The Boss

Smith held a romantic view of the cowboy’s daily life and tried to capture in photographs some of his favorite scenes. One such image is the range boss “telling off his riders” or directing them towards their assigned territory to begin rounding up cattle. Smith photographed these early morning rituals from many angles. He favored a view from behind, showing the boss pointing into the distant landscape, so that viewers could see the intended destination and imagine themselves about to ride off with the other men. To reproduce the effect of early morning light, Smith used a low sun, backlighting the men so their features are in shadow and a glow outlines their figures. Although this meant that the boss had to send his men toward the rising sun in the east—an unlikely situation—this composition created a most dramatic and memorable view.

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Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947)
"Pink" Murray, Wagon Boss of the OR Outfit Telling His Men Off for the Day's Work, OR Range, Arizona, 1909
Gelatin dry plate negative
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
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