In Richard Phibbs’ newest book, The West, the Alberta native and frequent Men’s Fitness contributor captures rodeo life and cowboy culture at its most elemental and its most epic: Wild horses wheel through the still-green Moab; a teepee rakes the desert cloudscape; a modern-day cowboy squints through a cloud of dust.
“I love timeless photographs,” Phibbs says. “I had collected these images over the 18 or 19 years, and as film types have changed in this short time, I liked the idea of the viewer not being able to tell when it was created.”
In Phibbs’ lens, the Calgary Stampede—the rodeo where he worked as a boy and then returned with his camera—becomes a bridge between modernity and myth, and he cleverly bridges the two by cloaking his subjects in period patinas reminiscent of glass plate or 35mm film.
“This rodeo was the time Calgary became alive,” Phibbs says. “My first job, when I was 12, was sweeping floors at this rodeo. Later in life, I returned to the rodeo with my camera, and it was like my life had come full circle.”
Most striking are Phibbs’ portraits of people of the Stoney Nakoda tribe, some adorned in the traditional facepaint and headdresses of their ancestors. “I want to give these amazing people the honor and dignity they deserve,” Phibbs says. “I thought to myself, ‘If I have to do a book of the West, I have to honor the people who were there first.'”
Immortal and starkly gorgeous, The West is an essential testament to North America’s great Western mythos, worthy of a display on any man’s table.
$45.98, Amazon.com and booksellers