KC Armstrong's new series explores a day in the life of a young bull rider
Earlier this year, photographer KC Armstrong fulfilled a longtime goal to return to rural Alberta, where he spent his childhood summers, to shoot the local rodeo.
His connection to the area made obtaining the behind-the-scenes photographs much easier. “Access is key,” Armstrong says simply.
His cousin, a onetime organizer of the Elnora Brahma Rama rodeo, introduced him to Shane Peters, the Canadian High School Bull Riding Champion 2014, who would become the subject of Armstrong’s new series, Bull!
When Armstrong entered the muddy world of competitive rodeo, he says he went in open but not overly optimistic about what he might find in terms of a compelling subject.
“I didn’t know for sure what I was going to get until I got there,” Armstrong explains. “But when I met Shane, I thought, okay, this guy is a cowboy.”
His all-areas access allowed him to spend time with the riders before they entered the chutes, which is where they mount the bulls. “The energy behind the chute was really palpable — and super macho,” Armstrong says. “It was interesting to see how everybody was pretty happy-go-lucky and chatty before — and then they get their game face on.”
And the game face never wore off. Armstrong says he would liken the riders to a sort of extreme hockey player — no matter the pain, they just keep going.
“These guys are kind of insane,” he says. “On this day, I’m sure Shane broke his hand on the first ride — and just looking at him, you could tell he was going to go again. He couldn’t even get his glove on without wincing. But he was going back out.”
Armstrong says it was difficult narrowing down the images he shot, but eventually landed on this series. He presented the full set in black and white.
“Black and white gives that classic, timeless kind of feel,” he says. “Some of these images, if I didn’t shoot them myself I wouldn’t know if they were from the 1950s or now.”
Armstrong says he hopes to follow Shane Peters and the rest of the rodeo crew around their circuit next summer to film a mini documentary.
See Armstrong’s Bull! series below and in the top slider.
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