Raised in a ranching community in Utah’s Rocky Mountains, Chris Petersen grew up with an appreciation for the Western lifestyle.
"Buckaroo Loop." A Utah buckaroo prepares his loop as he leaves the branding fire in search of an unbranded calf.
"Looking On." The old palomino looks on as a group of cowboys gather in the sage below.
"Snoose." Cowboy Kurt "Snoose" Argyle pushes on during a cold and rainy morning in the saddle.
"The Teamster." Paul Bliss looks into the drizzling rain, mentally preparing himself for a long day behind his team of mules.
"The Long Trail Home." A lone cowboy makes his way over the horizon on his journey home.
"The Teacher." A young father rides with his son while teaching him about cowboy life.
"Broke-in Boots." A cowboy takes a break along the trail, showing off his well worn boots.
“My neighbors had ranches, and I just wanted to help whenever I could,” he says. “The only place I ever wanted to be was in the saddle, on a ranch, working cows.”
An early talent for drawing evolved into skill with a camera, and Petersen turned the lens toward his favorite subject: the working cowboy.
“Many of my best friends are ranchers and cattlemen,” he says, “and I spend as much time as I can with them, working alongside them but also capturing their way of life. My favorite thing to photograph is cowboys doing what they normally do. I don’t set up shots. I want to make art out of what’s real.”
Authenticity is certainly a hallmark of Petersen’s work, where there’s no airbrushing to clean up the mud or wipe away the sweat. Representing the reality of cowboying—both gritty and beautiful—is important to Petersen, who is passionate about promoting the culture. He says, “I want people to look at my pictures and realize that the cowboy is not dead and gone. I want them to look at my pictures and understand that the guy in the photo is out there somewhere right now. He’s real.”
Not only an accomplished photographer, Petersen is also a cowboy singer and songwriter—another avenue where he can share his love for the Western way.
“It’s our roots,” he says. “This is who we are. In this part of the world, if you go back enough generations, there’s some cowboy in you. To lose this lifestyle would be to lose something tremendous. It’s our heritage, our traditions, our values. It’s just a great way to live.”
See more of Chris Petersen’s photography at DiehardCowboy.com.