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Once Upon a Time in Mississippi

By Anna Bonita Evans | 5 months ago

“Rory Doyle purposefully plays with and breaks the stereotypes attached to the subject of cowboys, and does this with great skill and warmth. His connection with his subjects is evident in every beautifully composed image. A fine visual storyteller and a deserving winner.” Dagmar Seeland, Judge 2019 ZEISS Photography Award

Delta Hill Riders is Rory Doyle's ongoing series exploring the subculture of African cowboys and cowgirls in the rural Mississippi Delta. It’s estimated after the American Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American, yet this population is drastically underrepresented in popular culture. Doyle's insightful series invites us to challenge our acceptance of stereotypes around what it means to be a cowboy by sharing the stories an overlooked community. A beautiful body of work shedding new light at a familiar subject matter, Doyle's work was awarded first place in this year's ZEISS Photography Award.  

Speaking about the project, Doyle says: “The work is timely with the current political environment, and a renewed focus on rural America. The project is a counter-narrative to the often-negative portrayal of African Americans. I have captured riders showing love for their horses and fellow cowboys, while also passing down traditions among generations. Ultimately, the project aims to press against my own old archetypes - who could and couldn’t be a cowboy, and what it means to be black in Mississippi - while uplifting the voices of my subjects.”

As the 2019 winner, Doyle receives €12,000 worth of ZEISS lenses, €3,000 to cover travel costs for a photography project, the opportunity to personally work with ZEISS and the World Photography Organisation and travel to London and Germany to meet with ZEISS. Doyle is a 2019 Mississippi Visual Artist Fellow through the Mississippi Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Arts. His work has been featured in the Half King Photo Series in New York and at London’s theprintspace gallery. 

Delta Hill Riders and a selection of the shortlisted images from the 2019 ZEISS Photography Award will be on show at the Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House, London, April 18 to May 6.