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I’ve seen Bettina Hansen a few times in recent months (she’s a recent transplant to Cascadia) but never once did she think to mention this awesome photo.

Maybe I got sucked in by the fact it is A FRIKKING MONKEY RIDING A SHEEP DOG IN SOME MUDWORLD MAMMAL OLYMPICS! … maybe the photo is a document of animal misuse. It’s mad-bonkers.

Either way, this photo of animals being forced to do unnatural things under the watchful eye of humans seemed to say more about the Angola Prison Rodeo than the thousands of images I’ve seen of people at the Angola Prison Rodeo. It’s a weird event.

See Bettina’s full set from the Angola Prison Rodeo.

(All of this explains the title to this interview with me from ages ago. I never understood the title at the time.)

Damon Winter emailed me this week to let me know he’s been tinkering with his website. Since we spoke last [here and here] about his ‘Angola Prison Rodeo’ series, he’s revisited and re-edited. > STORIES2 > 5 > ANGOLA PRISON RODEO

The image above is new and one of Damon’s preferred images.

Also since then, Winter covered Haiti. It was his first work in a disaster area. This week, Winter’s Afghanistan i-Phone images hit the front page of the New York Times – Between Firefights, Jokes, Sweat and Tedium (James Dao, November 21, 2010)

On those i-Phone Hipstamatic App shots … three things.
1) David Guttenfelder did the same thing earlier this year with a Polaroid App.
2) The simple i-Phone angle is not a story. Judging by the cursory Lens Blog entry, I think James Estrin and Winter might have known this.
3) I’ll pass on the i-Phone photos. Mainly because these have got a stupid amount of attention; attention that should be going to Winter’s videography and incredible number of stories in his short time in Afghanistan.

Damon, I still love your portraits and I still dig your work!


I’d also like to recommend my interview with Winter (for Too Much Chocolate) about his career trajectory.

Texas Prison Rodeo, Huntsville, 1964. © Garry Winogrand

In 1964, with the support of a Guggenheim fellowship, Garry Winogrand traveled over four months to fourteen states and recorded an America in transition.

The result was WINOGRAND 1964. Here’s a review by Ned Higgins.

– – – – – –

AmericanSuburbX has republished Carl Chiarenza‘s “Standing on the Corner – Reflections Upon Garry Winogrand’s Photographic Gaze – Mirror of Self or World? Pt. I” (1991) originally in IMAGE Magazine: Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Volume 34, Number 3–4, Fall–Winter, 1991.

Including this statement: “The 1964 Guggenheim Fellowship was awarded to Winogrand to provide him with time to make “photographic studies of American life.” This fact inevitably recalls Robert Frank’s Guggenheim odyssey of a decade earlier. Something to think about—one wants to make comparisons. One wishes there were a Winogrand book comparable to Frank’s The Americans. But there is no such book.”

Think on.


The blogo-photo-sphere has been spinning the past couple of days with the 2009 Pulitzer Prize announcements. Damon Winter took one gong for “his memorable array of pictures deftly capturing multiple facets of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.” (Featured Photography). Patrick Farrell secured the other with his “provocative, impeccably composed images of despair after Hurricane Ike and other lethal storms caused a humanitarian disaster in Haiti.” (Breaking News Story)

Winter’s images are eye-catching, but to be honest I am suffering from ‘Obama-fatigue’. So saturated were we with so many high-quality images of the new 44th President, I now look for different material. A quick shufties through Winters website revealed all. His portraits of sports stars show a precocious willing to improvise with technique and composition. Winter has a seriously sentimental side also epitomised by his portraits of American Olympians from the 1984 Los Angeles games.

I guess, my hope is that he doesn’t become known as ‘that guy that did Obama’ … which is why I am more interested in his Angola Prison Rodeo photojournalism.


The rodeo featuring the prisoners of Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, is an old – even traditional – event in the Louisiana calendar. Damon Winter is one of many photographers that have covered the community event. It is a raucous spectacle that brings together populations in and outside of the prison.

I still cannot reconcile this event my existing ethics which this event. There’s a charge that the rodeo is exploitative entertainment for which prisoners can suffer serious injury. Yet, I have not witnessed the rodeo-weekend first hand and I have read in the past that this is an event that provides long-term focus and short-term adulation for the prisoner-competitors. All I want to do is bring Winter’s photographs to your attention and hope they’ll compete with Obama for your attentions!


Winter’s pictures capture the strong forces and consequent risks of rodeo competition. I deliberately picked his colour images. The black & white stripes of inmates harry within Winter’s ‘red, white and blue’ palette. The star-spangled palette imbues the series with patriotism, pomp and faux-purpose. I almost feel we are subliminally less inclined to question Angola’s unique display of pseudo-gladiatorial entertainment when the games are suffused with hues of the American flag.



View Damon Winter’s Obama campaign coverage for the New York Times, and listen to an audio interview with Winter about his experiences. Winter and PDN did an interview in 2008.


prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com


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