“What motivates a bartender, a sales clerk, or construction worker to drive a quarter of the way across the country to ride a bull?” asks photographer Tristan Spinski. His photographic study-in-progress of the rodeo earned him the 2004 Dorothea Lange Fellowship. “The rodeo is a window into a fringe of ‘man culture,’” Tristan says. “It’s not so much about hanging onto that bull for eight seconds, as much as it is being able to say that you didn’t back down from what scored you the most. How many of us can say that?” His prize winning photos were taken throughout Nevada, and he plans to continue the study at rodeos in California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

fast action photo of a steer and cowboy below the head

Steer wrestling
A cowboy slides off his horse and onto the back of a young bull in Winnemucca, Nevada. When one cowboy missed his mark and the bull scampered off, the announcer swore he saw the steer’s lips curl up into a smile.

three audience members sitting in bleachers with one holding a dog on her lap

Crowd
From left, Carl Brooks, Marilyn Brooks, and Lena Ramey sit in the bleachers with their dog, Fallon, to watch the rodeo in Fallon, Nevada.

a horse head peering over a pen and cowboys in the background

Profile
A horse looks on as cowboys prepare to mount-up for the bareback bronc-riding event at the Fernley, Nevada, rodeo.

a kicking bull from the back end

The ride
A cowboy hangs on to a thousand-pound, dust-kicking bull in Fallon, Nevada.

two rodeo clowns sitting and looking straight at the viewer

The clowns
Danny Wilkinson (left) and Garry Miller, both bullfighters, undress after the Senior Pro Rodeo Championship in Winnemucca, Nevada.

cowboy riding on a horse into the rodeo arena

Exploding out of the chutes
A horse launches Rick Miller into the rodeo arena in Fernley, Nevada.