Brown, Leighton, Mary L. Gray, Janet Mock, Matthew Riemer, Drew Sawyer and Luke Gilford. “National Anthem: America’s Queer Rodeo”, Damiani, 2020.
Outsiders and Chosen Families
Through documenting America’s gay rodeo subculture, “National Anthem” celebrates outsiders and shows us the beauty of chosen families everywhere
Photographer Luke Gilford grew up in Colorado with his father in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He spent his formative years around the rodeo which had been traditionally associated with conservatism and homophobia. Years later, when he discovered the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) and began to see himself as part of a rodeo family. The IGRA is the organizing body for the LGBTQ+ cowboy and cowgirl communities in North America and a safe space for all races and gender expressions.
I attended the gay rodeo several times in Little Rock, Arkansas and saw that it brings in participants from rural regions all over America. These rodeos provide “structured educational programs and competitions, opportunities to hone athletic skills, connection and care for animals, personal integrity, self-confidence and support for one another.” Gilford, himself, has spent over three years traveling the country to document “this diverse and ever-evolving subculture.”
The photographs were shot on medium-format film and printed in a traditional darkroom with emotion and color through which we see Gilford’s close relationship to the community.