Photography: Eric O’Connell
Photography: Eric O’Connell/Courtesy Texas Folklife

On January 12, the exhibition Cowboys: East Germany opens in Austin, featuring photographs from Eric O’Connell that showcase Texas and the American West reimagined in the former East Germany.

Texas Folklife is teaming up with photographer Eric O’Connell to feature portraits of individuals from the former East Germany who have adopted traditions of the American West’s cowboy persona in their identity.

O’Connell, an assistant professor of photography and photojournalism at Northern Arizona University, spent more than 10 years traveling to Germany in order to capture the self-constructed cowboys and cowgirls. The photos encapsulate everything from gatherings at rodeos and dance halls to self-portraits at saloons and saddleries.

Photography: Eric O’Connell
Photography: Eric O’Connell /Courtesy Texas Folklife

Even after the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany was destroyed, communism was replaced by capitalism, and East and West Germany were united, the cowboy and the West continued to represent freedom and individualism and remained an iconic symbol of rural life and attachment to the land.

Cowboys: East Germany will be in view at Texas Folklife in Austin, Texas, from January 12 to April 14. The exhibit will display 50 to 60 photographs along with a short documentary film. Texas Folklife is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Other popular programs they hold are the House Concert Series and the award-winning youth radio program Stories from Deep In The Heart.

Photography: Eric O’Connell
Photography: Eric O’Connell/Courtesy Texas Folklife

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