Cowboys & Indians Magazine, Eye of the Beholder
Winning Images from the First Annual C&I Photo Contest, Dana Joseph, March 2006
When it comes to photography it’s not just beauty that’s in the eye of the beholder. Cowboys praying before an 8 – second ride. Wild geese in flight. A cuddling family of wolves. A blazing sunset. Wisdom in the eyes of an American Indian elder. The cusp of manhood on the face of a boy. The abandon of horsed running the range. The play of light on pews in an empty church. More than beauty, it’s the intimacies of life observed.
Sometimes it’s a special place few others could find, let alone get to. Galen Rowell became an expert climber to be able to capture in perfect context and composition the mountain light that made him famous. Some of our contest entries clearly owe a debt to Rowell, their exquisite remote mountain settings bathed in alpenglow and suggesting the climactic “getting there” that every hiker and climber knows well. Sometimes, it’s an almost sacred undertaking: One photographer so zealously guarded the secret location of the Native American site he photographed — he said the spot is known to only two other photographers — that he wouldn’t give it up for the caption.
Sacred as it might be, the right place isn’t enough. It has to be the right time. it’s what master photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called the “decisive moment.” Capturing it is part luck, part light, part genius, part persistence — and the sheer willingness to shoot a lot. Sometimes it’s even a matter of putting yourself in harm’s way. Louise Serpa shooting in front of bucking horses to get arena action — the quest for the quintessential moment can take guts. One need only witness some of the rodeo and rough-range images our readers sent in to realize jus how Western it can get behind the lens.
Of course there’s technique, too, and that’s not a small thing. But what seems to set a true photograph apart from a common snapshot has something to do not just with the eye, but with the soul. It is more than seeing It is believing that something — a place, a face, a moment — is worth saving in print or pixels. It is the impulse to share not just the literal image but what it shows about life as we have known it, as we have searched it out, as we have dreamed it.
Your turn to behold.
– Dana Joseph