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Louise Laroque Serpa: Never Don't Pay Attention

[ photo: Louise Laroque Serpa ]

Never Don't Pay Attention

In 1963, Louise Larocque Serpa '46, former Manhattan debutante, requested a press pass from the Rodeo Cowboys Association and became the first woman photographer ever allowed inside a rodeo ring. Dubbed "œthe Ansel Adams of rodeo," Serpa was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1999.

Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Serpa received many awards"”"œBest Action Photo" in 1982 and "œPhotographer of the Year" in 2005 from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association"”and had more than one close encounter in the arena. Writing for the Vassar Quarterly (Spring 1995), Carla De Landri '78 quotes Serpa: "œ'After that first bull hit me, it took me almost a year before I could stand my ground,' she recalls. "˜I'd take one picture and find myself up a tree or a fence or something without even knowing how I got there. You know, you can't take very good pictures when you are running.' Nor when you're shooting from outside the fence. "˜I knew if I cried or acted like a woman, I'd never be allowed into the arena again,' she says. So she kept at it, taking away from her brush with the bull one valuable lesson: "˜Never don't pay attention.'"

Serpa, who passed away in January 2012, bequeathed her archives to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. A selection of her photographs is presented here, courtesy of Tucson Rodeo.

Read Carla De Landri's 1995 profile of this remarkable free spirit.

Some of Louise's work

Kevin Small under Cotton Eye, Tucson 1989

Jim Mihalek on Hud, Tucson 1971

Jake, 1998 - 'Cowboys Come In All Sizes' collection

Skeeter Humble in Dust Storm, Chandler AZ 1964

Cowboy Stretch

Photo credit: Louise Larocque Serpa