June 27, 2012

One of the Reasons I Moved Here

Driving to the Ranch from Jean Laughton on Vimeo.

And along with Pony, the cows, my friends, My Ranching Life, the adventure  ... one of the many reasons I stayed ... ©JEAN LAUGHTON

June 6, 2012


When I was on the road photographing my GO WEST series (1995-2003), I would make a pit stop in Iowa to see my Parents, my Grandparents next door and my Grandma out on the farm. Once when I was on the farm I was digging through old photographs and my Grandma handed me a suitcase which had belonged to my Great Grandma Mayme. It was full of many rodeo snapshots she had taken, newspaper clippings and family photographs.  I reached in and picked out this faded yellow newspaper clipping of a bronc rider at Madison Square Garden - the bronc rider was Two Time ('42 & '48) All Around World Champion Cowboy - Gerald Roberts. I looked at the photograph of Gerald and wondered if he was still alive. I did a little research and to my thrill found that he was living with his wife Pat in Abilene, Kansas. So I figured it was time to go to Kansas and meet Gerald. It just felt like the thing to do - how could I miss this chance to take a trip back in time.
 This was a great part of my travels - finding connections between my photography project and my family and sort of putting the pieces of a puzzle together which would lead me to my next chapter. I have to say, photography has always led me to some great people and great adventures. I don't know so much that I am a photographer - it is more like I use photography as this tool for time travel and a way to visit the past and open doors to meeting true American originals.

Meeting Gerald was just fantastic. I felt so lucky. It was as if I had stepped through that old newspaper clipping and into another world. He was so kind to let me come to his house a couple times and put some of his stories of riding at Madison Square Garden and flying to rodeos with Casey Tibbs on tape. I was living in New York City at the time, and liked thinking of crossing Gerald's previous path around the Madison Square Garden area as well as other cowboys and performers from earlier times.

I really enjoyed getting to know him and his wife Pat some. Gerald was a real gentleman from another era and I wish he was still around as I know so many others do.

I got these two photographs from the Cowboy Hall of Fame archives

Gerald's granddaughter put together a great website on Gerald about his rodeo days,  Hollywood stunt work and more.     http://www.geraldroberts.com/rodeocowboy.html

Gerald stands out with style : Madison Square Garden 1956 
31st World Championship Rodeo 
 Detail of above photo - Gerald wearing light hat and scarf in center

Gerald at his home in Kansas in 2000

Thanks Gerald.

June 1, 2012

My Personal Time Machine Traveling Photo Studio More Home Than the Home I was Away From BRONCO

Cowboy drawing a map for me -Pinedale, Wyoming Rodeo - first year I headed West

I felt it was time to pay tribute to my beloved and missed Bronco - the perfect name for the truck that took me all throughout the West. It has been on my mind for some time - then I saw a post on another photographer's blog that reminded me - time to pay homage to the Bronco. I may get a little choked up in doing so.

Before I purchased the Bronco - I had some crazy 'vision' or premonition of sorts of it out in 29 Palms. I was in Los Angeles working on a photo shoot as a producer or casting director - can't remember - but had a couple days off so I rented a car and hauled ass out to Joshua Tree. I think, at this point, I had yet to do a couple road trips in my old $500 '67 Impala. I was coming into 29 Palms and there was this white SUV (this was the mid 90's) on the side of the road filled with equipment or stuff and some chick climbing into the back end to get something ... I don't know why I noticed it or remembered it but ... I felt like I was seeing myself in the future.

Mountain Man photograph (GO WEST series) taken that same day in Pinedale, Wyoming

Cut to some time later - I think year or two and I was in Iowa visiting my parents and grandparents. The idea of traveling to do photographs had started to enter my mind. I had taken trips in my Impala but was thinking about new adventures. It was a very stormy rainy day so my Dad and I went to 'just look' at cars and trucks at the local Ford garage. I was thinking of something with room for backdrops etc and walked up behind this slightly used white Bronco and they put the back window down and opened the rear tail gate and "I will take it" ... it just hit me - get this truck now - this is what you need. It was kind of funny. It wasn't vintage or full of style but after adding dual exhaust - nice wheels - 8 track player and an Elvis tire cover I personalized it a bit. I had taken road trips with old cars and having something dependable was kind of a plus - fewer breakdowns and it started every time.

I spent so much time alone in that truck driving and driving ... with my backdrops filling the length of the truck from dashboard to tailgate - room for equipment and junk shopping finds and to sleep ... so many great times on the road. Then carrying those memories with me as I cruised around New York City for my remaining time there. I remember waking up in Yellowstone with a huge Elk standing just outside, sleeping on top in the Badlands (and possibly being abducted by aliens, but that is another story), driving down a lonely two lane beside a herd of horses running along side, hanging a days worth of Type 55 and 665 negatives in the back end to dry ...

I miss the Bronco and think I see it now and then on the road as someone in South Dakota bought it after my Dad convinced me the cracked head would be a problem (hmmm thinking that may have been bad advice). I am sad to have let it go after I moved out here and regret not making it into a traveling darkroom of sorts or fill it full of photographs as a traveling mini exhibition ... things change ... It was a great photo truck but guess it couldn't last forever.  I have transitioned from fabricated Bronco to the real deal anyway ... ©JEAN LAUGHTON