“We all know what a rodeo is and we all know what queer is. We don’t think of them going together,” says photographer Luke Gilford. National Anthem is his four-year portraiture project which saw him ride side-saddle with members of the International Gay Rodeo Association.
It remains a relatively unexplored subculture, perhaps vaguely conflated with our viewing of Brokeback Mountain. Gilford offers a nuanced version of classic considerations.
“I’ve never totally identified with urban queer culture, which is about celebrating this escape, perhaps, from rural places. It’s about partying, consumerism, capitalism,” says Gilford. In contrast queer rodeo “is so much more about a connection to the land, to animals, to community.”
In her foreword to the series, Mary L Gray says that the queer folk Gilford introduces to us as they lay claim to rodeos “challenge the very notion of queer metronormativity – a belief that the good gay life can only be found in the anonymity and cultural cache of the Big City.
Visibility is not only about showing oneself to the world. It is about registering – making sense – to others. We find ourselves when we are seen by others, even as the project of being known remains incomplete.”
Published by Damiani, £50