The first time I saw the girls compete in full rodeo attire, graceful and strong, and I saw a through line from the stiff world of the dolls to a different sort of American girlhood.
Rodeo girls have a fundamentally different idea about their femininity. They engage in activities traditionally reserved for men, possess great physical strength and demonstrate their dominance over animals. Girls in the rodeo scene were in the process of carving out a space for themselves in this predominantly male sport, as well as carving out a place for themselves in the myth of the American west.
The way cowgirls inhabited their bodies were opposite of what I observed in girls who participated in the American Girls project. American Girl dolls were stiff and mute, unbendable and cold, symbolic of the manner in which the girls moved and played. In the rodeo world these attributes were replaced with physical strength, musculature, dynamism, and power. The two worlds seemed completely inverted, girls with the dolls were almost always indoors, and rodeo girls spent their days outdoors.
For the most part, I photographed during rodeo events. I traveled along with the girls to different towns where the rodeos would take place. The project begun in Amarillo, Texas and Canadian, Texas. From there I traveled all over the panhandle and to Oklahoma, and photographed girls across the region. Girls lived on ranches, in remote, rural areas. Their families worked with animals every day, and the rodeo was a celebration.