These striking photos celebrate rural America's queer cowboys🤠 In 'National Anthem', Luke Gilford highlights the LGBTQ + community disrupting mainstream rodeo across the US. See more:
In 'National Anthem', Luke Gilford highlights the LGBTQ + community disrupting mainstream rodeo across the US.
and cowgirls of the International Gay Rodeo Association. Between exploration and abstraction, he immortalizes the brave faces that resist the pressures of the typically homophobic, misogynistic world of rodeo. He celebrates queer joy and focuses on the inspiring and inclusive rodeo communities across rural America. Here, Luke tells us about
National Anthemand his experience on the road.Could you tell us why your project is calledNational Anthem?One of the great powers of the queer rodeo is its ability to disrupt America’s tribal dichotomies that cannot contain who we really are — liberal versus conservative, urban versus rural, “coastal elite” versus “middle America.” It’s incredibly rare to find a community that actually embraces both ends of the spectrum.
National Anthemcelebrates the typically invisible queer bodies living their lives, discovering themselves and falling in love within rural landscapes. These subjects expand what it means to be an American as well as what it means to be queer in both subtle and profound ways. They return the aura of promise to the notion of America. I wanted the title to allude to that promise — one we all know, but don’t necessarily trust. This community has helped restore some of my own faith in that possibility.
What's the story of the Gay Rodeo Association? When and how did you get into it?The IGRA started in 1976 in Reno, Nevada. The mainstream rodeo community is already a subculture in America, so the IGRA is a subculture within a subculture — meaning most people haven’t heard of it. I discovered it by chance at a Pride event in 2016. At the time it felt like uncovering a shining beacon of exception — a caveat to the rural standard. The IGRA gives the
LGBTQ+community a unique opportunity to connect with other queer people, including the queer BIPOC community, who are not only queer but are also typically unwelcome in the almost exclusively Caucasian mainstream rodeo circuit. The queer rodeo is a safe space for anyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including allies and supporters. Participants often travel hundreds of miles to be there since most live in communities without resources or opportunities for queer people to connect with one another. The IGRA offers structured educational programs and rodeo competitions for men, women and trans people to hone their athletic skills, openness, connection and care for animals, personal integrity, self-confidence and support for one another.
In what ways is your project an act of political resistance?America is a nation that is constantly failing as well as exceeding its own mythology. These portraits are evidence of something well beyond the frame: of a way of life, unconfined by image. I wanted to represent queer joy, but also wanted to do so without undercutting the very real and ongoing presence of danger that queer bodies face daily, simply for existing. To me,
National Anthem Read more: i-D »
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