PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE GAY RODEO

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These photographs represent an amazing, magical time in my life. Back then, I questioned if I was a “real” cowboy because in the back of my mind I always felt like an observer – and photography was my first passion. But my unique situation allowed me to document the growing sport of gay rodeo from the inside, along with the thrills and personal challenges of fulfilling my cowboy dreams.

Many of the cowboys who you see in these pictures, who were my close friends, are no longer with us. This work was never exhibited before 2014, and going through negatives and proof sheets from this time brought back so many memories and stories for me. I want to share these images for two reasons: to memorialize my unforgettable experiences in gay rodeo in the late 1980s, and to honor the cowboys who competed with me and left a huge mark on my life.

-Blake Little, 2013

The photographs in this exhibition document the gay rodeo circuit in the American West between 1988 and 1992.  Photographs from the Gay Rodeo was first exhibited in Jan, 2014 at the Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN and has traveled to over 7 museums and art institutions throughout the United States .The photos of rodeo events and participants offer us a unique glimpse into that world, and allow us to explore the diverse and complex natures of individual and community identity in the West. The photographer, Blake Little, competed in the rodeo during the time that he took these photos. His insider perspective lends an intimacy and immediacy to the images. Photographs from the Gay Rodeo illuminates one of many contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities to the American West and celebrates the rich diversity of the region.

Photographs from the Gay Rodeo is available in the following editions:

Photographs from the Gay Rodeo Book – $30

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Photographs from the Gay Rodeo Book – Signed – $35

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Museum & Gallery exhibitions

Photographs from the Gay Rodeo was first exhibited in Jan, 2014 at the Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN and has traveled to over 7 museums and art institutions

• 2020 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, The James Museum, St Petersburg, FL
• 2019 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, M. Rosetta Hunter Gallery, Seattle, WA
• 2019 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
• 2017 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, Rapid City Art Center, Rapid City, MO
• 2017 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK
• 2016 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
• 2016 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO
• 2015 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
• 2015 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, University of Missouri Art Museum, St Louis, MO
• 2015 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, Salina Art Center, Salinas, KS
• 2014 Photographs from the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992, Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN

LIMITED EDITION SIGNED PRINTS

Archival Pigment Print

Edition of 12, signed and numbered by the photographer

Available in 11″ X 14 “, 17″ x 22” and custom sizes

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Photographs From the Gay Rodeo 1988-1992

I have been interested in Western culture and cowboys from an early age. Growing up in a residential area of Seattle, my first exposure to rodeo came from television and books. I attended my first gay rodeo at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in 1988.

The sport, camaraderie, and atmosphere of this first rodeo experience transformed me. I was completely drawn to it and I had to be a part of it. I wanted to be a cowboy.

For the next six months, my best friend Gordon and I traveled to every gay rodeo in the Western United States. Gordon, a graphic designer, started wearing Western clothes on a daily basis. I got my first pair of Wranglers and a cowboy hat.

I became friends with many of the cowboys. I started participating in gay rodeo’s “camp events:” goat dressing, steer decorating, the wild drag race. These events were fun, but I was really interested in the traditional rodeo events, particularly bull riding.

At my fifth rodeo, with the encouragement of my new cowboy buddies, I rode my first steer. I fell off almost immediately, but I was hooked. At the next rodeo, I stayed on that steer and completed my ride.

From the beginning, I brought my camera to all the rodeos, but as a rodeo competitor, I now had inside access. I could shoot close to the action – down on the arena floor and behind the chutes. I began photographing seriously as I got more involved.

For the next four years, I competed and photographed at most of the gay rodeos in the West. By the beginning of the 1989 season, I successfully completed my first bull ride. A year later, I won the 1990 Bull Riding Championship at the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) Finals in Phoenix.

That was twenty years ago. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was a bull rider, but I was able to be part of this rodeo world that I loved and I have several championship belt buckles to prove it.

These photographs represent a very special time in my life. I am not sure I ever really considered myself a true “cowboy.” In the back of my mind I was always first and foremost a photographer.

Many of the cowboys, my close friends, are no longer with us. These photographs have never been exhibited. I now want to share these images for two reasons: to memorialize these great experiences in gay rodeo and to honor the cowboys who competed.

– Blake Little 2012

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