ABOUT THE 2005 FELLOW
Tristan Spinski, a second-year student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, won the Dorothea Lange Fellowship for his series of black-and-white photographs of Nevada rodeos. He said he plans to use the $4,000 award to pursue his project on American rodeo riders, paying for equipment and travel to rodeos in California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.
"I want to tell an American, working-class story with my photographs, full of action, heartbreak, and all the subtle moments of victory and defeat in between," Spinski wrote in his application for the fellowship.
His award-winning images include one of a cowboy wrestling a steer to the ground in a swirl of dust and hooves and leather. Others show the world surrounding the ring: the crowd in the stands, sober rodeo clowns after a hard night's work, and cowboys milling outside the chute.
Spinski, 26, grew up in Delaware and Ohio. He graduated from University of Delaware in 2001 with an undergraduate degree in English. In the summer of 2004 he interned with the Cape Gazette in Lewes, Del., and with the U.S. Army in Fort Irwin, Calif., where Army and National Guard soldiers train before shipping out to Iraq.
Spinski said he initially planned to be a print journalist, specializing in long-form feature writing. An undergraduate assignment first introduced him to the rodeo world, but it was a fluke of class scheduling at Berkeley's graduate school that led to photography, he said.
"I tried to get into some writing classes, but they were full -- so I wound up with two photography classes in one semester," Spinski explained. After that immersion at UC Berkeley, he was hooked.
Spinski said he used a Nikon F4, and Tri-X 400 and T-Max 3200 film, and shot only with natural light.
In a letter of recommendation, the 2003 winner of the Lange Fellowship called Spinski's photographs "vibrant, gutsy, and, at times, surprising."
"Tristan is not intimidated by the people he photographs or the rough conditions of the rodeo," wrote Mimi Chakarova, a photography lecturer at Berkeley’s journalism school. "Tristan feels at home no matter where he takes his camera. He relates to the common man, because he does not judge; he radiates respect and willingness to learn from strangers. And he is a damn good photographer."