I photographed some retired Texas Rangers back in 1990. It’s been almost 20 years since I made the photographs and I really hadn’t done much with the group of images except print one or two negatives. The picture below was selected for an exhibit in 1991 and I’ve recently collected all the negatives and organized them and am having a set of 18 or 20 prints made. I’m trying to also scan the negatives but it’s proving a little tougher than I thought to scan 35mm negatives. I haven’t had any trouble with larger negatives.
Texas Rangers are now part of the Texas Department of Public Safety and have a lot of history and myth associated with them. After the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) they are one of the oldest law-enforcement groups in North America.
There are plenty of photographs of Texas Rangers and I may have beaten some of the recent rush by photographing them in 1990. Most of the pictures I have seen show them with firearms and play heavily off of the mystique that surrounds them. I was able to spend some time with them and made an effort to just let the individuals and their faces speak for themselves. I was going for something simple as I assumed these guys wouldn’t have a lot of patience.
I was impressed by all of the gentlemen I photographed and was even a little taken aback by what I found. I expected to find just what I had read and seen on TV and instead discovered a serious, dedicated group of individuals whose honesty, dependability and intelligence was obvious. The expectation of finding rough, gun-slinging “one riot, one Ranger” types was quickly dispelled. They all welcomed me and were very aware of their place in history. Every single one of them had an odd sense of humor about events that would make most of us wither.
I knew I wanted to make simple black and white portraits. I banged around a little from a thematic viewpoint and found that the 35mm format with normal to wide lenses and natural light suited the subject best. I had seen some photographs of Rangers in Texas Monthly and tried an approach similar to that of Dan Winters at first but it didn’t seem to suit the subject or my desires adequately. It did work well for him; his portrait of Joaquin Jackson is well done and widely recognized.
I hadn’t printed the negatives since I took the original photographs but have recently had Iris Davis (Davis Black and White) print a selection of images. Iris is a great printer and because I don’t have a wet darkroom anymore I rely on her skills and equipment.
You can see a few more of the prints that I had made on my Flickr account. They are low resolution scans of prints so they don’t look great but they work.
Your information about the Texas Rangers is really interesting, especially for someone from Europe who has been watching these old western films. And the portrait is very impressive. Thanks for sharing!