Revealing Character
January 21, 2008 3:56 AM   Subscribe

Revealing Character — In 2004 and 2005, photographer Robb Kendrick traveled through Texas to take tintypes of working cowboys and cowgirls, capturing a part of American life that evolves with the times.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by chillmost at 4:20 AM on January 21, 2008

This would be great if he hadn't picked such an obvious set of subjects and given the whole things such an obvious name.
posted by fire&wings at 5:20 AM on January 21, 2008

If you read the page about the project, you might see why that subject and the name was chosen.

I love tintypes. Tintypes of cowboys even better. Too cool!
posted by Orb at 5:34 AM on January 21, 2008

Cowboys make me feel like a wuss.
posted by chillmost at 5:46 AM on January 21, 2008

That's pretty cool, but even though he claims it's not one, the overall effect does seem like a pretty romanticised view of that way of life.
posted by patricio at 6:27 AM on January 21, 2008

The problem referred to above by Patricio, is though he claims he's not romanticizing he is. More so, he was paid to do so, to capture the "honesty, ethic, and hard work" inherent to the profession. Perhaps all cowboys have these qualities, but it seems more romantic than realistic to me. Even more so, I think the photographer set out to warp today's cowboys into the cowboys of the past, specifically to draw upon the romantic ideas the modern day has about the cowboys of the 19th century. I looked through about a fourth of the images (before the slow loading ran me off, but I never saw a pickup (or anything that expressly said that this was the 21st century) other than jacket here or some articles of clothing. It would seem like the photographer wants his viewers to see the cowboys of the past over the cowboys of the present.

...still a neat project, tho'.
posted by Atreides at 7:58 AM on January 21, 2008

patricio, Atreides - I was thinking that as well. If not romanticised, than certainly made to look much more timeless than it is. To be honest, I think the project would have been more interesting had he used modern photography techniques, which would emphasise that this old profession is very much in the here and now. It is an old way of living, but it happens today.
posted by jb at 8:01 AM on January 21, 2008

Neat post. The ferrotype technique is interesting, and to some extent constrains the subject matter. Thanks BP.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:43 AM on January 21, 2008

What's really misleading is calling these people cowboys at all. "Cowboy" conjures an image of someone who drives cattle across the open range. I didn't click every photo, but these folks are Ranch Hands. They wrangle cattle from a pasture onto a truck. Romanticize that job all you like. All the ranchers and hands I've known have indeed been tough and earthy and full of character as this, dangling marlboro reds from chapped lips as they swat flies and change oil on chevys, but it's not work that people in this industry regard with undue romanticism. It begins as unskilled labor and ends with handy but impoverished and worn-out people living in trailers.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:48 AM on January 21, 2008

Cool project...

...but can I say that as a designer what you gain by using images for your typography you more than give back in the slow loading and lack of utility? The list of names and the content facing the image would have been no less cool to have been rendered using "live" type. No alt tags on any of the images, either. Not that a blind person would necessarily be interested in viewing a photo essay, but this page is completely inaccessible to them. The design is nice, but someone needs to unclench a bit and accept that web typography is a bit different than print typography.
posted by maxwelton at 9:51 AM on January 21, 2008

To be fair Ambrosia, there's a lot more to being a ranch hand that just driving the steers into the truck. Running cattle is an extraordinary amount of work. My husbands family runs cattle. (Well, not as much as they did before the drought, but they're still running about 200 head.) I've spent time working on a ranch, and never in my life was I so glad to get back to the city. That's a lot, A LOT, of work. Starts at sunrise. Which...I

You have to ride the fences to make sure none of it has come down, been cut, etc. You have to shoo off hunters/poachers during the season, you have to bale hay, feed the cattle, make sure the cross fences are holding, plus herd the cattle from field to field as needed. And that's just the start. You have to take of all the other animals too. Ranches are have all kinds of critters; you have to take care of the horses, the dogs, the mousers, maintain the equipment, try to keep the sheep outta the veggie garden...frankly, it's a long, hard, slog, and I'm in awe of anyone who can do it day in, day out.

All that said; as an outsider who has gotten to ride with the real cowboys, it is pretty romantic.
posted by dejah420 at 2:20 PM on January 21, 2008

I come across real cowboys (ranchers, whatever) in my line of work all the time. They really are iconic. It is some seriously hard work and I have an enormous respect for those who do it.

Quick anecdote. Worked on a project in northern Nevada along the Owyhee plateau on the Idaho border. At some point, the ranchers had to bring the cattle down for the winter, so they brought up a dozen or so Basque cowboys from nearby Winnemucca. They were staying in this ramshackle old structure where we were camping, with holes in the roof and a single antique potbelly stove for heat and cooking. They showed up with their horses and dogs (NOT pets - these were working dogs and a whole different breed -you didnt go up and pet these) and a bottle of Jack Daniels in each hand. They burned sage brush for heat, smoking the entire area up and sang songs in Basque all night. They were up and running three hours before dawn and didnt get back until two hours after dark.. and did the same routine once again, three days running. They pulled about a couple hundred head of free range cattle off the plateau in that time.

Real cowboys are some pretty damn tough hombres and everytime I see them, it only makes sense to view them in black and white.
posted by elendil71 at 4:08 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Update — NPR: Modern-Day Cowboys Frozen in Time
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:33 AM on February 2, 2008

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