Courtesy of Rory Doyle
Rory Doyle is a working photographer based in Cleveland, Mississippi in the rural Mississippi Delta.
Doyle is a 2018 Mississippi Visual Artist Fellow through the Mississippi Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts for his ongoing project on African American cowboys and cowgirls, "Delta Hill Riders." Doyle won the 16th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest with the project, which was announced in April 2019. Later that month, Doyle was awarded the Southern Prize from South Arts organization. The work was featured in the Half King Photo Series in New York and The Print Space Gallery in London before opening at the Delta Arts Alliance in February 2019. He was also recognised for the project by winning the 2019 Zeiss Photography Award, and the photojournalism category at the 2018 Eye Em Awards in Berlin, Germany.
Professional: Winning Entry: Delta Hill Riders
"Delta Hill Riders"
A recent article in Smithsonian estimated 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 contemporary black communities.This ongoing documentary project in the rural Mississippi Delta, “Delta Hill Riders,” sheds light on an overlooked black subculture — one that resists both historical and modern stereotypes.
The project began in January 2017 when I attended a black heritage rodeo in Greenville, Mississippi.
The project reveals how deep and diverse this community is. I’ve covered black heritage rodeos, horse shows, trail rides, “Cowboy Night” at black nightclubs, and subjects’ homes across the Delta.
It’s a story that's particularly timely with the current political environment, and one that provides a renewed focus on rural America. With the hit release of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, the topic of black cowboy diversity became a mainstream topic of discussion.
Ultimately, the project aims to press against old archetypes — who could and could not be a cowboy, and what it means to be black in Mississippi — while uplifting the voices of my subjects.
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.