Black Cowboy Focus Of Fine Photo Exhibit

John Brandenburg

Daily Oklahoman

1997, SEP 10

There are some forceful and evocative photographs in a show dedicated to the “cowboys, ranchers, and rodeo competitors” struggling to “keep the African-American Western heritage alive. Sponsored by the NTU Art Association, “The Long Ride Home” exhibit of 30 photos taken over a four-year period by Ron Tarver is on display in the Promenade Gallery at Omniplex, 2100 NE 52.

Pictures of the moon rising above a solitary roper on a Texas ranch and of a man walking a stallion through a grove of trees in Pennsylvania make a subtle impression, helping to “frame” the photo essay.
Action increases dramatically in Tarver’s magnificent pictures of successful and unsuccessful dismounts from rodeo bulls.
In the former, the bull’s powerful legs and tail become the focal point, while in the latter, one angry eye seems to glare back at us as well as at the falling rider who is still clinging to the animal’s side.
Two other excellent photographs, one intentionally blurred and the other crystal clear, communicate the excitement of calf roping events.
Shadows tell the story in Tarver’s superb pictures of a man preparing for a ride and of a boy who seems to be climbing the wall to make a basket. Both photographs were taken outside different stables in Philadelphia.
A man rides past a giant mural of Malcolm X on the side of a Philadelphia building and a “beeper” represents the intrusion of modern life into the cowboy’s world in two more fine photos.
Tarver’s black-and-white picture of a little boy on a “Big Horse” resembles equestrian sculpture.
Almost equally effective is a color photo that captures the easy, unself-conscious elegance of a young man in a yellow raincoat wearing a “Worn Felt Hat.”
A picture of an elderly cowboy gazing upward is perhaps the best of five black-and-white photos of old-timers.
Tarver is a photojournalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His solo show, “The Long Ride Home: The African American Cowboy Experience in America,” runs through Sept. 25 at Omniplex.