Last summer, Doug Hancock and Christopher Pugmire went on an epic road trip with legendary NPRA bull rider Robert Mims. Robert is a three-times senior pro champion, still riding bulls at the age of 55. Doug's film : Robert Mims - the Texan Bull Rider paints a picture of the rituals and rhythms that underpin the cowboy way of life on the grassroots rodeo circuit. Alongside the screening, Christopher will exhibit some of the images he captured during shooting. A breathtaking collection that brings to life the unique world of the American rodeo.
How did you come up with the idea of the series "Our American Rodeo"?
''The photos were taken at grassroots rodeo events in New Mexico. These
rodeos take place all over the American heartland. It’s mostly veterans who do it for the riding and the camaraderie, not for the money. A world away from big money mainstream rodeo events.''
How was it to live with cowboys for a while and which challenges did you face during that time?
''It was like being in a totally different world. Tough, timeless,
romantic - just like in the movies! We stayed in a motel on Route 66, in Grants, New Mexico. The same motel that Elvis and Priscilla stayed in on their wedding night. On 4th July we all watched the fireworks in the parking lot : myself, Doug, Robert ( real cowboy ), Shane and Jenny ( real Native Americans ) - drinking Coors and eating McDonald’s. It doesn’t get any more American than that! The rodeo people were great hosts. Despite us being soft liberal metropolitan types, we all got on really well. They were just as curious about us as we were about them. And they were super happy that we were taking an interest in their world :) The main challenges were keeping the equipment dust-free and driving the huge distances between Texas, New Mexico and Utah. I also almost got killed - twice - after a bull tried jumping out of the bull pen I was standing over. Luckily I pulled a backflip.''
What do you want to tell people with this project?
''I want to bring them into this magical world that we experienced. And show them the diversity of the riders ( we met white riders, black riders, Mexican and Native American. Many of the ‘white’ people were mixed European-Native ) and the brotherhood which exists between. Also show how these people like very tough lives - where could literally die at any point! And hopefully humanise them a bit, as they are often depicted as gun-loving bible-thumping redneck Trumpers.''
You told us that the series was made in collaboration with a documentary maker. How did that come about?
''Yes, I made this trip with my friend, Doug Hancock. It was actually his idea. He’d been in touch with Robert Mims, a veteran bull rider and three-times NPRA senior champion. So Doug made a documentary about Robert, which is touring the American festival circuit right now. We actually spent two weeks together with Robert driving along open roads and seeing the American Wild West. The trip of a lifetime! We’re both still in touch with Robert.''
Can you tell us more about your upcoming exhibition in september?
''Doug and I are planning another trip to the USA in late September. This time we’re going to document the unsung heroes of rodeo - Native American riders who live on reservations in South Dakota, Utah and Montana. We’re doing this project with Mrs.Frank, a production company new to Amsterdam. The exhibition is to raise money for the trip.''