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I don’t think I have ever pissed off a professional photographer before. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have even shared a conversation with a professional photographer in Montana before. But there’s a first for everything.

Montana, you see, has the distinction of having the fewest professional photographers of any state in the country. Except Alaska. It also has the the fewest professional photographers per capita in the country. Except Alaska. It’s one reason I chose Montana as a place to set up shop. So when I actually did have my first conversation with not one but two professional photographers I really honestly thought the conversation would have gone better.

It all started when I photographed my first rodeo. It was the Milk River Rodeo Challenge at the Blaine County Fair (July 12, 2015). It seemed like a fun event to photograph. And it was a lot of fun. When it was over I raced home to see what photos I had in the can. I edited most of them in the wee hours of the morning and then posted them online the following day. And they received a ton of views and a lot of positive comments–which of course makes you happy if you are a photographer. “Not bad for my first rodeo,” I said. “But I can improve…a lot.” What’s more, I can finally say at my next rodeo, “This isn’t my first rodeo, you know.”

And mean it.

So last night on Facebook a woman named Jackie Jensen shared my post with another man by the name of Matt Cohen. Not a big deal. My rodeo photos on Facebook were shared 30 times and had about four dozen comments. Up until last night I had no clue who Jackie Jensen and Matt Cohen were. Like most of my other posts, I usually acknowledge kind comments with a “thank you” and the obligatory “like.” But then Matt Cohen offered a snarky response. “Everybody’s doing it,” he said

What the hell did that mean? Jackie then followed that with, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Who the hell are these people? Are they accusing me of copying someone’s work?

It turns out Jackie Jensen is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo photographer. And Matt Cohen is an award winning sports photographer and contributor to Sports Illustrated magazine. After viewing his work last night for the first time it was obvious he is a talented photographer. But for all the talent he has, he is also 100% pure American schmuck.

Here, you read the conversation for yourself and YOU be the judge.

Now, please allow me to share some of my observations. For starters, I laughed out loud when I first read his comment about inventing the “Under the Brim.” In fact, I literally spit water all over my desk. I assume Matt Cohen is referring to this photo:

From what I gathered, Matt Cohen (note the liberal use of his name in this column so Google’s search engine easily finds this page) thinks I somehow copied this pose from one of his photographs. Is it even possible to copy a pose? I mean, the first pinhole camera was invented by the Chinese 4000 years before Christ. Hasn’t every human pose been captured with a camera already? When I first read Matt Cohen’s comment (please also note Matt Cohen capitalized the letters when he used the term “Under the Brim”), all I could think of was “The Twirl” from this episode of Seinfeld:

What Matt Cohen doesn’t know is that I know the man in this photo. I worked with him. I knew he competed in rodeos. So when I saw him at the Milk River Rodeo Challenge I made a point of taking some photos of him. We chatted for a bit during a break in the action, caught up on some office gossip, and in the midst of me talking to him I secretly moved my camera into position and snapped a photo of him. The photo above was the result. As a joke, I’m also told it now serves as the wallpaper on the computer on every desk in his department. I will have to apologize to him about that later.

After thinking for a bit about what Matt Cohen wrote I started to get pissed. In part because he was accusing me of copying his work. Publicly. On my own Facebook page. Hell, I never even heard of the Matt Cohen until last night let alone seen any of his work. That’s the truth. What an arrogant schmuck. But I suppose that’s not all his fault. After all, Matt Cohen is from California. And as most Montanans already know, he can’t help himself. Along with the fluoride added to the drinking water in California (the same drinking water that flows to their state from Montana’s glaciers), they also seem to add a healthy dose of paranoia, megalomania, and self-righteousness to the drinking water, too. Like my father says, “Our country is on a slant and all of the nuts roll west.”

The other reason I got pissed, and perhaps even more so, was because of his snide little remark wishing me fun at my “little rodeos.” Here’s a guy who claims to have been working on a book for three years (maybe if he spent a little more time working on his book and a little less time trolling the Internet it might be done by now), yet he maligns the very junior rodeo circuit where many of the competitors that grace his photos got their start. I wonder what the cowboys and cowgirls in his photos–many of whom grew up watching “little rodeos” and competing in “little rodeos”–would think of his sarcasm. I’m betting they would not find it as amusing as he did.

As for Jackie Jensen, I am not going to say anything negative about her. She’s from Montana and clearly she’s a fan of Matt Cohen’s work. You can Google her website and draw your own conclusion about her abilities.

The only thing I need to do is correct her on is her use of the term “media data” in the Facebook post above. I think she wanted to use the word “metadata,” not “media data.” For those who don’t know, metadata is information attached to a photograph (and other digital media), which explains (among other things) who took the photograph, the date it was created, file size, camera settings, keywords to help find a photo, etc. Now I question why Jackie Jensen, a seasoned PRCA photographer, thinks the metadata of my photograph would some how prove I copied Matt Cohen’s work…unless she thinks the photo itself was stolen from his collection. That would be even more laughable if true. What I do know is that Jackie’s failure to apologize to me tells me I was wise to avoid photographing PRCA events. If Jackie Jensen and Matt Cohen are anything like the rest of the folks behind the scenes at PRCA rodeos, I am sure I will better suited to photograph “little rodeos” instead…where people go out of their way to be nice to you…not because they know you, but because that’s how they roll.

Oh, and Jackie, just in case you were wondering, here is the metadata for the photograph above. I’m not sure what you will learn from it, but go nuts:

I guess in one regard I should be happy. An award winning Sports Illustrated photographer is seemingly jealous of my work. And that’s after only a couple of hours at my first “little rodeo.” And he really seems worried about his book for some reason. Oh, and how cute; he actually thinks photography is hard work. Tedious at times, yes. But hard? No. Maybe he should spend a day or two with a rancher or a farmer so he will learn what hard work is REALLY like.

And you know what? I think I WILL publish a photo book about rodeos. Only the the “little” ones, though. From Chinook, Montana to Canutillo, Texas. And from Guthrie, Oklahoma to Barstow, California.

What will it be called? “Under the Brim.” Of course!

And I will dedicate it to Matt Cohen…and all of the “little rodeos in America,” too.

How do you like them (horse) apples, Matt?

National Cow Appreciation Day
Published in On Magazine Cover

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