Photojournalist Celebrates Black Rodeo Culture in New Book

8 Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture by Ivan McClellan

Keary Hines, Prairie View, Texas. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, My Modern Met may earn an affiliate commission. Please read our disclosure for more info.

When photojournalist Ivan McClellan was invited to America's longest-running Black rodeo in 2015, he wasn't sure what to expect. Having grown up in an urban setting, McClellan was unfamiliar with the culture. But he was soon entranced by the atmosphere, and that singular experience kicked off a long-term look at Black rodeo culture.

Eight Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture, published by Damiani Books, is the culmination of that experience. Featuring images from his 10 years photographing Black rodeo culture across the United States, the book chronicles the cowboys and cowgirls who keep the magic of the Old West alive.

From portraits of rodeo queens to men bravely riding bulls, McClellan's photographs capture the electric atmosphere he encountered the instant he was introduced to the Black rodeo. “It was like going to Oz—here was all this color and energy,” McClellan recalls. “There was a backyard barbecue atmosphere…It felt like home.”

With an introduction by Charles Sampson—the first African-American cowboy to win a professional rodeo world championship and the man who invited McClellan to his first rodeo—the book shines a spotlight on a largely unknown piece of American culture.

“You see the cowboy, and it’s a shorthand for independence and grit and all of these things about America,” McClellan told The New York Times. “But then you combine it with Black culture, and it just wiggles your brain and disrupts things that you thought were true.”

Eight Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture will be released on April 30, 2024, and is now available for pre-order.

Photojournalist Ivan McClellan spent 10 years documenting Black rodeo culture.

Black cowboys in Los Angeles

Marland Burke, Brandon Alexander, James Pickens Jr. Los Angeles, California. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

8 Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture by Ivan McClellan

Jadayia Kursh, Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

Bull riders in Texas

Bull Riders, Rosenberg, Texas. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

8 Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture by Ivan McClellan

Rodney & RJ, McCalla, Alabama. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

To do so, he crisscrossed the United States, photographing everyone from bull riders to rodeo queens.

Rodeo queen in Oklahoma

Rodeo Queen, Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

Bull rider in Las Vegas

Patrick Liddell, Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

Black cowboys in Oklahoma

Dontez & Floss, Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

His new book, Eight Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture, is the culmination of that experience.

8 Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture by Ivan McClellan

Cover, “8 Seconds: Black Rodeo Culture” (Photo: © Ivan McClellan)

Ivan McClellan: Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Damiani.

Related Articles:

Intimate Photos Reveal What Different Bedrooms Across America Look Like

Travel Photographer Takes 24 Trips to Capture the “Soul of Cuba” [Interview]

Photographer Mounts 88-Year-Old Kodak Lens on DSLR to Photograph a Rodeo

Offbeat Photographs of Ballet Dancers Honor the Artistry of Analog Photography

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content