Rose Classic Boer Goat Show – Sheep Arena
Noon Jersey Dairy Cattle – Open Show – Cattle Arena
2 p.m. Cowboys of Color Rodeo – Coliseum
3 p.m. Southwest Regional Holstein Dairy Cattle – Open Show – Cattle Arena
4 p.m. Regional Open Brangus Cattle Show – Watt Arena
Dickies Day: Anyone wearing Dickies apparel will receive free general admission to the Stock Show grounds.
8 a.m. Brahman Cattle Show – Watt Arena – West Ring
8 a.m. NCHA Cutting Horse Classes – Justin Arena
8 a.m. Other Purebred and Brown Swiss followed by Jersey Dairy Cattle – Junior Show – Cattle
10 a.m. Beefmaster Cattle Show – Watt Arena – East Ring
1 p.m. Holstein Dairy Cattle – Junior Show – Cattle Arena
5 p.m. Longhorn Cattle – TLBAA World Qualifying Open Show – Watt Arena
7:30 p.m. Bulls’ Night Out – PRCA Extreme Bull Riding – Coliseum