Rory Doyle’s Delta Hill riders
Photographer Rory Doyle, who has been extensively documenting the African American cowboy and cowgirl population in the Mississippi Delta, presents a full exhibition of his ongoing documentary project “Delta Hill Riders” starting on February 19, 2019 at the Delta Arts Alliance in Cleveland, Mississippi.
“Historians agree that following the Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American,” said Doyle. “But this population was drastically underrepresented in popular accounts, and it’s still that way. The ‘cowboy’ identity goes far beyond the iconic John Wayne image, which is something I’ve been expressing through the project.”
The show will feature 40 images that shed light on an overlooked subculture — one that resists both historical and contemporary stereotypes. “On a personal level, I’ve been welcomed by these folks in a way I could not have imagined,” added Doyle. “And because of that, it’s been the most engaging project I’ve worked on. It’s a story that’s particularly timely with the current political environment, and a renewed focus on rural America.”
The Delta Arts Alliance will kick off opening night with a lecture from Delta State University communications professor, Dr. Shalando Jones, who will provide historical context. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A with Doyle, Jones and cowboys/cowgirls featured in the body of work.
“This exhibition is over four years in the making, and we are so incredibly proud to see this exhibition open,” said DAA Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison. “Rory never felt he had the body of work to complete an exhibition. And while I disagreed, I would always leave the conversation saying, ‘There will come a day and there will come a project.’ That project came as ‘Delta Hill Riders,’ and this exhibition will be one of the best Delta Arts Alliance has ever hosted. It is intensely gratifying to see Rory and the cowboys have their moment in the spotlight.”
Doyle is also happy to launch the event in the town he calls home: “I want to thank the Delta Arts Alliance for bringing attention to the local cowboys and cowgirls who are part of a larger group that’s been drastically underappreciated. I’m hoping the opening night crowd will be packed with local riders so they can share their voices in response to the photographs.”