Photographing Black Cowgirls on Film

Vuhlandes is a film photographer based in Detroit, Michigan. In this video, he collaborates with cowgirl Brianna and her horse, Dapper Dan, to create images that meld Vuhlandes’ urban style with a distinctly nostalgic, yet new Americana.

The image of the cowboy is ingrained in American culture. However, the image of a black urban cowboy or in this case, cowgirl, is wrought with racial tension. The quintessential cowboy is very different from what Brianna represents in this video.

I just find it so amazing that a lot of people that look like me are… now in spaces and getting recognition that they deserve. And starting to be in the public eye [where] people perceive these things.

Vuhlandes confesses that growing up, there was only a certain specific image in media that people of color could embody. A cowboy looked a certain way. A photographer, similarly, only looked a certain way. Seeing people who not only challenge these stereotypes but bring excellence to their craft is wonderful.

As photographers, we are influenced by our life experiences, and these are often revealed or reflected in our imagery. This is truly the case for Vuhlandes; he creates contemporary urban portraits that are influenced by his surroundings. Using the analog film format, Vuhlandes further ingrains a certain rawness into his photographs.

Although the video doesn’t go into specifics of photography or camera gear, it is certainly a commentary on a shifting culture not only within photography, but broadly. As artists and creatives, we certainly have the power to shift narratives and quite literally bring to light stories and ideas that speak to human values we may individually believe in. I know I can certainly work more towards image-making that is more focused on ideas of community and inclusion. What are some projects you’ve worked on recently that embodied these?

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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Maybe it's because he's in Detroit, but I've had black cowboys in my family since the late 1800s. There are black rodeos down this way in Oklahoma and towns with actual year-round working black cowboys. These are from just last week in Boley, OK.

This story and these images are wonderful! As someone who doesn't even live in America, I guess I had a per-concieved view of how things are based on popular media. I think it's really important to share stories of people which some more mainstream channels ignore. Thank you for sharing these.

Vuhlandes seems like one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever watched on YouTube. What a great guy with a super-great attitude!