Photographer Luke Gilford, known for his photo spreads featuring celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Lizzo and Christina Aguilera, has just released his latest project: a photo book centered around the queer rodeos of North America.
Gilford, who specializes in homoerotic and celebrity photography, stumbled on the queer rodeo scene while attending a Pride event in California in 2016.
“The mainstream rodeo world is, you know, obviously, very homophobic and conservative,” Gilford told The Guardian. “There’s so much machismo. It’s racist.” For Gilford, then, the discovery of the more inclusive queer rodeo scene offered a kind of intrigue. “We all know what a rodeo is,” he observes, “and we all know what queer is. We don’t think of them going together.”
Gilford’s new book, National Anthem, captures that excitement on film, featuring photographs of queer people of all races and gender identities celebrating Americana through rodeo.
“We’re taught in school to recite the national anthem every morning,” Gilford observes. “It has this aura of promise. But as we grow older, we realize this promise is kind of a myth. What I think is really beautiful, and so inspiring, about the queer rodeo community is that it brings back that aura of promise. It embraces both ends of the American cultural spectrum: people living on the land, but who are also queer.”
“Usually when we hear about rural queerness it’s in a negative way,” he adds. “It’s like something bad has happened – it’s the Matthew Shepard story. We don’t have examples, really, in pop culture of people who are queer and living real lives and living their best life.”
We’re here for it. National Anthem hits books shelves October 1.
All photos by Luke Gilford.