Courtesy of Rory Doyle
Rory Doyle is a working photographer based in Cleveland, Mississippi in the rural Mississippi Delta. Born and raised in Maine, Doyle studied journalism at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. In 2009, he moved to Mississippi to pursue a master’s degree at Delta State University. Doyle has remained committed to photographing Mississippi and the South, with a particular focus on sharing positive stories in the Delta.
He was a 2018 Visual Artist Fellow through the Mississippi Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts. He won the 16th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest in 2019, the 2019 Southern Prize from the South Arts organization, the 2019 Zeiss Photography Award, and the 2019 ZEKE Award for Documentary Photography.
Doyle has exhibited in New York, London, Atlanta, Mississippi and beyond. His work has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, ProPublica, ESPN, The Guardian, CNN and numerous outlets.
Professional: Winning Entry: Delta Hill Riders
"Delta Hill Riders"
Historians agree that just after the Civil War, one in four cowboys were African American. Yet this population was drastically underrepresented in popular accounts, and it is still. The “cowboy” identity retains a strong presence in many black communities.
This ongoing documentary project in the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta sheds light on an overlooked African American community of horse riders — one that resists historical and contemporary stereotypes.
The project began January 2017 when I attended a black heritage rodeo in Greenville, Mississippi. The body of work reveals how deep these traditions run in the rural Delta. I’ve been invited to black heritage rodeos, horse shows, trail rides, “Cowboy Nights” at black nightclubs, and to subjects’ homes across the region.
The project aims to press against old archetypes — who could and could not be a cowboy or cowgirl — while uplifting and diversifying this narrative.
These images were from an assignment I had with The Guardian about food insecurities and racial disparities related to COVID-19 in rural Holmes County, Mississippi. This is the poorest county in the poorest state in the nation, and 100 percent of the public school students receive free breakfast and lunch through the school system. With schools being closed, missing these meals puts a big financial strain on parents and guardians. In response to the article, the superintendent of the district started receiving donations , providing more funding for meal deliveries and healthy food. This result is the best news I've heard in weeks.