We got to spend an hour with Bill, a truly fabulous western character from Scottsdale, Arizona who offered us hospitality. He was every inch a cowboy & rancher, and also a true Irishman with the gift of storytelling. It would have been fascinating to spend more time listening to his tales.
Story Behind the Scene:
A big part of the exchange project was to experience the culture and meet people of the places we were traveling around. Our first day in Scottsdale, host Ken Ross introduced my Alberta compadre Peter Carroll and me to a true Arizona character, Bill. Bill is a former ranchman and a cowboy still, through-and-through. At his place, he invited us back to an outbuilding that amounted to a small museum, full of objects & photos — memorabilia of a lifetime of Arizona ranching. Bill was also of Irish descent, and he definitely had the gift of storytelling. As we looked at the items laid out and talked with Bill, he shared one story after another from his life. Sometimes humorous, sometimes with a bit of dry delivery, but almost always punctuated at the end with a twinkling eye and a grin.
Towards the end of our visit, as the evening light began to wane, we were able to do some informal portraits with Bill. Of course, it wasn’t enough for him to strike a pose… after a moment he launched into another story about a hapless quick-draw artist who had trouble counting. His eyes narrowed to aim and his imaginary pistola extended on the 1-2-3 count, I made my own move. I thought the result was a very fitting portrait to include in our project. Thanks for allowing us to visit with you, Bill, and for telling us your stories!
We moved on with our expedition. But the storytelling theme, with which our experience with Bill was so tightly linked, became a theme in the discussions within our photography team. It also plays a central role in what became the mission statement of IRIS — to encourage understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures and places around the world, though photography as a medium of visual art and storytelling.
When I selected this photo for the exhibit, I called it “The Master Cowboy Storyteller”.