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A unique document of America’s gay rodeo subculture, National Anthem is a celebration of outsiders and the beauty of chosen families everywhere
Growing up in Colorado with his father in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, filmmaker and photographer Luke Gilford spent his formative years around the rodeo, an American institution that has often been associated with conservatism and homophobia. It was only later, when he discovered the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), that he began to see himself as part of a rodeo family. The IGRA is the organizing body for the LGBTQ+ cowboy and cowgirl communities in North America―a safe space for all races and gender expressions.
The queer rodeo brings in participants from rural regions all over America for structured educational programs and competitions, facilitating opportunities to hone athletic skills, connection and care for animals, personal integrity, self-confidence and support for one another. Gilford has spent over three years traveling the country to document this diverse and ever-evolving subculture.
Shot on medium-format film and printed in a traditional darkroom, the work is detailed and rich with emotion and color. The resulting photographs are both personal and poetic―clear testaments to Gilford's intimate relationship to the community.