Casey Martin: Rodeo Photography 4/27/11
Majestic Theater – Gettysburg, Pa
Reception: July 8, 2011 6-7pm
I developed an interest in image making at an early age mostly due in part to my Grandmother and my late brother Jesse. We would make scrapbooks together and Jesse was into art and drawing so naturally that’s what I picked up on following his every move as a younger brother. I remember using a tiny 110 camera in grade school that I received as a prize from the Jump Rope for Heart Foundation. I liked taking pictures when we went on class field trips. As I moved into middle school I saw that my brother was taking a photography class and it just amazed me that I could spend part of the school day learning black and white photography in the darkroom. I began taking photography classes in 7th grade with Mr. Gouker. He was also in charge of the yearbook club so I became involved with that as well. He also had some video editing equipment that I used to produce a rodeo wrecks video and also a video for the Mountain Bike Club. From there I continued with photography courses through Junior High and eventually conducted my own course with an independent study of photography in High School.
The point where I realized I could use photography to make money is when I started taking it a little more seriously. As a rodeo stock contractor and producer, my father needed promotional photos to send out for press releases and newspaper articles to promote our rodeos. So my mother bought a camera and started shooting photos of the action at our shows. When I turned fourteen I was ready to start working on the rodeo road, but I was still too young and small to be of much help. I had seen my mom out in the arena taking photos so one day I asked if I could borrow her camera and try it out. I was instantly hooked by the challenge of timing the peak of the action. When I am photographing rodeo I try to anticipate that specific moment in the ride where the action peaks and freezes within my viewfinder. For just that split second, the animal and rider will hang in the air and that’s when I release the shutter. Growing up around rodeo helped me become familiar with the animals movements and timing. They are interesting in that they each have their own individual bucking pattern and it only subtly changes throughout their rodeo career. I was shooting 35mm film and I would rush to get it developed to see if I captured a great ride or wreck. When I began to show my photos I was surprised when the riders asked if they could purchase them. I quickly learned I could cut down on my travel expenses by selling my photos to the contestants.
Fifteen years later I still have the same fascination with photography that led me to document the sport that I grew up with. Now I compete professionally in the steer wrestling event and I carry my camera along with me on my travels all over the country. I don’t always get to shoot photos at my dad’s rodeos because I am usually working. I enjoy photographing the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls as much as I enjoyed watching their mothers and fathers compete when I was younger. I like to think about when they might show my photos to their grandchildren and say, “This is your great grandfather, he was a rodeo cowboy!”
I owe a lot to the sport of rodeo and rodeo owes me too! It helped introduce me to the art of photography and it has provided the opportunity for me to make lasting friendships with people all over the United States. At the same time, my life has been consumed by this sport from day one. I’ve driven countless miles to set up and tear down rodeo arenas entertaining audiences all over the Northeast. While rodeo has always provided things for me, it has also brought me loss. The long travel and lonely miles lead to the recollection of lives and relationships lost on the road although I believe it is the same with any similar lifestyle. Rodeo has been a large part of my life and I am thankful that I can help preserve the history of the American tradition.