By Paul Gessell
Globe-trotting Canadian photographer David Trattles walked into a German bar one day and encountered a man pretending to be an Apache brave named Listening Twice. The Toronto-based, Ottawa-raised Trattles soon found himself immersed in the world of German rodeos.
Naturally, Trattles had to record that German fantasy-cowboy lifestyle. The result is a crowd-funded project to produce a book, German Rodeo, of photographs about the world of Germans living out their dreams of being cowboys.
Trattles was recently interviewed by The Artful Blogger.
How did you become interested in German rodeos and why the enduring interest?
I walked into a saloon in eastern Germany one day and there, leaning on the bar, was a perfectly kitted out native North American Indian. He said that on weekends he smoked the peace pipe, built teepees, and knew the tomahawk dance, which he performed for me. I asked him where he lived, and he replied in heavy Saxon: “About 100 metres away.”
“You mean you’re not a native Indian?”
“No,” he said. Then he pointed to his heart. “In here, I am so.”
That sealed my interest. I am not a rodeo cowboy and I don’t listen to western music, but essentially that’s my kind of story: those who live with their hearts. They live out a difficult and noble process.
How big a phenomenon are rodeos in Germany?
I hear they are popular, but largely in the east. I have no other experience except with the Sebnitz rodeo. It’s not really a rodeo. There are no bulls, just a group of 60 Czech and German riders who come together in community, and in saloon. They have horses but they are kept, not to compete with, but seemingly more to relate to. The horse becomes a companion. The participants come not because they are riders, but they like the idea of the wild west, immortalized in movies and most famously, in Karl May books that remain the most widely read books in Germany today, 100 years after they were first published!
Tell us about your crowd-funded project? Exactly how does the process of crowd-funding work?
The publisher is in Berlin, so we are using Startnext, which is a German version of Kickstarter. It’s a funding platform for creative projects, supported by friends, fans, and the public in return for rewards. Rewards are things like a copy of what’s being made, a limited edition, or a custom experience (in this case, a handcrafted poster made in India) related to the project. People come to Startnext to build community around their projects. It’s inspiring to be supported by people you know, and amazing to connect with strangers who are discovering your ideas for the first time.
What content will be in the book? Just photos or essays as well? Are the photos in black and white or colour?
Mostly photos, black and white. It’s not a definition of a German rodeo, but a visual description of the rodeo from within the happenings. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of using 160 photos for the project — a very different kind of sharing, for example, than you might have with a magazine, which might publish only a dozen shots.
Is there a website where people can learn more about the project?
Please go to: www.startnext.de/en/onkel-and-onkel. Want to know what you’re getting for your money? Plug the German text quickly into Google translator!