Open in the John Bunker Sands Photography Gallery
Beginning in the 1980s, William Shepley followed his passion for the equestrian culture of the American West to produce stunning black and white photographs that appear in a new special exhibition at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Self-assigned and self-funded, The Equestrian West was a labor of love, the result of dedicated effort over many years. The exhibition, sponsored by the Center’s McCracken Research Library, opened October 12, 2020, in the John Bunker Sands Photography Gallery.
Shepley’s subject is western people—working cowboys and ranchmen as well as rodeo riders and performers—and the close, almost mystical bond they develop with their horses. Shepley photographed these people where he found them, and his techniques and travels to achieve his goals are part of the story. At their best, his visual compositions of westerners and their animals approach the iconic.
It’s the colorful characters, their personalities and styles, projected on the big screen, the West, that attract my lens.
— William Shepley
Shepley is a traveler. He tracks the cowboys of the eastern Sierra mountains of California. He follows the athletes of the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, whose unique brand of acrobatics on horseback takes them around the world. He rides with pack outfits in the remote backcountry. As a guide to The Equestrian West, William Shepley is a passionate and engaging practitioner of his art.
The McCracken Research Library acquired the group of prints that make up this special exhibition in 2018. The Equestrian West: Photographs by William Shepley runs October 12, 2020 – April 11, 2021.
A sampling of images from the exhibition
About William Shepley
Born in 1953 in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, William Shepley was raised in a family of photographers. His great-grandfather, Sam Wilson, was foreman of the Universal Studios still photo lab. His father was in the U.S. Army Signal Corp photographic section in World War II, and later worked at Walt Disney Productions.
Shepley studied under master photographer Tom Knight at Humboldt State University in the 1980s and spent untold hours in the dark room printing silver gelatin prints. Most of his portfolio was shot with a medium format Pentax 6 x 7, on 4 x 5-inch negatives.
Beginning in the 1990s, Shepley began a 15-year journey photographing the equestrian culture of the American West. His work has been exhibited in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and St. George, Utah, and he is also a noted photographer of Zion National Park.