Whether he’s at a ranch in Central Wyoming, where he grew up, or a rodeo in Colorado Springs, where he’s now active duty Air Force, Benjamin Putnam can often be found with a camera in hand, even when there’s a branding iron in the other. Equally passionate about photography and cowboying, Putnam has been capturing scenes from the West for the past decade. A childhood in the ranching town of Casper, Wyo., instilled an early appreciation for the cowboy way of life. He says, “When other kids were playing sports, I was out working on our farm or other people’s ranches.”
Aaron Willson of Willson Cattle Company in Pinedale, Wyo., works a young new ranch horse named Billy Jack. Taking the time to train a horse well is important, especially when one’s livelihood is earned in the saddle.
A weathered old bunkhouse window frames a classic Wyoming sunset.
Taylor Selby dallies up on a calf at the Horse Creek Ranch in Western Wyoming.
Cattle Cathedral. A weathered chute and gate bask in the warm glow of sunset. The silence that evening was deafening and engulfing.
James Rodgers counts cows after the calves have been branded.
There’s just something about a ranch sunset: to hear the trumpeting of cranes, the bawling of cattle, the bubbling of a cold, crystalline creek; to smell the sweet aroma of dew on grass on a warm summer’s evening; to feel a cool breeze saunter down the valley ...
Brennan Miles enjoys a cowboy’s breakfast in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.
Stuart Cooper turns cows and calves out to pasture after a spring branding in Powder River, Wyo.
Putnam’s photography goal is to represent the realities of cowboy life in such a way that even those unfamiliar with the culture can appreciate its varied elements.
“There’s this romanticized portrayal that’s all golden sunsets and coffee on the porch,” he explains. “There are those days, sure, but there are also the days where it’s cold, hot, wet, dry, or dusty—and you’re sick. I want to capture the incredible tenacity and drive it takes to do a job even when it’s 40 below and there’s three feet of snow. There’s sacrifice alongside the beauty, which makes it even more beautiful. That’s what I want to show people: the grit and the sunsets.”
A strong work ethic is just one of the values Putnam admires of the cowboy community. He quips, “Without cowboys and their work ethic, people wouldn’t eat. It’s what puts dinner on the plate!”
More seriously, he speaks of the Western community as one of the few holdouts where values are still honored.
“The rest of the world lacks that sense of fellowship,” he says. “If you’re not willing to take the time out of your day to help someone else who you know would help you in turn, you’re not cowboy. Integrity, respect, hard work … The cowboy culture is one of the last places where those values are still strong.”
Enjoy more photography by Benjamin Putnam at TheFlyinBP.com.