COWBOYS AND INDIANS introduces us to two insular, male-dominated communities.
The first is a group of “jackaroos” (the term for young cowboys in Australia), in a very
remote area of northern Queensland that has neither FM radio nor cell phone reception
or any sizable village within a vicinity of over 100 miles.
The other is a group of wrestling students in their sacred and thus somewhat ‘off-limits’
training grounds -- part clay/dirt arena, part temple to the Hindu-god Hanuman -- in a
congested city in northern India.
Here they follow the thousand-year-old practice of kushti, a style of wrestling that
embraces Hindu spiritual tradition.
The two communities are based on nearly opposite motivations: the “jackaroos” being
in it for the money, out of necessity; the wrestlers choosing an athletic pastime tied
into their religious beliefs. Where they mirror one another is in that these young men
immerse themselves in an environment where physicality becomes a centerpiece
of their togetherness and interaction, a physicality that is inherently and in a classic
While I cannot deny a motivation to manifest some of the iconic, romantic ideas of
masculinity, beauty, domination and strength associated with my subjects in
CHASING COWS and UNTITLED, INDIAN WRESTLING STUDENTS, it is the
questioning and dismantling of these stereotypical notions that makes
the photographic journey complete for me.
Choosing environments that are characterized by some form of isolation helps
me confront my own romanticized perceptions regarding my subjects. Absent
outside distractions, I can deeply absorb the dynamics and forces that move them.
As I immerse myself in their element, I gain a deeper understanding of the choreography
they move to, both emotionally and physically. Whether that choreography is drawn
by tradition or a certain work flow, I attempt to remain a respectful observer; attentive
to the moments when a facade (the pressure of a certain role they play within their
community), falls off my subjects and I can reveal an ambiguity, vulnerability and
tenderness -- youth instead of manhood, worship instead of fight, beauty beyond
of where it manifests itself in immediate physicality.
It is those unexpected moments that I hope to reveal.
I believe that these fleeting moments of suspense, before a tipping point is reached,
tell a more nuanced story than moments of resolution.
- Marc Ohrem-Leclef